Tuesday, 23 April 2024 14:37

Sick Note Culture & Mental Health

In a recent survey conducted by Indeed Flex*, 34% of UK businesses reported being short staffed at least once a week. Of those who were short staffed, half said it was due to employees being off sick. In light of Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak’s plans to tackle “sick note culture”, it appears that more pressure is going to be placed on UK businesses to deal with unwell employees.

Last week, during the Prime Minister’s speech at the Centre for Social Justice, Rishi Sunak announced plans to remove GP’s abilities to issue sick notes. He stated that there would be a more “objective assessment” by unspecified “specialist work and health professionals”. He further claimed that the system is being “undermined” by “subjective and unverifiable claims” about capability. Where will these specialist work and health professionals come from?

Furthermore, Sunak said that the UK “needs to be more honest about the risk of over-medicalising the everyday challenges and worries of life” referring to poor mental health. Research by Mental Health UK in January 2024 found that 20% of workers needed to take time off work due to stress and burnout.

Whilst not mental health conditions, stress and burnout can develop into poor mental health for employees. Burnout is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. They both amplify the long-term sickness issue.

UK businesses will now face a rise in unwell employees in their workplaces exacerbated by the lack of adequate support systems. Line managers are an employees’ first point of call for any wellbeing concerns. Their job description is further complicated by this challenge as it adds a strain to their already demanding day-to-day responsibilities. Balancing tasks such as performance management, setting and measuring objectives and team motivation, they may now have to deal with mentally unhealthy employees. Consequently, this results in a significant reduction in the time available to fulfil their primary duties. Without proper training to navigate these tricky situations, the workplace may be confronted with wider repercussions. 

It doesn’t seem fair that UK businesses have to bear another burden, especially in difficult financial times. However, to ensure long term success and to retain high performing teams, we have put together a few ideas that you can use in your workplace to support mentally healthy teams in the current circumstances:

  • Free seminar: Managers Managing Mental Health – our seminar is aimed at business owners and HR professionals. It will focus on how you can support your managers to have the confidence to address poor mental health issues and know what to say to their team during performance reviews. Click here to book on.
  • Mental Health First Aider Training: Mental Health First Aiders are an excellent way of developing a team of listeners in the workplace. These First Aiders are trained to spot the signs of poor mental health early to prevent an escalation of a bigger issue. Moreover, they will have the confidence to hold a conversation around mental health.
  • Positive Mental Health Culture: It seems simple enough but ensure you have robust policies and procedures in place. Ensure your employees know these policies and how to access their employee assistance programme (EAP). Encourage a healthy work life balance and raise awareness of mental health in the workplace from the senior management team down to individual team members.
  • Good Line Manager behaviour: your line managers need to be trained on conducting excellent return to work interviews and performance reviews. Equally, ensure they are modelling what good looks like by having check in conversations. We have ILM qualifications already scheduled. Click here to take a look and demonstrate to your line managers what good looks like. 

By investing in a mentally healthy team, you are creating a high performing team. A team that understands they are valued by the business and know where there is appropriate support.

We are here to help with any issues you may have relating to poor mental health in the workplace. Contact us for support on 01452 331331 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

*Indeed Flex is a temporary work platform. The study asked 400 employers, managers and HR professionals in the UK. It was completed in March 2024.



Read 778 times Last modified on Tuesday, 23 April 2024 14:49


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

We deliver excellent management and soft skills training suitable for all organisational levels. We are ILM and City & Guild accredited and Ken Blanchard approved.  





We are located in Gloucester in the West of the UK close to the M4 and M5 corridors. For a precise map and directions find us on Google Maps

We have clients all over the UK but predominantly within about an hour's drive time of our offices; in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Swindon & Wiltshire.