Stress is now the leading cause of long term sickness absence in the work place and businesses’ have indicated upwards on a 40% increase in absences due to work related stress since the start of the recession. This can have a substantial effect on the smooth running of organisations and create many operational difficulties. It is therefore important that steps are taken to reduce the implications of stress and consequently reduce stress related absence. What should employers consider? Employers have a duty of care towards their employees and as such when conducting risk assessments for particular job roles should take into account their legal duty of care towards employees. It is therefore advisable to consider the potential stress implications of the role. When an employee cites stress as a cause of absence it would be reasonable to enquire whether it is work related, and if so consider the causes, and if there are any steps that you can take so as to alleviate the stress identified. Where a fit note identifies work related stress, it is advisable to send a letter to the employee expressing your concern at the cause of absence, and inviting the employee to raise any issues or concerns either formally or informally through your grievance procedure in addition to asking if there are any steps which you can take to assist the employee in their recovery. An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can provide support for the employee and greatly assist control the costs of these issues by creating a healthier workplace environment. EAP’s can significantly reduce the amount of any compensation payable to an employee. If you would like any specific advice on stress at work or our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) please contact the advice line on 0844 892 2786.