To put it simply –  maybe. But it’s more likely that employees can take a mental health day off work.

There are, however, a few important things both employers and employees should be aware of when considering mental health days off work. 

Read on to learn more. 

So, Can Employees Take A Day Off For Their Mental Health?

Yes, they should be able to.

Employees are entitled to take ‘sick leave’ or ‘personal leave’. 

The law does not specifically state that employees are entitled to a ‘mental health day off.’ However, if employees are taking a day off for your mental health, it likely falls under those leave categories.

Sick Leave and Personal Leave 

Employees are entitled to sick leave for personal illness. 

Personal illness can include both mental and physical afflictions.   

Depending on the amount of sick leave taken, an employee may need to provide a ‘fit note’.

For leave absences of more than 7 days (weekends and public holidays included), employees are legally required to give their employers a sick note. 

A sick note is provided by a healthcare professional, letting the employer know the employee was not able to work for that particular period of time. 

Employees that don’t take more than 7 days of sick leave in a row do not need to provide their employers with a fit note. Rather, they can provide self certification which is just a way of officially confirming their absence. There’s no official way to conduct self certification and the process will likely depend on the individual business’ internal processes. 

When taking leave, employees are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if they are absent for 4 or more days (non-working days included). In order to qualify for SSP, an employee must be: 

  • An official employee of their place of work (part-time and contractual workers included) 
  • Let the workplace know within 7 days (or any other reasonable timeframe) of their absence
  • Earn more than £123 in a week prior to taxes being applied 

SSP can be paid for up to 28 weeks. The current rate for SSP is £99.35 a week. However, this can be subject to change, so be sure to keep an eye on it! 

Some workplaces may have a ‘company sick pay scheme’ which is essentially an internal policy for employees that fall sick. A company sick pay scheme can offer more but not less than the national minimum listed above. 

What About Casual Workers?

Casual employees can be entitled to sick pay as long as they meet the other requirements (such as the minimum pay). A number of factors come into determining whether or not a casual employee is entitled to  sick pay, such as the period of time they have been employed at their workplace. 

You can read more about the different employee types and their rights to sick pay here

Can You Request Evidence From Your Employees About Mental Health?

As we mentioned earlier, an employee has to provide evidence of why they took a sick day if they were absent for more than 7 days in a row. However, you shouldn’t press the employee for the specifics of their mental health. 

Gaining a fit note does not mean that you have to detail the ins and outs of your mental health state to your employer. Health professionals are not legally obligated to detail a reason for a fit note. This is especially so if the reason is a personal and private one. 

Not everyone may be comfortable about disclosing their mental health and employees’ privacy should be respected.

Are Employees Required To Disclose Their Mental Health ?

Generally speaking, employees are not required to disclose their mental health condition unless that mental health condition poses a risk to themselves or others. 

For example, unbeknownst to the employer, if the employee took a mental health day because they were extremely stressed or anxious, there’s no obligation to specify that to the employer.

For example as an employee, if you work with heavy machinery and are required to make decisions that may place others in harm’s way, you may need to disclose your situation to your employer as you will be unable to safely carry out your job. 

How Should I Ask My Employer For A Mental Health Day? 

As discussed, it is not necessary to detail to your employer the state of your mental health in detail (unless it may cause harm to yourself or others). As such, asking your employer for a mental health day can be like asking your employer for a sick day.

Asking your employer for a mental health day should not add to the stress that you may already be experiencing. You are entitled to be brief, clear and factual when asking your employer when taking your personal leave. 

Remember, you are not obligated to explain your mental health state if you are not comfortable in doing so. 

If you’re an employer it would be good practice to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable and can be open about how they are feeling. You could even encourage them to be open about when they need a mental health day off work so it’s not a taboo topic in the workplace.

What About Privacy & Mental Health At Work?

Under the Data Protection Act 2018 , health information, including personal mental health information, is considered sensitive information. 

This means that employers are obliged to keep your personal information private and confidential. Further, they can not use this information for any reason other than to ensure the safety of yourself and those you come into contact with. 

Stress – It’s A Lot On Your Mental Health! 

Whether you’re an employer or employee, your mental health is paramount to you being your optimal self. Being conscious and caring for your mental health is really important. 

Traditionally speaking, mental health has been somewhat of a taboo topic. However, more recently, society is realising the importance of focusing on mental health, especially in the workplace. 

Both employers and employees should be on the same page when it comes to mental health. As an employer, you should ensure that your employees feel safe at work and comfortable in taking mental health days off work if required. Equally, as an employee, you should feel comfortable approaching your employer to request a mental health day off. 

Whatever work you do, it can be stressful. You should never feel alone and there is always help when you need it. 

So, what can you do to promote mental health in the workplace?

Below are some ideas to help get you started:

Schedule Regular Catch-ups

Regular catch-ups with your team can be an extremely useful way to build relationships and maintain a sense of connection, particularly if you are all working remotely or from home. These sessions can offer your employees an opportunity to debrief if they have had a difficult week at work, or simply act as a means to hang out with each other.

Look Out For Warning Signs

If you have noticed any changes in demeanour with an employee, it may help to provide an indicator as to how they are going. While it may currently be tricky to gauge mood based on body language if your team is working from home, changes in productivity and attitudes towards work may be a sign that they may be struggling. 

Check In On Employees You Are Concerned About

If you’ve noticed that one of your employees might need support, it’s important to follow up. Organise to speak with them one-on-one and let them know that you are there to help. For tips on starting the conversation, check out HeadsUp

Be responsive if your employee tells you that they are struggling. Where possible, explore options with them to provide appropriate support. For example, approving leave requests, reducing their workload or extending deadlines to relieve any immediate pressure they may be under.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed or simply just need somebody to talk to, some brilliant resources include: 

Your wellbeing matters. Reach out for help if you require it and exercise your right to a mental health day off work if necessary. 

Need More Help? 

Taking a mental health day off work can be really important for your wellbeing.

If you are an employer, it is important to understand in what situations your employees can take sick or personal leave, and what your obligations might be.
If you would like a consultation on your options moving forward, you can reach us at 08081347754 or [email protected] for a free, no-obligations chat.

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