Poor mental health is UK's top reason for time off work in 2021

UK workers took over 319 million days off work for illnesses, at an estimated cost of £43 billion to employers.

Mental health issues were the primary reason for time off work during 2021. GoodShape's UK PLC 2021 Workforce Health Report reveals that in 2021, poor mental health accounted for 19 per cent of all lost working time across the country, followed by confirmed cases of COVID which represented 16 per cent. In total, UK workers took over 319 million days off work for illness or injury, at an estimated cost to employers of £43 billion and counting.

Mental health troubles were the most common cause of lost working time in nearly every industry, with absences averaging at least three times longer than for COVID-related reasons. Alarmingly, 54% of workers who take two or more mental health-related absences will go on to leave their jobs.

Length of MH related absence by sector 2021 1200px (1)-1

Top 5 reasons for lost working time in 2021

Average length of time off (days)
1. Mental health issues 18.8
2. Confirmed cases of COVID 5.8
3. Musculoskeletal issues 11.2
4. Non-medical inc. suspected COVID 4.3
5. Gastrointestinal issues 2.8


Mental health issues impacting employees in every sector in 2021

Mental health issues were the number one reason for lost working time in all UK employment sectors bar the Transport & Logistics, Consumer & Retail and Workplace Services sectors. However, the length of time taken off for each mental health-related absence differs significantly per sector, with employees in Government, Construction & Real Estate, and Transport & Logistics taking the longest time off for each instance.

Length of MH related absence by sector 2021 1200px (1)

Industry sector

Average length of mental health-related absence (days)

Government 23.4
Construction & Real Estate 21.5
Transport & Logistics 21.3
Workplace Services 20.3
Utilities 20.1
Manufacturing & Engineering 19.2
Health & Life Sciences 16.8
Financial & Professional Services 16.2
Education & Training 13.0
Consumer & Retail 12.3
Cost of absence on UK PLC increases by 31 per cent since 2019
The direct cost of worker absences on UK businesses has increased from an estimated £33 billion in 2019 (Jan – Nov) to £43 billion in 2021 (Jan – Nov), an increase of 31 per cent. This reflects the increase in time taken off by employees for illness, increasing from approximately 250 million days in 2019 to over 319 million lost working days in 2021. The cost of these lost working days does not cover additional indirect costs such as hiring replacement staff, loss of business continuity, training and providing support to other staff, so the true cost is likely far higher.
GoodShape CEO, Alun Baker commented:
“The last year has seen a continued positive shift in workplace culture that’s allowed for more open conversations about mental health. It’s encouraging to see more employers acknowledge that meaningful and targeted wellbeing support is crucial for the ongoing health of their people and business. Yet, the pandemic has meant that across all industries, more is being expected of people and budgets. The good news is though, that the business community is realising that performance is inextricably linked with wellbeing and insight.”

Find out how we can help.

Fill out the form below and one of our team will be in touch to arrange a meeting.

Find out more

Customisable promo module headline.

Supporting info lorem ipsum dolor sitam amet sed do eiusmod tempor.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Duis aute irure dolor.