One in five Yorkshire workers are faking a physical illness to take time off work for their mental health over fears of being judged or sacked.
Workers in the region have taken an average of four days a year off work due to stress, depression and anxiety and 64 per cent lied to their boss about the cause, the research by law firm Slater and Gordon found.
This was above the national average of just over half. Yorkshire was also above the national average for people staying in the role that caused them stress, depression or anxiety with 18 per cent of workers saying this was the case, compared with 16 per cent UK-wide.
Pressure from above and unrealistic deadlines were the biggest causes of stress.
Shockingly, 14 per cent of those who were honest with their boss said they were told to “man up” and 13 per cent were fired, forced to leave or demoted from their roles.
Many recognised their mental health was not as good as it should be, nor was their workplace’s attitude towards it, with 65 per cent calling for more support to be provided.
Slater and Gordon said the research showed the balance between how mental health is treated compared to physical health remains skewed.
Peter Lyons, employment liability lawyer at the firm, said: “If staff do not even feel supported enough to seek help without fear of prejudice that’s a huge concern.
“We speak to a lot of people who are feeling so stressed and anxious with work they are forced into taking mental health days.
“Many isolate themselves, trying to work harder, which causes their personal lives to suffer and mental health to deteriorate further. The biggest thing we would say is don’t fight stress alone at work.
“Keep detailed notes of what is causing stress and anxiety, then speak to a trusted colleague or manager to create a plan to tackle the issues. Union representatives or legal advisors specialising in this area can also provide guidance.”
The figures also showed the average person spent an extra 27 unpaid minutes each day working, adding up to two and a half extra weeks of work a year.
Poor mental health formed at work was following people home with two in five admitting stress from their jobs has a negative impact on their mental health.
Over a third of people (37 per cent) struggled to switch off at night or over the weekend and 60 per cent suffered with ‘Sunday dread’.
The combination of these factors led to 40 per cent arguing with their partners, 40 per cent missing personal events and 33 per cent arguing with family members.
Tony Pearson, head of health in Yorkshire and Humberside at UNISON, which represents public sector workers, told the Yorkshire Post the union was “deeply concerned about” the figures, adding that stress placed on workers “grows greater by the day”.
“Part of the union’s job is to monitor mental health in the workplace, which is why we conduct stress audits of members.
“This research aligns with what we’re seeing, as cases if stress are on the rise. This is not surprising when local government has suffered 30 per cent budget cuts, meaning workers are forced to do more with less.”
Dave Munday, lead professional officer for mental health at Britain's biggest union Unite, agreed, adding: "I'd encourage everyone to be a member of a trade union. If they need support in work due to their I'll health (be it physical or mental ill health) they can speak to their local representative for advice and support, including taking them along to any meetings.
"In situations where a manager isn't supportive, it's helpful to have that support but also they can act as a witness that can make notes about any discussions which can later be referred to.
"Employers should support people with their ill health but it's reasonable for them to expect to be told about any problems. Once they know it would be harder for them to discriminate against an employee. Staff in human resources can also be an excellent source of support of the staff member feels their manager isn't supportive and again a local representative can help facilitate a discussion. Some employers also have access to workplace counselling which can be beneficial or an employee's own GP can help too."
He added that mental health first aiders at work were beneficial but should not be seen as the only solution.
"I'd also encourage any employer to think about developing good policies on how to support staff. This isn't just advantageous to the individual who needs help but also improves productivity for employers."
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Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind said working environment can have a “dramatic impact” on mental health and our wellbeing adding that there was a long way to go to tackle the problem.
She added: “For staff to feel valued and supported, employers need to tackle the work-related causes of poor mental health, promote the wellbeing of all staff, and support employees struggling with their own mental health. Every employer as a bare minimum should offer workplace wellbeing measures - things like flexible working hours, generous annual leave, subsidised exercise classes and Employee Assistance Programmes – access to 24 hour telephone support – can all make a big difference.
“Good mental health and wellbeing is essential for all of us and your work should never be a barrier to this.”