Stress More Common Than The Common Cold 
For the first time since the survey began 12 years ago, stress is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for employees, according to this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Simplyhealth Absence Management survey.

Apparently most of the stress is caused by worries about job losses, with particularly acute stress levels in the public sector, where half of employers reported an increase in stress-related absence over the past year.

Other causes of stress are tougher workloads, having a ‘bad’ boss and money worries leading to problems at home. All these add to a “vicious circle” of workers’ woes according to the survey.

However, the report praised many workplaces for increasing their focus on worker wellbeing despite squeezed budgets. Counselling services were being offered by almost three-quarters of the 592 employers surveyed.

But CIPD adviser Jill Miller seized on evidence of the downturn's repercussions for mental health to urge employers to do more to reassure nervous staff.

"Stress is a particular challenge in the public sector where the sheer amount of major change and restructuring would appear to be the root cause," she said.

For manual workers stress is now level with acute medical conditions as a cause of absence and has overtaken musculoskeletal problems to become the main cause of long-term absence.

UK employers estimate that they lose an average £673 per employee per year because of time away from work for reasons ranging from serious illness to stress and family responsibilities, according to the report.

David Frost, the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce, is leading a review for the Government on what the country can do to reduce absence rates. The review was commissioned as part of the Government’s drive to create the right conditions for economic growth.

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