UK plc pays the price as firms lose 1.5m days a year to stress

More than 1.5 million working days are lost to stress every year, costing UK
employers £1.24bn, a study by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and
Personnel Today magazine has concluded.

The research by Occupational Health’s sister magazine also found that more
than half of UK organisations are reporting an increase in workplace stress.

The Stress in the UK Workplace study of 700 senior HR practitioners suggested
that stress-related illness now accounted for some 11 per cent of all sickness
absence, while nearly half the employers polled believed the culture in their
businesses was a prime cause of stress.

In a separate study of 2,000 workers by pollster BMRB, half felt under
pressure to work long hours, with 42 per cent worrying about their job after

A total of 40 per cent felt unable to report concerns over excessive
pressure, 19 per cent dreaded going into work, a quarter admitted to worries over
work affecting their sleep and a third said they felt overwhelmed by their

Intriguingly, the public sector appeared to have a much firmer grasp on the
management of workplace stress, with 75 per cent of firms providing guidance,
compared with just 48 per cent of private sector organisations.

With the problem of workplace stress showing no sign of disappearing, the
HSE has taken a major step forward in its plans to tackle the issue, which will
include next year’s launch of management standards.

It has developed a practical guidance pack for employers and employees to
develop solutions.

The guidance, Real solutions, real people – a managers’ guide to tackling
work-related stress, has examples of practical measures that, said the HSE,
could provide a starting point for the workforce to agree how to tackle the
findings of a stress risk assessment.

Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said:
"Real solutions, real people provides a tool to help managers and staff
develop solutions to tackle work-related stress that are specifically relevant
to their organisation. It then encourages them to tailor their energy to the
particular needs identified by risk assessment."

Progress is being made on the management standards, too. The standards are
currently being piloted by 25 organisations and, according to the HSE, that
process is now being evaluated.

The next step will be to revise and develop the standards before they are
put to further public consultation next spring.

The publication is available from the HSE, tel 01787 881165, or online at

Stress: just an excuse for time off work?

Most HR professionals believe employees use stress as an excuse to take time
off work.

According to the joint research by Personnel Today magazine and
the HSE, the majority of HR professionals had serious reservations about the
number of genuine sick days attributed to stress.

A total of 51 per cent of employers believed that just half of
all days lost to stress-related sickness absence were genuine. And 68 per cent
were afraid to raise its profile in case it encouraged greater reporting of
stress-related absence.

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