Sickness absence costs the UK economy about £12bn a year, with absence in the private sector accounting for about 8bn of the total, the government has said.
It echoes the cost of £12.2bn estimated by the Confederation of British Industry last year.
Health and safety minister Lord Hunt added that stress was now one of the biggest problems in the UK workplace, with the cost to the economy estimated at £3.7bn per year.
“Sickness absence and return-to-work policies are only worth having if they have the full support of directors and top-level managers. After all, leadership starts from the top,” he told a conference of HR directors in January.
In a separate speech, Hunt stressed that NHS patient safety and health and safety are two sides of the same coin.
Injuries from falls account for about one-third of patient injuries, but for more than half of the injuries among health services staff.
“Our two organisations are promulgating the same messages – the effective management of risk,” he said. “Good health and safety, and patient safety, must be integral to good business management.”