Stress one of the top three causes of absence

Stress claims are the top priority for risk managers, and those in the public sector regard it as the biggest emerging threat in the workplace.

John Humphrey, head of Marsh Employment Risk Services, told a conference on stress last week that it was one of the top three causes of absence, along with musculo-skeletal illnesses and infections. It was costing £310 per employee per annum and represented 46 per cent of the total UK cost of absence.

Other speakers at the IRS-organised conference pointed out that good stress management policies have a positive effect on company bottom lines by slashing their absence bills.

Humphrey said most companies were very good at managing safety but few managed stress well. Those that managed people’s absence from work usually did so reactively rather than targeting the cause of the stress.

“Stress is not a new issue. It is a management issue – we often cause it and we have to alleviate it,” he said.

Barrister Diana Kloss told the conference that a large number of claims against employers for stress are currently in the pipeline.

Hugh Robertson of Unison warned companies against implementing a “model” stress policy that was inappropriate for the company’s specific needs.

“Stress should be dealt with like other hazards, through risk assessment backed up with training.” He also warned, “We have to look at all levels, top and bottom, because it is not just middle managers who suffer from stress.”

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By Kathy Watson

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