Half of all public sector employers reported an increase in stress-related absence over the past year, according to research by the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development.
The top causes of stress at work are workloads, management style, non-work factors such as relationships and family, relationships at work and considerable organisational change or restructuring, the 2011 Absence Management Survey found.
Job insecurity has become a more common cause of stress in the public sector this year compared with last year and is higher there than in the private or non-profit sectors.
Only 35% of private sector employers said they were experiencing the same trend of increased stress-related absence.
“Stress is a particular challenge in the public sector where the sheer amount of major change and restructuring would appear to be the root cause,” said Dr Jill Miller, advisor at the CIPD.
“To a large degree, managing stress is about effective leadership and people management, particularly during periods of major change and uncertainty.”
Miller said managers needed to be able to spot the early signs of stress and communicate effectively with employees about any changes, to ensure a smooth transition.
The public sector was shown to have highest level of long-term absence overall. However, public sector employers were those most aware of the problems of absence, with 71% saying they had a target to reduce their sickness absence levels.
Not-for-profit care services were also shown to be suffering badly from sickness absence. Care services said they lost 5% of their working time to absence last year; more than any other sector.
The survey collected data from 592 employers across the UK employing over 2m people.
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