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13 November 2019
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Absence means poor productivity © iStock

1 May 2018 Herpreet Kaur Grewal


Stress and stress-inducing situations are the main causes of short-term absence (i.e. up to 26 weeks), according to research by Group Risk Development (GRiD), the industry body for the group protection sector.


Home and family issues account for one in five short-term absences; dealing with childcare issues accounts for nearly as many absences at 17 per cent; and dealing with elder care issues accounts for one in 10 absences.


Whereas acute medical conditions (such as heart attack/cancer) and musculoskeletal conditions both account for 15 per cent of short-term absence, stress and stress-inducing situations compound as the main reason why employees are unable to go to work.


The research asked 500 HRs the key reasons for short-term absence within their organisations.


Excluding minor ailments, these are the main reasons:


• Home/family issues – 20 per cent

• Childcare issues – 17 per cent

•  Acute medical conditions (e.g. heart attack/cancer) – 15 per cent

• Musculoskeletal (including back pain) – 15 per cent

• Subjective conditions (i.e. the illness can’t be identified by objective testing) – 13 per cent

• Stress-related mental ill health – 12 per cent

• Problems with providing elder care – 10 per cent

• Recurring or chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes) – 10 per cent

• Suspected non-genuine absences – 10 per cent


Companies that believe their absence is higher than the average for their industry also cite stress as a major reason.


And 27 per cent believe work-related stress contributes to a higher-than-average absence.


Stress-inducing situations are also seen as a contributory factor. Dealing with staff shortages (29 per cent), poor work/life balance (20 per cent) and low morale (19 per cent) were all given as reasons for higher absence.


But employers also recognise the extent to which health and well-being initiatives and group protection can support better attendance. Some 22 per cent said that not having health and well-being initiatives in place was the reason for having worse absence than others in their industry, and 14 per cent said not having income protection in place was a reason for worse absence.


Katharine Moxham, spokeswoman for GRiD, said: “The figures show that stress is not something that individuals deal with in isolation, it is a key reason for absence and has a major impact on employers.


“We’re pleased to see that employers recognise that not having income protection in place also contributes to higher absence. Group income protection does so much more than simply provide financial support when people are unable to work.


“Providers recognise that stress is a big issue, and specifically offer a lot of support for stress within their products, such as fast-track access to counselling, access to mental health specialists, support tailored for carers, and much more.


“When stress is an issue for employees, it’s an issue for employers too. Absence means poor productivity. The support is there and we want people to know about it and use it.”