HR fears for employee health as work stress grips nation

An overwhelming 97% of senior HR professionals believe stress is the biggest threat to the future health of the UK workforce, exclusive research has revealed.

Virtually all of the 600 senior HR executives surveyed by Personnel Today and health benefits provider HSA think that failure to manage stress effectively is the number one threat to the future health of their employees.

Working longer hours and not taking enough holiday – both seen as key causes of stress – were other major contributory factors to poor wellbeing, the Who’s Looking After Our Health? study found. More than one-third (36%) of employers predicted that the health of UK workers would decline in the next five to 10 years.

Sickness absence costs the UK about £12bn a year, according to Health and Safety Executive figures. Stress accounts for almost a third of that – an estimated £3.7bn a year.

Ben Willmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said employers needed to identify the root causes of stress. He called on the government to address the dire skills shortage in occupational health (OH) to tackle the problem. “There is a massive lack of OH professionals in the UK. There simply aren’t enough to go around,” he said.

Suzanne Clarkson, head of corporate marketing at HSA, said employers needed to introduce more provisions for dealing with stress at work.

“Employers must do more to encourage employees to look after their health. The message needs to be relayed more strongly,” she said.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said that the government’s health, work and wellbeing strategy, launched last year, was making an important contribution to reducing occupational ill health.

Tackling the threat of stress at work

Employer plans for tackling stress

How likely is your organisation to invest more in the following healthcare provisions over the next 5-10 years?

  • Healthier working practices 92%
  • Employee assistance programmes 75%
  • Health screening 72%
  • Physiotherapy and musculoskeletal treatments 55%
  • Private healthcare 53%

Source: Who’s Looking After Our Health?

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