Wednesday, 18 February 2015

British Heart Foundation: 36% of workplace absence is due to stress

Recent research from the British Heart Foundation has uncovered that 36% of all workplace absences in the UK are due to stress and depression, a staggering 80 million working days and £9 billion per year.

Other conditions exacerbated by stress

The foundation also point out in their report that many of the following conditions are also exacerbated by workplace stress, including
• respiratory diseases
• infections
• obesity
• increased levels of substance abuse
• high blood pressure
• blood clotting
• low immunity
• coronary heart disease (because of an increase in risk factors such as smoking, cholesterol metabolism and low levels of physical activity).

Absence Management must include stress reduction

In the light of this evidence, there is a clear argument that any absence management strategy must include an approach to reduce stress in the workplace.
Indeed, employers also have legal obligations under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities, under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, to take measures to control that risk, and under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.  The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) applies as much to people with mental ill health as it does to those with a physical disability. It is now illegal for organisations to fail to recognise the mental health needs of their staff.
The report concludes that the definition of ‘disability’ under the DDA applies to people with long-term mental health problems which have lasted or are likely to last up to 12 months. Employers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ that could assist a person with a disability to do a job, and these adjustments need to be considered for employees with mental health problems. People with mental health problems are not a homogenous group, and many will not need to have any adjustments made, especially if they are given control over how and when they do their job. The most important single adjustment needed in the workplace is often related to attitudes to and assumptions about mental health.

What can Employers do?

The most important step that any employer can take, according to the BHF is to develop a workplace mental wellbeing policy.  It is also important to record any instances of any disability related absence separately to other instances of absence, no matter what the disability.
any policy should incorporate the following steps:
  1. Develop a culture of openness and support towards mental health problems.  People will then will feel safer about disclosing any mental health problem they have, and this may enable them to get the help they need early, which will assist both the employee and the employer.
  2.  Intervention, nurturing and support at an early stage, especially without judgement can really make an impact.  It is proven that appropriate support for mental problems such as stress will assist recovery and may reduce the length of time they need to take off work.  Careful recording of absence using an automated system will afford the HR Manager the opportunity to identify potential early warning signs of stress, possibly even before the employee is aware they have an issue.
  3. Finally, raising employees’ awareness about mental health issues and encouraging a supportive culture will make them less discriminating towards colleagues experiencing mental illness.
  4. Employees feeling more in control of their work will usually feel less stressed, therefore consider giving autonomy in small, manageable areas.
Overall there is still a lot to be done to raise awareness of stress at work, however as the BHF point out, the probability of dying from or suffering from coronary heart disease is 20% to 25% higher for men exposed to high demands and low control over working tasks compared to non-exposed workers. In women, job strain increases the risk of coronary heart disease from 20% to 60%.

No comments:

Post a comment

We would really appreciate any feedback or comments you may have... either drop us a message here or call one of the team directly on 0845 643 5066!