Stress related absence

Posted on November 8, 2016 by Richard Ellor

Employee who looks like he is suffering from workplace stress. The 2016 CIPD Absence Survey, in partnership with Simplyhealth suggests that there is a link between stress related absence and mental health issues. Nearly one third of organisations have reported an increase in stress related absence, so what can organisations do?

Key findings from the 2016 CIPD Absence Management Survey, in partnership with Simplyhealth - the issue of mental health and measures that you can take


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Stress and mental health is a growing problem

Nearly a third of organisations have reported an increase in stress related absence in the past 12 months according to research carried out by the CIPD and in partnership with Simplyhealth. The report highlights that stress is now the most common cause of long term absence and the second biggest cause of short term absence behind only minor illnesses such as coughs and colds.

At the same time two fifths of organisations are reporting an increase in mental health issues over the past 12 months, showing evidence of a link between mental health issues and an increase in stress related absence. The report shows that both have been linked to a 'long hours' culture' and that over 50% of organisations report long working hours as the norm. 

How is mental health perceived?

The majority of organisations are taking some action to promote good mental health however it is evident that more can be done. Mental health is still very misunderstood. We all have mental health just as we have physical health.

There is evidence that suggests that there is still a stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace:

  • Nearly a third of British workers say they are not able to talk openly with their line manager if they are stressed¹
  • Just 45% of those with a diagnosed mental health problem have told their current employer²
  • 42% of respondents to the CIPD Absence Management Survey believe that managers are competent at spotting early warning signs of poor mental health
  • Two fifths disagree that staff are well informed about common mental health risks and symptoms
  • 27% of respondents do not agree that senior management support their organisations' focus on mental health wellbeing through their actions and behaviours

What measures can you take?

Just over three fifths of organisations are taking steps to identify and reduce stress in the workplace although a third of organisations who report absence as one of their top causes of absence are not taking any steps to address it.

Here are some measures that you can take:

  • A written policy that covers mental health, currently a third of organisations have a policy that covers mental health and further 12% are in the process of developing one
  • Flexible working/improving work life balance - ACAS have developed a useful advisory booklet for employers and employees that can be found here
  • Employee Assistance Programmes which include counselling. Many health cash plans include an EAP as part of the core plan
  • Return to work plans - Fit for Work is a government funded initiative that can provide help to both employers and employees in relation to managing sickness absence and a return to work
  • Educating employees and managers - You can find a useful advisory guide developed by ACAS here
  • Evaluating results and proving a ROI to senior management- Currently only 1 in 6 organisations evaluate the impact of  their wellbeing spend and only 8% link wellbeing metrics back to organisation performance metrics

For further information on absence management download your free copy of the 2016 CIPD Management Survey, in partnership with Simplyhealth

Download your free copy today

¹Mind, 2014, YouGov survey of 1,251 British workers

²Mind, 2014, How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem