As job insecurity “weighs heavy on the workplace”, stress is, for the first time, the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual employees, according to this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey.

A link between job security and mental health problems is also revealed in the survey.

Not surprisingly, employers planning to make redundancies in the next six months are significantly more likely to report an increase in mental health problems among their staff (51%, compared with 32% who are not planning redundancies).

For manual workers, stress is now level with acute medical conditions and has overtaken musculoskeletal problems to become the top cause of long-term absence. Among non-manual staff, stress has moved ahead of acute medical conditions.

In addition, the survey found a particular increase in stress-related absence among public sector organisations, with 50% of these respondents reporting an increase.

Public sector respondents identified the amount of organisational change and restructuring as the number one cause of stress at work, highlighting the impact of public sector cuts to jobs, pension benefits and pay freezes.

Job insecurity was also reported as a more common cause of work-related stress in the public sector this year (24%) compared with last year (10%) and was found to be higher than in the private (14%) and non-profit sectors (14%).

Unsurprisingly, given the significant budget cuts, more than two-fifths (43%) of public sector organisations report they will be making redundancies over the next six months, compared with 17% of private sector organisations and 24% of non-profit organisations.

Dr Jill Miller, CIPD Adviser, says: “Line managers need to focus on regaining the trust of their employees and openly communicating throughout the change process to avoid unnecessary stress and potential absences. They also need to be able to spot the early signs of people being under excessive pressure or having difficulty coping at work and to provide appropriate support.”

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