Most employers offer stress management policies

More than nine out of 10 (92%) of respondents operate stress and anxiety management policies in the workplace, according to initial findings from research by the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) and Pfizer.

The CBI/Pfizer Absence and workplace health survey, which will be published in full later in July, questioned HR practitioners and managers in 153 organisations employing 850,000 people across the UK.

It found that two-thirds (68%) of larger organisations operate formal policies, compared with just under a third (30%) taking an informal approach.

Smaller organisations are more likely to take an informal approach to managing mental health (50%) than a formal one (33%).

Across the board, the most widely-used practices to help support employees are flexible working (82%), counselling (79%) and occupational health support (78%).

The research also found:

  • 54% of respondents cited non-work-related stress, anxiety and depression as a cause of long-term absence for non-manual workers, and slightly fewer (42%) for manual workers.
  • Non-work-related stress is the third most common cause of short-term absence, cited by nearly half of employers (46%) of non-manual staff and nearly a third (31%) for manual workers.
  • Mental illness related to work is the ninth most common cause of long-term absence overall, and the 11th most common cause of short-term absence.
  • Half (50%) of respondents conduct regular risk assessments for stress or other workplace causes of mental health problems.

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills at the CBI, said: “Employers are increasingly aware that progress on workplace safety has to go hand-in-hand with similar progress on health.

“These findings show mental health issues are a major cause of absence, so it’s no surprise that nine out of 10 respondents are taking positive action to manage mental illness.

“We need to make sure the health service, through the fit note and new occupational health, supports firms in helping staff back into work.”

Jonathan Emms, UK managing director at Pfizer, added: “Conditions linked to anxiety, stress and depression are responsible for almost half of cases of long-term absence from the workplace.

“Employees who are off work for lengthy periods are also those most likely to drop out of the workforce entirely, and that’s often devastating for themselves, their families and society at large.

“These findings show the debilitating impact of mental health conditions on individuals and the workforce, and the scope for improved productivity through the better management of long-term absences.”