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Workplace absences ‘raise stress for others’

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Employees left ‘holding the fort’ when their colleagues are off sick often end up with elevated stress levels, it has been claimed.

Over half (51 per cent) of HR managers questioned by Bupa said that employee absenteeism increases stress levels in the workplace as their colleagues after have to pick up the slack or work overtime.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they had to take on extra work and a third had put in extra hours.

Alex Perry, director of healthcare provisioning at Bupa said: “It is important that employers provide sufficient support to help people who are unwell get better and to return to work when they are able.”

He added that Bupa supports the independent Sickness Absence Review, which aims to help employers better manage sickness absence within the workplace.

The key recommendations of the review, which was led by business leader David Frost and health adviser Dame Carol Black, include moving responsibility for signing people off on long-term sick away from their GP and into the hands of an independent panel.

It also advocated a review of generous public sector sick pay schemes and called for more guidance on how doctors should fill in ‘fit notes’ properly.

The review also calls on medical professionals, the government and employers to all help spread the message that going back to work following a period of absence can actually help speed up recovery.

Prime minister David Cameron has thrown his support behind the review, stating in an interview with the Daily Mail that there needs to be a “better grip” on sickness absence in the UK.

“It’s frustrating for business, as it costs them £9 billion a year, and it’s frustrating for GPs too, many of whom resent being asked to sign the sicknotes,’ he said. ‘They want to focus on making people better, not spend their time policing the benefit system,” he added.