Lord Hunt of Kings Heath recently underlined the cost of sickness absence to the British economy. The latest estimate puts the cost to the economy at around £12 billion per year, with absenteeism in the private sector making up around £8 billion of the total. Addressing a Human Resources Director summit Lord Philip Hunt said, “The workplace in the 21 st century is a fast paced, dynamic and highly stimulating environment. It brings a number of benefits and opportunities, however, with these benefits comes new risks. Sickness absence and return to work policies are only worth having if they have the full support of directors and top-level managers. After all, leadership starts from the top.” The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Department for Work and Pension (DWP) and Department of Health (DH) recently launched a new strategy, Health Work and Well-Being, aimed at tackling sickness absence across the public and private sectors to improve the occupational health of the British workforce.
Stress is among the biggest problems in British workplaces, with the cost to the British economy being estimated at £3.7 billion per year, but added to this figure is the immeasurable amount of personal cost that stress and economic inactivity brings. HSE’s stress management standards, launched in 2004, give employers some simple steps to follow to identify stress at an early stage and a simple guide to possible measures that can be taken to reduce the problem before it gets to the point of staff absence. The management standards were designed in consultation with industry, trade unions, HR professionals and key academics. Employers and employees are encouraged to work in partnership to solve issues of occupational ill health. A joined up approach is vital if absenteeism is to be reduced and potential future problems identified early and addressed. Lord Hunt continued, “The management standards are key to bringing about change and are vital if we are to continue improving the fabric of our society as an inclusive and prosperous nation and continue ensuring that individuals have access to fulfilling employment in a healthy and safe working environment.”