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Finance staff are anxious and depressed - but they won't talk about it

Less than half of UK financial services employees would feel confident speaking to their manager about mental ill-health, despite a third of absences being due to stress, anxiety or depression, a report suggests.

31% of workers said they wouldn’t be comfortable talking to their manager if they were struggling with mental health issues and another 23% were “unsure” if they would, according to a survey of over 3,600 people working in the financial sector by the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI).

A separate survey by business solutions firm Adviserplus in 2017 indicated that a third of absences in the financial services sector were due to mental ill health.

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Many respondents to the CISI survey chose to leave anonymous comments – some indicating which financial services sector they worked in.

“I would be worried that this would affect advancement and/or be logged on a HR file,” said one corporate finance worker.

“I have found employers unsympathetic about family issues let alone mental health, and would not discuss at work in any circumstances, as any weaknesses are exploited in the banking sector by superiors,” said a compliance worker.

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“I suffer from epilepsy, and when I started to have regular seizures caused by stress my manager chose to ignore them,” said a wealth management employee.

CISI described these comments as “disturbing” and cited particular issues that may “resonate across the world of work”. These problems included lack of trust in human resources departments and managers, work-life balance, underfunding of the NHS for mental health support, sexism in the workplace and bullying.

However, some firms were singled out by respondents for being particularly supportive of staff and prioritising their mental health, including investment service Hargreaves Lansdown and accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

READ MORE: Four signs you’re in a toxic workplace

Emma Mamo, head of workplace well-being at Mind, said the figures echoed similar findings by the mental health charity which showed many people still felt unable to talk about their mental health at work.

“We have started to see progress being made by organisations regarding workplace well-being, but there is clearly a long way to go,” she said. “Employers and managers must take urgent action to create workplace cultures where staff feel able to discuss their mental health and be met with support and understanding if they do.”

Long hours and the pace of activity during the working day was a recurrent complaint among those surveyed. While recent ONS data shows that UK workers work the longest hours in Europe, output is 16% less than other EU countries.