By Daniel Hunter

Stress and ill mental health are the biggest causes of mid and long-term absence, according to new research from Group Risk Development (GRiD).

The figures put a focus back on the work-life balance, or apparent lack- of, GRiD said.

Almost half of employers questioned (48%) said stress and mental health is a main cause of long-term absence within their organisation, with 41% saying it is a main cause of mid-term absence and 19% for short-term. Significantly, one of the other top causes of short-term absence (33%) is for home/family issues which can often be a contributory factor in stress-related absence.

On National Stress Awareness Day (5 November), the findings highlight the impact these issues have on businesses, particularly as mental illness often develops as an absence continues.

Mental illness is the largest single cause of disability in the UK, costing the economy £70-100 billion per year. But employers appear to be taking active steps to reduce the impact of stress in their business.

More than one in three (35%) said that maintaining a good work-life balance was their top health and wellbeing priority, with 64% of employers putting this in their top three. Forty-two percent of employers are now recording a secondary cause of absence (on top of the primary reason), which usually is related to stress or mental health. This gives them another tool to more closely monitor these issues from the outset.

The research also found that 10% of employers now have line managers trained to spot signs of stress and mental health conditions, an early intervention strategy which can help manage the issue and support staff. Additionally, flexible working is the top measure that employers have put in place to reduce absence and manage attendance, at 32%.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD), said: “Stress and mental ill health are clearly a thorn in the side of businesses in terms of the levels of absence rates, but it is evident that employers recognise the importance of early intervention and managing a healthy work-life balance, both factors which can go some way to supporting staff wellbeing. However, it is important not to underestimate the impact these issues can have when they do hit, and businesses need to recognise that management of this should be at the top of their list.”

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