One in four UK staff take sick leave for stress

Problem worse in north and for women as small businesses struggle to cope

One in four UK employees have taken sick leave because of stress, with long hours and excessive workplace pressure the main causes, new research has found.

The study, conducted by the Business Software Centre, found that women took twice as much time off as men, while significant regional differences in stress levels were also apparent.

A third of staff in Scotland, the north and the midlands have suffered from stress-related illness, compared to just 20 per cent of those in the south.

Absence because of stress is a growing problem for small businesses, with many firms employing a small number of staff who work long hours to keep productivity high.

It’s estimated that stress costs the UK economy £1.24 billion a year, with millions of days lost a year due to under-strain employees taking time off.

Business groups fear that the UK’s ‘long hours culture’ will soon be bought to an end, with the EU pressing the government to accept the Working Time Directive, which restricts workers to a 48-hour week.

Trade unions have called for the directive to be implemented, citing health reasons, but business lobbyists have argued that the move would severely damage competitiveness.

Phil Hames, managing director of the Business Software Centre, said: “Nationwide figures like these are disturbing, although the problem is significantly worse for small enterprises.

“In my experience, many small businesses have no way of monitoring staff absence levels, despite the fact that many high street retailers stock affordable packages that help businesses monitor staff sickness levels,” he said.

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