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Sickness absence rates rise and stress still high on the agenda

Employment Law & HR
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According to the CIPD’s annual Absence Management survey for 2013, after a small decrease in sickness absence last year, average levels are back up to 7.6 days per employee, which is on par with levels in 2010 and 2011.

The public service sector recorded the highest absence levels, with employees off sick for an average of 8.7 days. This is a rise on last year’s 7.9 days, which represented the lowest levels of recorded absence in the sector for a decade.

The employees taking the least amount of time off sick came from the manufacturing and production sector, with only six days a year per employee.

Stress and musculoskeletal injuries continue to top the list of causes of absence and, despite nearly 40 per cent of employers increasing their focus on stress management over the past 12 months, stress-related absence has seen a steady rise over the last year for the UK’s workforce.

Methods to identify and reduce stress in the workplace, such as staff surveys, flexible working options and employee assistance programmes, are gaining prominence in workplaces across the UK. However the CIPD’s latest figures suggest more needs to be done to tackle increasing sickness absence rates and to address workplace stress.

Stress disability HR case

In a separate development EAT has ruled that an employer’s failure to pay for depression treatment  for an employee suffering from workplace stress was discriminatory.

In the case of Croft Vets Ltd v Butcher, the EAT had to decide whether an employment tribunal was right to find that an employer failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee suffering from depression when it did not act on a doctor’s recommendation to pay for private psychiatric services.

The employment tribunal upheld Butcher’s disability claim. It found that a provision, criteria or practice (PCP) – her returning to work to perform the essential functions of her job - placed her at a substantial disadvantage, and that the employer had provided no reasons for failing to make the reasonable adjustments recommended by the psychiatrist to alleviate this disadvantage. The tribunal also upheld her constructive dismissal claim. The employer’s failure to follow medical recommendations, without any explanation or consultation, amounted to a fundamental breach of trust and confidence. The employer appealed unsuccessfully to the EAT.

Focus On Stress courses Edinburgh and Glasgow

These news items illustrate the minefield that is workplace stress and how it is becoming more of a problem.

To find out more about what you can do to reduce the legal risks to your organisation why not sign up for one of our forthcoming half day courses on Stress in late November?  For details and to book places please click here.

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