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Workplace absences ‘at 10-year high’ with stress the major cause of long-term sickness | Business News

Workplace absences have hit their highest level in over a decade, according to a report which is urging employers to take health more seriously if they want to retain staff.

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) said that analysis of data from over 900 companies employing 6.5 million staff found an average 7.8 absence days per employee over the past year.

That was up a whole two days per person compared to pre-pandemic levels.

While minor illnesses were the main factor behind short-term absences, stress was also high on the list – with work-related and cost of living pressures among the reasons.

The report said 76% of respondents had been off work due to stress over the past year, adding that it was also a top cause of longer-term absences.

Mental health was blamed for 63% of long-term absences.

The human resources body said just over a third of organisations had reported that COVID-19 remained a significant cause of short-term absence.

The findings chime with official figures showing long-term sickness running at a record rate.

Modern Empty Meeting Room with Big Conference Table with Various Documents and Laptops on it, on the Wall Big TV with Big Data, Statistics, Talks about Company Growth. Contemporary Designed Workplace.
Pic: iStock

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said earlier this month that more than 2.6 million people do not have jobs due to their health.

It reported that the list had grown by 464,225 over the three months from April to June, compared to the same period last year.

At the same time, a report on the issue by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) described the growing numbers as a “serious fiscal threat” to the UK.

The think tank said long NHS waiting lists were a contributing factor – in the cost to the taxpayer as well as people’s declining health.

The absence report, supported by health plan provider Simplyhealth, showed that a variety of workplace support schemes were on the rise but many lacked flexible working options and health services.

The study’s authors suggested it was vital that companies, many desperate to retain staff amid current labour shortages, raise their game.

Rachel Suff, senior employee wellbeing adviser at the CIPD, said: “External factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have had profound impacts on many people’s wellbeing.

“It’s good to see that slightly more organisations are approaching health and wellbeing through a stand-alone strategy.

“However, we need a more systematic and preventative approach to workplace health.

“This means managing the main risks to people’s health from work to prevent stress as well as early intervention to prevent health issues from escalating where possible.”

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Claudia Nicholls, chief customer officer at Simplyhealth said: “With record numbers of people off sick, employers have a vital role to play in supporting them through workplace health and wellbeing services.

“They can have a positive impact on the economy and ease pressure on the NHS.

“Despite an increasing number of workplace health and wellbeing services being put in place, employees are experiencing increasing mental health issues and the highest rate of sickness absence in a decade.

“However, focusing on fixing sickness alone is unlikely to uncover areas where any significant improvements can be made; companies need to implement preventative health and wellbeing strategies that are supported by the most senior levels of leadership and build line manager skills and confidence to support wellbeing.”

Warning of ‘human catastrophe’ as more turn to drink and drugs to ‘numb stress’ of cost of living | UK News

Charities are warning of a “human catastrophe” as more people turn to drugs and alcohol to “cope” with the cost of living crisis.

New research, commissioned by The Forward Trust, revealed 32% of people said either they, or someone close to them, had relapsed into substance use over the past eight months.

Overall 2.1 million said they had increased alcohol use, while 61% of those said stress over rising prices was the most significant trigger.

Tom, 57, has been in recovery from heroin use for the past eight years.

He began taking drugs when he was 16 and told Sky News that anxiety over how to afford food and heating has made him vulnerable to a relapse.

“My health is going downhill because I do get really stressed out,” Tom says.

“I couldn’t cope with things, and I just didn’t know how to escape it. That’s why I started the drug abuse.”

He adds: “If it weren’t for my dog and my friend, helping me to get out of my mood swings, I’d have been dead by now, through either drug abuse or overdose.”

New research, commissioned by The Forward Trust, shows

Sian Reed-Collins, a recovery worker at charity Turning Point, said it was “scary” for people in recovery who used substances to “numb” stress.

“Unfortunately, things like the cost of living crisis mean people are going to go back to substance use,” she told Sky News.

“It’s a way of coping with this – helping with their stress levels, helping with their anxiety. And it’s a scary time out there for people.”

Read more:
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Last year, the government pledged nearly £800m in a landmark 10-year drug recovery strategy.

But with the autumn budget approaching and suggestions of economies to come, campaign groups are calling for that funding to be secure, as needs rise.

“This is a human catastrophe that we’re facing and people need help,” Matt Thomas, spokesperson for Forward Trust said.

“They need help urgently and they need help now because addiction is, at its worst, a killer condition.”

Cats are as good as dogs at helping us beat stress | UK News

For too long cats have been overlooked when it comes to stress-busting programmes in American universities, say researchers, who believe they could make a big difference.

Dogs are most often used as assistance animals but new research suggests that cats could also help to reduce stress in very emotional people.

More than 85% of “Pet Your Stress Away” events at American universities feature only dogs, but a paper published in the journal Anthrozoös suggests more people would benefit if they also had cats.

The study found a strong correlation between the personality trait of emotionality and a preference towards cats.

Patricia Pendry, co-author of the study, said: “Emotionality is a pretty stable trait; it doesn’t fluctuate and is a quite consistent feature of our personalities. We found that people on the higher end of that scale were significantly more interested in interacting with cats on campus.

“Given that prior research has shown that such individuals may be more open to forming strong attachments to animals, it makes sense they would want cats to be included in these programs.

“Anecdotally, we’ve always been told that cat people are different from dog people, and that most students are not interested in interacting with cats. Our results revealed that students are interested in interacting with cats and that this interest may be driven by personality traits.”

The study involved more than 1,400 students and staff from more than 20 universities.

Mother and son playing with cat at home

“There’s a perception that dogs exist to please people,” said Pendry, who categorises herself as both a dog and a cat person. “While I may describe cats as discerning, they are often perceived as unpredictable, aloof, or finicky-traits that can be difficult for some to be around.”

“Some people came in and made an immediate beeline for cats and others for dogs. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were interested in interacting with cats, which made me interested in learning more about why they made those choices.”

“Our study shows that we may be able to reach a larger audience by offering interventions that include dogs and cats. People who are on the higher end of the emotionality trait may be more likely to participate and benefit from these interactions. We’re looking for ways to help more people reduce their stress levels. Adding cats may be another way to reach a broader audience.”