Executives need to lead from the top if they want to cut the £12bn annual cost of sickness absence, according to the heath and safety minister Lord Hunt.
The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates put the total cost to the economy at around £12bn per year, with absenteeism in the private sector making up £8bn of the total.
Lord Hunt told a summit of HR directors that the issue needed to be treated seriously at board level.
“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 said.
He called on employers to make greater use of the HSE’s stress management standards, launched in 2004, which provide employers with simple steps to follow to identify stress at an early stage.
“The management standards are the key to bringing about change and are vital if we are to continue improving the fabric of our society as an inclusive and prosperous nation and ensuring that individuals have access to fulfilling employment in a healthy and safe working environment,” Lord Hunt said.