Spa Life Blog
What to do when an employee goes off sick with “stress”
One of the biggest problems with employees who take time off with illness is knowing if they are really ill, or just throwing a “sickie”. And of all the illnesses, stress is one of the hardest to verify from an employer’s point of view.
The problems with “stress” are multiple. One person’s stress is another person’s vigorous but enjoyable working life. Worse, even when stress is diagnosed there is no clear measurement of how and when the condition is being overcome.
For some, returning to work with some of the stressful conditions removed can lead to a very satisfactory re-entry into employment. For others the mere thought of re-entering the working environment is enough to cause further manifestations of stress-related illnesses.
And so today stress is bigger news than ever before, with the suggestion made in some quarters that as recession has led to down-sizing, so down-sizing is likely to lead to stress among those left in the work place.
This notion is reinforced by the fact that economic figures at the moment suggest the recession is over, but employment figures are not picking up. In other words fewer people are being charged with the responsibility of producing more. A classic recipe for stress.
An analysis by Mind (the mental health charity) suggested that 20% of workers had developed mental health issues as a direct result of work, with 10% of workers going to their GP for help over such issues. Against this it seems that 10% of the working population are doing 15 hours or more unpaid overtime a week.
The importance of the stress issue has been recognised by government for some time, and the Health and Safety Executive have for many years had a stress web site (www.hse.gov.uk/stress) Apparently the site gets over a million hits a year.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that there is no standard measurement for stress in the workplace. But employers have a duty to provide their staff with a safe working environment, and there is no doubt that it can be argued that an environment that is likely to lead to stress-related illness is as dangerous as an environment in which there is asbestos in the walls.
So it seems likely that most employers will see members of staff take time off with “stress”. But what then? The answer at the moment is far from clear.
You can hear more on this topic at the SPA LIFE 2012 on 14th November at Barcelo Hotel, Daventry.