Job security fears send UK's blood pressure rising

Stress has become the most common cause of long-term sick leave in Britain. And you can blame the sword of Damacles hanging over people's posts...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 19 Dec 2011
Stress has busted its way to the top of the list of reasons why people stay off work long-term, beating other work-related conditions like repetitive strain injury and even more serious illnesses such as cancer. It’s the first time in the 12 years the CIPD survey has been running that stress has been named the biggest cause of absence. It has even overtaken musculoskeletal problems in manual workers.

So it seems the effects of cuts and failing economies are being felt down the chain, with the report saying employers planning redundancies are set to see rising mental health issues among staff. If that was correct then surely the public sector would be suffering? Apparently it is: half of employers in the public sector have reported an increase in stress-related absence over the past year.

And it’s not just in the public sector. Employers gloomy about the economic outlook are wary of hiring new staff, according to the latest jobs report from the Recruitment Employment Confederation and KPMG. Permanent and temporary work placements rose at their slowest pace for more than two years in September, and the report predicts a contracting job market on the way, ahead of the government’s official figures, which should perhaps come with a free wind-chime and ambient Enya CD.

No surprise then that more than a quarter of employers surveyed said the numbers of people coming into work when ill had risen in the last year. It seems people are too scared to stay away, even when they’re legitimately sick (unless they're off sick with stress, of course). This has sparked calls to tackle the culture of ‘presenteeism’. Of course. The world may truly have gone mad if we’re lambasting people for actually showing up, but beyond the ridiculous buzzword there is a point – the last thing anyone wants when they’re busy working is to be struck off themselves because someone else has struggled into the office and spread their germs around.

Yet the sufferers may have no choice: UK employers estimate that they lose an average £673 per employee per year because of time away from work, and half use employee absence records as part of their criteria in selecting for redundancy. Going outside and taking a few deep breaths may not help…

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