Mental health and presenteeism

18 October 2012 | David Widdowson

Days off for sickness have decreased in the last year but presenteesim is on the increase.

The Centre for Mental Health has previously reported that the cost of absenteeism in the UK accounts for £8.4 billion and the average employee takes 7 days off sick each year of which 40% is for mental health problems.

However, according to a recent CIPD report sick days are on the decline. A survey of 667 employers found that the national average of sick days in the private sector has in fact decreased from 7.1 to 5.7 days in the last year.

Although at first sight this might seem a positive trend, CIPD has suggested that this is not necessarily a cause for celebration and they consider it may be directly linked to a rise in “presenteeism” as employees are coming into the workplace when they are unwell.

Mental health illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, have increased in some workplaces from 21% in 2008 to 44% in 2012 and CIPD claims that this increase is prevalent in organisations that have also seen increased presenteeism.


According to the Shaw Trust, 70% of employers recognise that mental health problems are on the increase but only 17% consider that this national average is likely to apply to their own workplace.

What’s the solution?

It is often suggested that an Employee Assistance Programme (“EAP”) and counselling in the workplace is the answer but reports show that there is only a 5% take up of EAP amongst eligible employees.

The issue of mental health and presenteeism in the workplace is deep-rooted and, in the current economic climate, it appears to be driven by both job insecurity and a heavy workload. We see the solution to be long-term and focussed on a change to workplace attitudes and procedures as well as the use of audits which investigate the extent and nature of mental health in the workplace.

Please see our recent article which sets out tips and suggestions ‘Rethinking mental health in the workplace’


Shaw Trust report: Mental Health – still the last workplace taboo?

CIPD report ‘Absence Management 2012’

The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health’s report on Mental Health at work

For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please contact Emma Clark or David Widdowson on +44 (0)20 3051 5711.


Content is for general information purposes only. The information provided is not intended to be comprehensive and it does not constitute or contain legal or other advice. If you require assistance in relation to any issue please seek specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances. In particular, no responsibility shall be accepted by the authors or by Abbiss Cadres LLP for any losses occasioned by reliance on any content appearing on or accessible from this article. For further legal information click here.

The author

David Widdowson
Senior Consultant
Employment Law
Business Coaching
D: +44 (0) 207 036 8388
T: +44 (0) 203 051 5711
F: +44 (0) 203 051 5712

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