Just the Job: Stress and the Challenges to Business Today

Article excerpt

Byline: Fergal Dowling

Stress costs the UK economy millions every year in employee absenteeism, legal actions and low productivity levels.

British business is facing its biggest HR challenge for decades. The figures speak volumes. According to CBI research the cost of stress-related absence is pounds 7 billion per annum, representing a cost of pounds 310 per employee per year. Reports from the Health and Safety Executive concur, highlighting that stress is a major contributor to work-related illness and sickness absence. And according to City University and the Centre for Stress Management in London, work - followed by family - is the prime cause of stress in people up to 50.

Hardly surprising, then, that the last few years have seen growing numbers of cases for legal compensation for stress, with Birmingham at the epicentre.

Birmingham City Council, for example, became the first employer in legal history to admit liability for a stress-related illness in a case resulting in more than pounds 67,000 of compensation. Last year compensation payments soared even higher, with two settlements in excess of pounds 200,000.

A further case reaped pounds 300,000 for a teacher suffering from a nervous breakdown following stress at work. But why has stress become such a corporate plague? This is best answered by a human resources specialists, not a lawyer. But we can all make an informed guess that work environment, increasing workloads, fractured career ladders and the frustrations of office politics are contributing factors. As to the cure for stress, this does not always lie with the doctor. …