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Sickness absence due to mental health conditions is on the rise

By January 14, 2022Employment

A recent report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has concluded that half of all work-related illness in the past 12 months is attributable to stress, anxiety and depression.

The rate of self-reported stress, anxiety and depression had been increasing before the pandemic but has been compounded by the effects of the pandemic, which is now often cited as a contributory factor to these conditions. In addition to this, common causes of stress, anxiety and depression are workload, lack of support, threats or bullying, violence and changes at work.

It is obvious that sickness and absence has a negative impact upon a business. This might be by decreasing productivity, the delivery of service, and overall morale of the workforce. The employer will also need to pay sick pay and incur the cost of covering the work of the absent employee.

Unfortunately, sometimes sickness absence is unavoidable. However, there are steps which can be taken to try to alleviate stress and anxiety to employees which could result in mental health issues and employee absence.

In the UK, employers have a ‘duty of care’ to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees. This includes carrying out risk assessments regularly in respect of hazards at work, including work-related stress. HSE suggests that stress risk assessments are carried out regularly in order to identify, manage and decrease work-related stress.

This could be by assessing the risk and potential causes of stress within the workplace (for example by considering sickness absence records, conducting specific stress-related surveys or focus groups), comparing this to see how the business is performing against risk factors, and then deciding upon and implementing targets and action plans, in consultation with employees or their representatives.

A fundamental part of managing stress in the workplace is communication. It is often futile for employers to set up stress management policies and procedures if it has not taken the time to speak with employees to understand the issues and what could be put in place to assist them. Employees may also be less likely to embrace stress management resources if they have not been properly explained to them.

Having open and honest conversations with the workforce (both collectively and individually) about stress in the workplace will hopefully encourage transparency in the workplace so that issues can be dealt with before an employee’s mental health deteriorates and there is a requirement for sickness absence. This is of course beneficial to both the employer and employee.

If you do have any queries in relation to managing stress management, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the employment team / Gemma Wilson at Glaisyers ETL on 0161 833 5689 or

Gemma Wilson

Author Gemma Wilson

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