Mental Health Sick Leave

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Health Assured team

08 June 2022

All employers must put mental health in the workplace at the forefront of their business.

When it comes to mental health, it’s not just the individual employee who suffers–it affects the entire workforce.

If you don’t provide mental health rights, like sickness leave or statutory sick pay, you could face negligence or discrimination claims.

In this guide, we’ll look at what mental health sick leave is, reasons for taking it, and how to help employees with a mental illness.

What is mental health sick leave?

This is when employees take leave from work due to poor mental health. This absence right must be provided and treated just like a physical illness.

There are many disorders which sit under mental health sickness. Some of the most common ones include work-related stress, anxiety, and depression.

Having good mental health is so important, as it helps you and your staff build healthy and happy lives. During these difficult times, employees should receive sick pay, statutory leave, and work adjustments.

Why is mental health leave important?

As an employer, you have a duty of care for any employee on health-related leave. This means you must provide appropriate procedures to protect their wellbeing. You can do this by:

  • Creating a healthy and safe work environment.
  • Protecting staff from bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
  • Carrying out risk assessment strategies to minimise triggers.
  • Providing reasonable adjustments for anyone with a disability

UK law on sick leave for mental health

There is no specific law on mental health sick leave in the UK. However, you need to treat sickness leave for physical and mental illness in the same way.

In some cases, certain mental health conditions are categorised as a disability. But only if the right legal requirements are met. Under the Equality Act 2010, a mental health disability must:

  • Have a ‘substantial adverse effect’ on an employee’s life.
  • Last for at least 12 months or is expected to.
  • Affect an employee’s ability to perform daily activities.

Here, if sickness absence isn’t managed carefully, you could be guilty of disability discrimination. You could face a costly claim, like compensation penalties or business damages.

You need to treat mental health sick leave the same as physical sick leave.

What do employees need during a mental health sick day?

There are several factors which employees need during a mental health sick day.

But before anything, you need to treat leave for physical and mental illness as the same. When it comes to long-term sickness leave, the process time and strategy is simple:

How does an EAP help with wellbeing?


Statutory sick pay

As an employer, you must provide your staff with statutory sick pay (SSP). This is given to an employee who can’t work due to their mental or physical health.

Statutory sick pay is provided up to a maximum of 28 weeks. And it’s only available for those who:

  • Class as an employee and have an employment contract.
  • Are ill or unable to work for at least four days in a row (including non-working days).
  • Earn at least £123 per week (before tax).
  • Have informed their employers about their sickness within an appropriate time. Or within seven days if there’s no time frame.

The maximum amount of sick pay you need to provide is £99.35 per week (as of 2022). And you normally pay it on the fourth day of sickness leave. The first three days don’t count as ‘qualifying days’–therefore, you don’t have to provide statutory sick pay for them.

Many employers often provide more than the statutory sick pay rate. This is known as contractual sick pay (CSP); and the rate depends on your contractual terms and policies.

Statement of fitness

An employee is allowed to take sick days for their mental health, at any given time.

If their leave is more than seven days, they must provide a Statement of Fitness. (This is also known as a sick note, fit note, or doctor’s note). It’s provided by a medical professional and normally outlines a person’s health state and work capability.

If their sickness absence is less than seven days, employees don’t need to give a sick note. Instead, you can ask for a self-certification during their ‘back to work’ interview.

Return to work

When the employee is feeling better, they might receive a doctor’s note to say they’re eligible to return to work. Here, you should hold a meeting or interview when they come back to work. Take this time to discuss the employee’s health and whether they need any work adjustments.

In other cases, they might be advised to take further leave. This might be because of the level of their health or other illness. Some medical professionals may prescribe ‘rest’ as part of a recovery plan. For example, they could recommend taking annual leave or going on holiday.

Supporting your employees mental health?

Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support employees mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.

Request an EAP demo


What are symptoms of mental ill health?

Some of the most common mental health symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating.
  • Avoiding others or daily activities.
  • Feeling helplessness, numbness, and indifference.
  • Using high levels of intoxicants (like alcohol, smoking, or drugs).
  • Feeling extreme levels of emotions, like confusion, anxiety, or anger.
  • Experiencing flashbacks or short-term paralysis.

An individual can go through several other symptoms–all on different levels. When they experience an episode, it can easily lead to a nervous or mental breakdown.

Common mental health disorders

Here are some examples of common mental health disorders.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition which causes extreme mood swings. For example, feeling hopelessness (depression) and then euphoria (hypomania) all in one episode.


Depression is an emotional disorder which causes continuous sadness or helplessness. Depression comes in many forms, like seasonal affective disorder, chronic depression, and major depression disorder.


Anxiety is a condition which causes a person to experience uncontrollable nervousness. Anything can potentially bring or trigger their state–even when there’s little to no reason for them to worry. Some common anxiety states include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder.

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition which relates to having repetitive thoughts or obsessions. OCD is technically considered as an anxiety-related disorder, with indicators ranging in intensity.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition which is triggered by a frightening, dangerous, or traumatic event.

Mental health in the workplace

How to help employees with a mental health condition

As an employer, you need to provide support to any employee with mental health issues. We all need to speak about the importance of mental health.

Raise mental health awareness

Raising awareness for a mental health condition or different triggers can help more than the individual. If we all actively speak about the signs, it makes it easier to help staff with a mental health problem.

If illnesses are left unchecked, people can suffer in personal or professional lives–and your business may suffer too.

One of the best ways to pinpoint exactly what causes poor mental health issues is by talking about it. Discuss with the employee about any work-related triggers they’re going through.

By doing so, you can amend practices and provide reasonable changes which will protect and support your staff in the long run.

Offer medical referrals

Ultimately, you aren’t required to find a cure to help heal their condition. But you can provide Occupational Health Assessments or Occupational Health Referrals. These days, there is such a wide variety of treatments available for mental health or disability conditions.

Dealing with mental health sickness, on a daily basis can be a struggle. And every mental health condition has different causes and symptoms. So, it’s beneficial to utilise treatment and help. As an employer, help them manage everyday activities, and enable them to get the most appropriate support.

Medical professionals can include doctors, psychiatrists, and life coaches. They can offer anything from medication to psychotherapy. With such a wide range of support available, employees won’t feel isolated or neglected.

Provide mental health first aid

It’s important to have the best tools to help workers with mental health problems. Having access to mental health first aid is a great asset to own.

This is an educational training course which helps people learn about mental health. It covers aspects like different disorders, spotting symptoms, and managing vulnerable people.

The training program helps you interact with people suffering from poor mental health. Through role-plays and scenarios, you can learn how to manage a person’s mental health disorder from the minute it’s discovered or raised.  

Get expert advice on mental health sick leave with Health Assured

It’s important to help all employees suffering with mental ill health. By doing so, you’ll be able to protect your employees’ overall safety and welfare.

If you fail to manage mental health sick days, you could face discrimination claims, tribunal hearings, and even reputational damage.

Health Assured offers expert advice on dealing with mental health sick leave. Our teams can help you safeguard employee wellbeing whilst simultaneously meeting your company needs.

We also provide a 24/7 helpline that’s open 365 days a year–helping employers and their business all year round. Arrange a call back from an expert today on 0800 206 2532.

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