The new analysis of nationally representative data also found that people experiencing poor mental health are more than twice as likely to report they left their last job for health reasons, compared to people with other health issues.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is calling for changes including:
- Increasing the flexibility of sick pay to allow preventative, part-time sick leave as well as phased returns to work
- Increasing the level of Employment Support Allowance (or the ‘limited capacity for work’ element of Universal Credit) paid during the 13 week ‘assessment’ period to the same amount as Statutory Sick Pay, to avoid the income shock of around £20 per week currently faced by people in the middle of a period of sickness absence who move onto benefits as they exhaust their sick pay
- Increasing access to income protection products, particularly for people who have pre-existing conditions.
One of the particularly interesting recommendations is to increase flexibility of Statutory Sick Pay to support people who need to reduce their hours. The report goes on to recommend that the government should consider how it can introduce flexibility that encourages preventative part-time sick leave, as well as phased returns to work in its review of Statutory Sick Pay. Also that employers should also consider providing this flexibility within Contractual Sick Pay schemes. This change could have a significant impact for both individuals an employers and potentially reduce the 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition who lose their job each year. Its estimated that this leads to turnover costs for employers of an estimated £8 billion a year.
Commenting, Helen Undy, the Director of The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “For thousands of people in the UK sick days are a luxury they just can’t afford. Many with mental health problems are finding themselves too ill to work, and too broke not to – choosing between causing harm to their mental health by working, or harm to their finances by taking time to recover.
“It’s a vicious cycle, ultimately forcing many out of the workplace entirely. We want to see the government and employers taking urgent steps to improve sick pay, access to benefits and other income protection so that a mental health diagnosis is not the first step out of the workforce.”
Steve Bridger, managing director of group protection at Aviva, said:“It is well established that mental ill-health affects most people to varying degrees in their life. What we see as an insurer – and as an employer – is that people’s ability to cope through a difficult patch and then be able to get back to work, is directly correlated to how easy it is for people to get support and how quickly they get it.
“We also know that having the right sort of financial support to help them deal with the practical, everyday problems – like how to keep paying the bills – can make a huge difference to their recovery.
“We are proud to sponsor this report ‘Too ill to work, too broke not to’, which is both topical and timely – and shines a light on how we might improve this destructive cycle.
Read the full research here.