17.05.11

Workers Fear Losing Their Jobs for Admitting to Stress

Mind, the mental health charity, has presented new evidence that workers who admit to feeling stressed or depressed fear being sacked or forced out of their jobs.

Research for the charity’s Taking care of business campaign found that at the moment, work is the most stressful thing in people’s lives, but one in five people believe that if they mentioned their stress levels they would be put first in line for redundancy.

Disturbingly, the charity found that workers’ fears weren’t unfounded, with 22 per cent of those who said they had disclosed a mental health problem in a previous job saying they had subsequently been fired or forced to quit.

Mind’s survey of over 2,000 workers found:

  • 41 per cent are currently stressed or very stressed in their jobs – making it more stressful than money worries, marriage and relationships or health issues.  
  • 2 in 3 had been put under more pressure by their employers since the downturn.
  • A third feel stressed by a reduction to budgets in their workplace.
  • Nearly half (48 per cent) are scared to take time off sick.
  • Overall 28 per cent are stressed by the threat of redundancy, rising to 41% for public sector
  • 1 in 5 fear mentioning stress would put them first in line for redundancy
  • 7 out of 10 said their boss would not help them cope with stress.

Each year, millions of workers experience stress, depression and anxiety but Mind is concerned that unaddressed mental health issues are reaching fever pitch as hard-pressed businesses pass on the strain to workers. Budget cuts and job losses have radically impacted on our mental health with the most stressful aspects of today’s workplace being excessive workload, unrealistic targets, the threat of redundancy and frustration with poor management.

However, despite the huge increases in pressure, staff are reluctant to speak up for fear they will be perceived as ‘weak’ or ‘less capable’ than colleagues – and shortlisted for job cuts.

Mind says that with greater awareness and mental health support, businesses could save a mammoth £8 billion a year. 

Commenting on the report , Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“The negativity that persists around stress and mental health problems is unacceptable in a modern workforce. Pressure and stress may be part of our working lives, but failing to recognise that everyone has a limit is a mistake that costs businesses billions of pounds a year. Stigma is so great employees worry that even mentioning stress will lose them their jobs.  Mental health problems exist in every workforce, but at the moment it exists as a costly and unaddressed elephant in the room.

Right now, one in six workers have a mental health issue such as stress, depression or anxiety, and workers are under more pressure than ever before as staff numbers decrease, work increases, and people worry if they’ll even have a job to go to tomorrow.”

Mind’s Taking care of business campaign is aiming to transform the way that UK workplaces address mental health issues. It is calling on all employers to lift the taboos around mental health at work, and create an open culture where employees can discuss mental health without fear of the consequences.

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