Stress and mental ill health remain major causes of employee absence

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Stress and mental ill health remain major causes of employee absence

Stress and mental ill health remain one of the major causes of long-term absence for businesses but there have been improvements compared to last year, according to research from Group Risk Development (GRiD).

Stress and mental ill health remain one of the major causes of long-term absence for businesses but there have been improvements compared to last year, according to research from Group Risk Development (GRiD).

The trade body for the group risk industry revealed that two in five (42%) of employers described stress and mental ill health as a main cause of long-term absence.

Over a third (36%) said it was a main cause of mid-term absence, while one in six (17%) found it a main cause of short-term absence too.

However, this is an improvement on last year. Almost half (48%) of employers questioned found this to be a main cause of long-term absence (in excess of six months), 41% of mid-term and 19% of short-term.

GRiD said: "This indicates that strategies introduced by employers to address issues like this amongst their workforce are having an impact."

One in ten(13%) employers said they have introduced stress counselling, while 7% have line managers trained to spot signs of stress or mental ill health.

Flexible working remains ahead of return to work interviews as the most popular initiative for reducing absence and improving attendance, with over a third of employers (36%) now engaging in this measure for this purpose.

Acute medical conditions such as heart attack and cancer continue to take their toll on absence rates, with a third (32%) of employers saying these were a main cause of long-term absence and a quarter (24%) for mid-term absence.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: "With long-term sickness absence costing UK businesses £4.17 billion a year , it has never been more important to provide support early on to tackle absence. The impact stress and mental ill health can have on staff in terms of morale cannot be underestimated, neither can their negative effects on business productivity.

"Promoting flexible working initiatives - including working from home and compressed hours - also ranked highest among employers for improving productivity with nearly a third (29%) of employers saying they were doing this.

"This makes eminent sense given that home, family and caring issues consistently feature as main causes of absence and achieving a good work/life balance for staff consistently features as a top health and wellbeing priority for employers in GRiD's annual research (now in its seventh year)."

She continued: "While it is positive to see strategies to combat absenteeism having an effect on absence rates and reducing the number of employers citing stress and mental ill health as a main cause of long-term absence, businesses must ensure they are thinking about the long-term wellbeing of their staff if they are to protect the business bottom line.

"Group risk products offering additional mental health support and financial protection are one way employers can make a big difference to costs in the long run."

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