Employer strategies to address stress and mental ill health are reducing their impact as a cause of long-term absence according to Group Risk Development (Grid).
New research from Grid shows stress and mental ill health remain major causes of long-term absence for businesses – but their impact is less than it was a year ago.
Grid’s survey found that 42 per cent of employers point to stress and mental ill health as a main cause of long-term absence, with 36 per cent saying it was a main cause of mid-term absence. That compares to a year ago when almost half of employers questioned – 48 per cent – found this to be a main cause of long-term absence, defined as in excess of six months, with 41 per cent seeing it as a cause of mid-term. Grid says this indicates that strategies introduced by employers to address these issues amongst their workforce are having an impact.
The research found 13 per cent have introduced stress counselling, while 7 per cent have line managers trained to spot signs of stress or mental ill health. Flexible working remains ahead of return to work interviews as the most popular initiative for reducing absence and improving attendance, with over a third of employers – 36 per cent – now engaging in this measure for this purpose. Employers also continue to use procedural structures to improve attendance, such as absence KPIs and board-level monitoring.
Acute medical conditions such as heart attack and cancer continue to take their toll on absence rates, with 32 per cent of employers citing these as a main cause of long-term absence and 24 per cent for mid-term absence.
Grid’s latest claims statistics showed that the main cause of claim across all three group risk products – group critical illness, group life and group income protection – was cancer, representing 68 per cent of group CIC claims, 46 per cent of group life claims and 24 per cent of GIP claims. Cancer was followed by heart disease on 16 per cent as the main cause of claims for life insurance, with heart attack responsible for 10 per cent of group CIC claims and mental illness the second highest issue for GIP, responsible for 23 per cent of claims.
Grid spokesperson Katharine Moxham says: “With long-term sickness absence costing UK businesses £4.17bn a year , it has never been more important to provide support early on to tackle absence. The impact stress and mental ill health can have on staff in terms of morale cannot be underestimated, neither can their negative effects on business productivity.
“Promoting flexible working initiatives – including working from home and compressed hours – also ranked highest among employers for improving productivity with nearly a third (29%) of employers saying they were doing this. This makes eminent sense given that home, family and caring issues consistently feature as main causes of absence and achieving a good work/life balance for staff consistently features as a top health and wellbeing priority for employers in Grid’s annual research, now in its seventh year.
“While it is positive to see strategies to combat absenteeism having an effect on absence rates and reducing the number of employers citing stress and mental ill health as a main cause of long-term absence, businesses must ensure they are thinking about the long-term wellbeing of their staff if they are to protect the business bottom line. Group risks products offering additional mental health support and financial protection are one way employers can make a big difference to costs in the long run.”