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Half of those who take time off for mental health issues have to borrow to make ends meet

Almost half of those who take time off work due to mental health issues have to borrow money to make ends meet, while 42% go without essentials such as food and electricity, a new report shows.

The report was published by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, which was set up by founder Martin Lewis to research and find solutions to the devastating link between mental illness and financial difficulty. 

The report Too ill to work, too broke not to identifies a vicious cycle where many people experiencing mental health issues feel unable to take time off work, while those who do often face financial hardship – which can worsen mental health problems and make recovery slower.

For more support, download our free Mental Health and Debt Guide.

What does the report show?

The report surveyed 500 adults who had either taken time off work as a result of a mental health problem, or felt that they needed time off but were unable to take it. 

It found that income replacement – such as statutory sick pay paid by employers – was often not enough to stop respondents struggling financially while taking time off work due to mental illness:

  • 47% had to borrow to make ends meet, with many using high-cost credit options such as overdrafts and doorstep lending.
  • 42% went without essentials such as food, gas and electricity.
  • 35% fell behind on paying bills.
  • 16% missed rent or mortgage payments.

What does the report recommend?

The report makes several key recommendations, including:

  • Making statutory sick pay more flexible and widely available. Most employees earning more than £116 a week are entitled to 28 weeks of statutory sick pay from their employers – but many on zero hours contracts won't be eligible. The report says statutory sick pay should be available to all workers, and should be more flexible to enable people to work part-time, or make a phased return to work, when suffering from mental health issues.

  • Increasing employment and support allowance. It says the benefit should be raised in line with statutory sick pay.

  • Improving financial resilience by encouraging short-term saving. The report says the Government should look into schemes where employees can build short-term savings pots alongside their pensions savings. This helps provide a small financial safety net if people need to take time off work.

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