Stress levels soar but fewer employers tackle cause

Levels of ‘presenteeism’ have more than tripled since 2010 but fewer employers are taking steps to tackle it, according to a new report.

Increased presenteeism is associated with increases in mental health conditions and stress-related absence. Despite this, the number of organisations taking steps to tackle presenteeism has halved in the last two years (25% in 2018 from 48% in 2016).

The latest CIPD/Simplyhealth survey said that 86% per cent of the 1,000 respondents had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months, compared with 72% in 2016 and just 26% in 2010. The survey also found that ‘leaveism’, such as people using annual leave to work, is also a growing problem. More than two-thirds of respondents (69%) reported that leaveism has occurred in their organisation over the last year.

Further findings

The average level of employee absence is 6.6 days per employee per year, an increase from 6.3 in 2016, says the research. It also points out that significantly more respondents (55%) have reported an increase in common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, among employees in the last 12 months, compared with 2016 (41%).

Fewer employer tackle the problem

However, just a quarter of respondents that have experienced presenteeism (25%) say their organisation has taken steps to discourage it over the last year, a figure that has almost halved since 2016 (48%). When asked if their organisation was taking on the problems of leaveism, a similar number (27%) said they were doing so.

On a more positive note, around three-fifths say their organisation has a supportive framework in place to recruit (59%) and retain (60%) people with a disability or long-term health condition. Respondents have called for government to provide an online ‘one-stop shop’ providing information and practical tools and more financial support for making adjustments

Rachel Suff, Senior Employment Relations Adviser at the CIPD, says: “To encourage a healthy workplace, organisations need to look beyond sickness absence rates alone and develop a solid, evidence-based understanding of the underlying causes of work-related stress and unhealthy behaviour like presenteeism. Without this evidence base, efforts to support employees and improve their health and well-being will be short-lived.”

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