“Over two million people in the UK forced to limit their work due to poor mental health, with many pushed into debt as a result”

New research released by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has found that 2.3 million people in the UK are currently experiencing mental health problems that affect the amount of paid work they can do, with many in severe financial hardship as a result.

The research, supported by Aviva, found that many people with mental health problems are being left at risk of homelessness, falling behind on bills or going without food due to financial difficulty caused by taking time off sick from work. This financial difficulty in turn makes mental health problems worse and recovery take longer, starting a destructive cycle, with thousands finding themselves too ill to work, and too broke not too.

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 today 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.

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.”

Read the full research here.