Opinion  

Look after your staff and they will look after you

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At 18 per cent less productivity than the average of G7/developed countries, the UK has begun to address this discrepancy to remain at the top table of Economic regions.

The Government estimates that matching the US would raise GDP by 31 per cent equating to £21,000 a year additional annual household income. At the top of Government this is a worry; health and wellbeing provides a significant opportunity to address productivity, noting that the UK State disability bill is estimated to be £36bn annually.

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Our presenteeism research showed that 89 per cent of employees came into work when unwell and it is estimated that absenteeism costs UK employers £16bn.

Employee health and absence can have a huge effect on a business: last year the average number of sick days rose from 6.6 to 6.9 per employee, with the cost of sickness absence to organisations equal to £554 per employee.

So it remains a mystery that, with such numbers, health and wellbeing is not at the top of the corporate agenda.

It’s clear that organisations need to tackle this problem head on by taking a proactive approach to improve the health and wellbeing of employees. So how can employers best go about managing absence within the workplace?

Mental health - a growing cause of workplace absence

The message from all the evidence is clear: employee health and wellbeing coupled with effective early intervention, rehabilitation and support are proven to be effective. They should be business priorities for keeping employees in work where possible, or ensuring a swift return when time off is required.

However, while Government regulation will undoubtedly provide an extra layer of support to employees claiming State benefits, employers and their employees would be unwise to rely on this alone.

The level of benefit for those placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) from April 2017 will be decreasing by 30 per cent, from £5,312 to £3,801 and 74 per cent of employees believe that State benefits will reduce further and be harder to qualify for.

Although there are a number of causes of long-term absence, including musculoskeletal disorders, accidents and mental health, one of the most significant factors – and one that is steadily increasing – is stress.

The Health & Safety Executive estimates that together with anxiety and depression, 9.9m working days are lost a year from stress, depression and anxiety with huge ramifications for businesses and the individual. As prevention is always better than the cure, employers must look into ways to ensure that stress does not become a problem in their workplace.

Our research showed that 57 per cent of UK employees have suffered from mental health problems while in work which is a worrying indication of the prevalence of these issues, with stress (43 per cent) and depression (26 per cent) the mostly commonly cited experiences.