Mental health problems can be just as debilitating as physical illnesses. But when it comes to requesting time off work for our mental health, many of us are reluctant to ask. In fact, many don’t know their rights in the workplace when it comes to taking mental health leave— or that they’re entitled to time off at all.
If you’re struggling and are wondering if you can take time off work for your mental health in the UK, read on to learn:
Plus, at the end of this article, we provide resources for mental health and employment rights services in the UK, alongside our top advice for creating a happier workplace.
There is no specific UK law regarding mental health leave (although later in this article, we explain how mental health leave can, in some instances, fall under the Equality Act 2010), so your right to mental health leave should be treated just like a physical illness would.
That means if you’re struggling with your mental health, there are several ways your employer should support you. They can make adjustments to your workload and schedule, for instance. If you need it, you can also take time off work for mental health (a.k.a. mental health leave).
If you do take time off work for your mental health, your employer is required to pay you Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
Any mental health illness should be treated with the same level of empathy and seriousness as a physical health problem. Here are some examples of common mental health disorders that may cause you to request mental health leave:
Regardless of the specific reason, employers must treat your mental health illness like any other sickness.
The amount of time you take off work for your mental health will vary depending on your individual health needs, but all companies must provide SSP to their employees for up to 28 weeks, including for when employees can’t work due to their mental health.
SSP is available to all employees who:
It’s important to note that if your sick leave lasts 7 days or more, you must provide your employer with a Statement of Fitness. This is a doctor’s note outlining the health issues you’re experiencing and your work capacity.
If your doctor recommends taking sick leave for longer than the 28 weeks of SSP, you may need to discuss with your employer taking further time off using your annual leave.
You are more entitled to sick leave if your illness is categorised as a disability. To fit this category, the disorder must:
In such instances, the Equality Act 2010 entitles you to longer periods of disability leave to manage your condition.
The act also offers employment security: employers who don’t provide ample sickness leave to disabled employees, discriminate against them, or even make them redundant are at risk of costly penalties and legal action. Therefore, if your mental illness meets the disability criteria, your employment and additional mental health leave is legally protected.
Even though employees are entitled to mental health leave, many don’t feel comfortable talking to their bosses about their mental illness. Whether it’s due to a fear of stigma or feeling the matter is too personal, not being comfortable discussing mental health at work can be a barrier to requesting leave.
While it’s down to the employer to cultivate a workplace culture where mental health topics aren’t stigmatised, there are also things you can do individually to make discussing mental health at work easier:
If you or anyone you know needs support with mental health, at work or in general, the below resources provide help and information.
There are plenty of ways to support mental health and workplace wellness, whether you’re an employee or a CEO looking to create a healthy and positive workplace culture. Here are a few articles and guides to get you started: