Sick leave and pay should be more flexible, so people with poor mental health can avoid severe financial hardship, a charity has said. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said preventative, part-time sick leave would help those facing mental health difficulties. Greater access to insurance products could protect the income of those with pre-existing conditions, it added. Its report suggested mental health cost UK employers up to 42bn a year.

The research found that 2.3 million people in the UK were experiencing mental health problems that affected the amount of paid work they could do. One of those was Sarah James, 58, who said she had had to take time off on three occasions, owing to periods of serious ill-health. Stress left her in a manic state, and she said she had emerged with "massive amounts of debt" - on one occasion totalling 16,000. This had left her struggling to afford food and pay bills.

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