Healthcare Research 2011: Stress

The slowly improving economy has reduced the pressure to combat workplace stress, but current public sector cuts could create a new need, says Tynan Barton

As the economy has inched further towards recovery in the past year, fewer employers have implemented a strategy to reduce workplace stress. The proportion taking steps to tackle stress has fallen to 28% in 2011, compared with 39% in 2010 and 65% in 2008, during the height of the economic downturn.

In 2009, the main driver for a stress reduction strategy was the economic climate, cited by 88%, but this has since fallen as a priority during the past two years.

Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents that have a stress strategy in place are in the private sector. This is quite surprising considering the public sector is experiencing pay freezes, redundancies and restructuring. It may be the effects of the recession hit private sector firms before the public sector, and the coalition government’s spending cuts are now taking effect.

These statistics contrast with those of 2002, when 86% of public sector employers said they had implemented a strategy to combat stress, with 88% of these having introduced an employee assistance programme (EAP) or other form of counselling.

However, there is a continuing trend for employers to deal with stress in order to tackle high sickness absence figures. This year, 38% of employers rated absence as the main reason for implementing a stress strategy, up from 23% in 2010.

Among employers that have a strategy to combat stress, counselling and EAPs, and work-life balance policies continue to top the list of ways to address stress. This year, 95% of respondents rated counselling services as the most effective method, continuing the upward trend from 85% in 2010 and 84% in 2009.


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