Absence down, but stress on the rise
Absence down, but stress on the rise
Levels of absence across the UK workforce have fallen by one day per employee, according to the 2014 CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey.
Days lost to absence, per employee, per year stands at 6.6 days, down from 7.6 days in 2013. An increased focus on attendance strategies and a 22% rise in the number of organisations developing their line manager capability is said to have contributed to the fall.
But despite the good news, two fifths of survey respondents said stress-related absence increased over the last year, and 43% of organisations have noticed a rise in mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser and co-author of the report, says organisations have historically put more emphasis on physical wellbeing than tackling mental health. “A third of organisations are not taking any action despite reporting an increase in stress-related and mental ill health-related absence,” she says.
According to the research, organisations which had noted an increase in both stress and mental ill health were more likely to report an increase in the number of people coming to work ill, yet half of those who had seen an increase in presenteeism over the past 12 months had not taken steps to discourage it.
Tianne Croshaw, resilience trainer and coach, says there can be a “head in the sand” attitude when it comes to tackling mental health. “Employers don’t want to talk about it because they don’t know what their responsibilities are, and how far they should go,” she says.
In September, chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, called for greater support for working people with mental health problems. According to her report, around 70 million working days were lost to mental illness last year, costing the economy up to £100bn.
“Anyone with mental illness deserves good quality support at the right time,” she said. “It is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment, to benefit their own health as well as the economy.”
“This is definitely something HR and line managers need to focus on. Being able to spot early warning signs is vital,” says Miller. “That doesn’t mean they have to know how to solve those issues: it’s about being able to point people in the direction of appropriate support.”
Counselling (56%), flexible working (52%) and employee assistance programmes (46%) are the most common tools employers use to support staff with mental health problems, according to this year’s CIPD survey. “We need to work together to step up the efforts and address the mental health side of well-being,” Miller says.
Read the CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey from 6 October at cipd.co.uk/research/_absence-management
Petaurum Solutions Comment
The issue of stress at work is a business-critical one. If it is not managed properly stress will reduce individual and organisational productivity. Whilst stress in itself is not a medical condition, research shows that prolonged exposure to stress is linked to psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as physical effects such as heart disease, back pain and headaches. In addition to impacting on an individual’s physical health, stress also impacts on their mental health, engagement, motivation and commitment. At an organisational level, it impacts on sickness absence, performance and productivity (presenteeism), employee turnover and a range of other issues such as increased accident rates, workplace conflict, poor employee relations and disputes as well as increased insurance premiums.
Employers mistakenly assume that stress related claims are “employment claims” and are therefore of relatively small compensation value. However, these types of claims are generally pursued as Personal Injury claims through the High Court and have the potential to be enormous. When you also consider the added exposure of a Health & Safety claim, Disability Discrimination claim or an employment claim, the potential impact is huge!
However, too few employers understand what stress is, how it affects people, or how to identify and manage it.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also issued public health guidance on ‘Promoting mental wellbeing at work’, which can be found online at:
At Petaurum Solutions we believe in a rounded approach to employee wellbeing and the clear link between wellbeing and performance. We have a range of solutions that can help employees’ financial, physical and mental wellbeing. Interested? Contact us to find out more.
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