1 in 6 employers offer ‘mental health days’: are they the next big thing?

  • Leave and Absence
Two people smiling and chatting around a laptop
Alan Price - Peninsula's Chief Operations Officer and CEO of BrightHR

Alan Price, Chief Operations Officer

(Last updated )

According to our recent client survey, one in six employers now offer ‘mental health days.’

And with a further 8% also hoping to introduce them within the next year, it’s a trend that’s on the rise.

But are they a meaningful benefit or little more than a buzzword? Why are they so popular? And if they are worthwhile, how might you introduce them in your own business?

Let’s dive in…

What actually is a ‘mental health day’?

‘Mental health days’ are a fairly new concept.

So it’s understandable if you’re totally unfamiliar with what they are and how they work. Basically, it means you’d provide extra leave to help staff manage their wellbeing.

If an employee is experiencing stress, anxiety, or any other mental condition, you would give them a day off to recover. They might use this time to rest, enjoy a hobby, or spend time with friends – whatever helps them feel better.

You might be thinking: ‘hang on, staff can already call in sick due to mental health…’

The difference is, for this to be a ‘perk,’ you’d provide mental health days separately to existing sickness and annual leave entitlement – instead of simply increasing or subtracting from it.

And if you were promoting it as a workplace ‘perk,’ you’d probably provide full pay. Otherwise, it wouldn’t really feel like an attractive benefit.

Why are they getting more popular?

Rising mental health issues will be a big factor.

46% of employers have seen an increase in workplace mental health issues. This means that bosses will be increasingly familiar with the damaging and costly effects of poor employee wellbeing. Especially when poor mental health is now the most common cause of long-term absence…

So, many employers are now taking proactive steps to combat this.

A relaxing day off could help prevent a wellbeing wobble from snowballing into a longer-lasting condition. This then helps you prevent lengthier absences or resignations.

Plus, it shows you’re a supportive employer, which is appealing to jobseekers. It could help you hold onto your current employees, too. Because when staff feel supported, they’re more likely to repay you with loyalty.

Wait, why not stick to regular sick leave?

If you already provide generous paid sick leave, you might be wondering: “do I need to offer mental health days too?”

However, there’s an old-fashioned mentality that employees should spend a ‘sick day’ in bed – shivering, coughing, and armed with a pack of Kleenex. And often, your staff will buy into that stereotype too.

So if your employee doesn’t fit this clichéd image of ‘sickness,’ they might feel uncomfortable calling in sick. In fact, according to HR News, a huge 49% of UK workers feel guilty about taking sick leave if they work remotely.

This suggests employees think, if they feel physically well, they should be in work.

But this then means staff arrive or log into work when they’re not mentally capable of delivering their best. This gives you a presenteeism problem – in other words, employees who clock in without being able to actually perform their duties.

Having dedicated ‘mental health days’ will help normalise taking time off for wellbeing purposes.

Hopefully, this removes any discomfort around taking sick leave that doesn’t just involve languishing in bed. Instead, you give staff the confidence to do whatever helps them recharge – whether that’s a taking a walk, watching a film, or anything at all – free from guilt. Then, they feel better equipped to return to work and deliver their best.

How can I roll them out in my business?

Mental health days are an increasingly popular workplace perk. And now, you might be feeling excited to introduce this benefit in your own workplace.

But not so fast – because without laying down firm ground rules, it’s tricky to remain consistent.

Imagine. One employee asks for time off, citing burnout. It’s a quiet day anyway, so you have no problems giving them the day off. But when another employee calls the following week – also citing burnout – you might struggle to get through a busy shift without them.

In this event, you’d need to provide either the same time off or a solid reason why you aren’t able to. Otherwise, staff could accuse you of being unfair…

So, before you hit ‘send’ on that excited email, consider creating a policy that covers:

  • Any situations where you might need to refuse a request, like staffing issues
  • Whether or not you provide full or reduced pay for this leave
  • If you provide a set amount of days off (i.e. 5 mental health days per year) or unlimited mental health leave (as many days as employees need)
  • How staff can request a mental health day – do you have HR software to record any leave requests?
  • Any additional wellbeing support you provide, like an Employee Assistance Programme.

As a Peninsula client, you’ll find it easy to roll out new perks. That’s because you can discuss any ideas with an adviser who understands your business. Then, they’ll even draft the relevant paperwork and policies for you.

And if you’re not yet a Peninsula client, claim your free HR policy samples to experience simpler HR management.

Related articles

  • a jar of coins labelled holiday


    Rolled up holiday pay set to return: what exactly is it?

    Rolled up holiday pay has been unlawful since 2006 but is set to make a comeback. Those who begun their careers in HR or payroll before then will need to dust off the old guidance and re-familiarise.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Leave and Absence
  • Blog

    Rolled up holiday pay set to return: what exactly is it?

    Rolled up holiday pay has been unlawful since 2006 but is set to make a comeback. Those who begun their careers in HR or payroll before then will need to dust off the old guidance and re-familiarise.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Leave and Absence
  • Three office workers sat around a table.


    Should you hire someone who’s unfriendly in the interview?

    We often expect candidates to be smiley, friendly, and confident in their interview. But here’s why that’s not always the right way to think about it…

    Alan PriceChief Operations Officer
    • Recruitment
Back to resource hub

Try Peninsula for free today

See for yourself why Peninsula is the UK’s favourite HR and health & safety provider. Tap below to unlock free advice, policies, e-learning, and more.

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.

International sites

© 2023 Peninsula Business Services Limited. Registered Office: The Peninsula, Victoria Place, Manchester, M4 4FB. Registered in England and Wales No: 1702759. Peninsula Business Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the sale of non-investment insurance contracts.

ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited company.
The Sunday Times - Top Track 250.
Glassdoor 2018 Best Places To Work.