Public servants in Whitehall took a record 771,433 days of sick leave last year due to stress and other mental health problems, figures show.

The number of mental health sick days for civil servants in government offices was 38% higher than the 558,125 recorded the previous year.

Labor said the “shocking” figures, which they obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed “a mental health crisis at the heart of Whitehall”. The Conservative government did not properly support people with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions, it claimed.

Statistics show that the amount of mental health-related sick leave has been steadily increasing across the heart of government over the past decade.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) civil servants took the most mental health sick days in 2021-22 – a total of 280,597. Workers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) took almost as much time – 236,365 days – while the Ministry of Defense (MoD) had the third highest total time at 88,723 days.

Unions representing Whitehall staff blamed the rising numbers on increasing workloads, the impact of Covid-19, staff cuts, low pay, long hours and poor morale. The figures underlined the “disgraceful” level of mental health problems in the civil service, one said.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, linked the issue of the largest amount of mental health sick leave for MOJ workers to the fact that it was led by Dominic Raab, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, who is also Deputy Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The Guardian revealed in January that the RAB faced 24 separate allegations of beating civil servants. An investigation into his conduct is expected to be reported in the near future.

Rainer, who is also shadow secretary for the future of work, said: “Instead of setting an example to employers about how to treat workers with respect, Rishi Sunak’s deputy has faced 24 allegations of traditional bullying, the highest rate her department has experienced. Health ailment across Whitehall.

“These shocking figures reveal a mental health crisis at the heart of Whitehall with a chronic failure by the Conservatives to support their workforce.”

Other cabinet ministers have also faced allegations of bullying civil servants in recent years, including former home secretary Priti Patel and former education and defense secretary Gavin Williamson. Patel was found to have bullied officials but then Prime Minister Boris Johnson took no action. Williamson resigned as a Cabinet Office minister last November following the revelation of text messages sent to a fellow minister.

Labor’s study also found that of all government departments, MOJ officials take the highest number of sick days each year due to mental health problems.

Its workers took an average of 3.32 days off for mental health last year, compared to 2.58 days the previous year. The DWP had the second highest rate of mental health absence per head of staff – 2.88 days – while the Department for Transport had the next highest rate, at 1.92 days.

Lucille Thirlby, assistant secretary-general of the FDA, which represents many civil servants, said: “It is no surprise that the mental health of civil servants is suffering, as our members report increasing workloads and regularly working well beyond their contracted hours.

“Excessive workloads and working hours are chronic problems across the civil service and have a huge impact on people’s mental health. The government should take this matter seriously and take concrete steps to better support the workers.”

In a member survey published last November in the FDA Report on Hybrid Work, the union found that 77% of respondents worked some unpaid overtime each week, while 74% said working overtime had a negative impact on their well-being, and 60% thought they Overtime was a problem where it worked.

The FDA has previously expressed concern about the impact of alleged “bullying” behavior by several ministers in Sunak’s administration on their civilian employees.

Mark Sarotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “These figures further show the devastating effect the government’s appalling behavior is having on its own workers. Layoffs, unmanageable workload pressures and low pay have already worsened employee morale.

“PCS members went above and beyond during the pandemic, often at risk to their own physical and mental health. It is no wonder that the impact of their sacrifice is on such a reprehensible scale.”

A government spokesman said: “The Civil Service continues to improve its approach to health and wellbeing to help employees access the support they need to stay or return to work and fulfill their potential.”

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