Identifying why employees are off sick could help companies to reduce stress in the workplace, according to Activ Absence.
It comes after research by employment law firm GQ Littler found GPs issued 741,210 fit notes for stress-related disorders in 2018/19, an increase of 8% from the previous year.
The total number of fit notes issued increased by 4% to 9.7 million.
Adrian Lewis, director at Activ Absence, said the research indicates that more people are having time off for stress, but the impact of stress doesn’t happen overnight.
“Often people have taken a few days off here and there, perhaps always on a Monday or are suffering from more colds than usual. These could be early warning signs that people are stressed out,” he explained.
Lewis suggested that if employers intervened earlier on to address why someone is feeling stressed, it could help reduce the numbers having several days or even weeks signed off by the doctor.
The latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show 12.8 million working days are lost because of work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
In 2018/19 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill-health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill-health.
Lewis said employers need to do more to help their staff who are suffering from stress, but first they need to know who they are.
“This can be difficult as many employees don’t let on that they are suffering or lie about what is wrong with them if they take time off. There is still very much a stigma around mental health issues in the workplace that needs to be overcome,” he added.
A 2019 survey by Censuswide and Slater and Gordon found of the workers who took mental health days, 55% told their employer they were physically ill and less than a third (32%) admitted that the reasons were to do with mental health.
“We recommend employers use technology to track and monitor absence, which can help flag up root causes of absenteeism,” said Lewis. “Investing in absence management software helps companies to spot trends such as regular days off or a rise in sick leave from particular employees.”