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9 September 2014

Employee counselling can cut absenteeism says new research

More than half of those stressed at work would have to take time off without counselling, new research from Capita Health and Wellbeing has found. Capita analysed data on more than 3,500 people who had used advice and counselling services during 2013.

Capita’s research is published as England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, highlights that in England, 113 million working days are lost to sick leave each year costing the economy £13 billion in health-related sickness benefits and £9 billion to employers in terms of sick pay and associated costs.

Karen Woodley, business development director in Capita Health and Wellbeing said: “The impact of stress on employees can be profound and long lasting if it’s not tackled effectively. The report published today finds that mental illness led to the loss of 70 million working days last year - up 24% since 2009 - and that those off work for more than 6 months have only a 20% chance of returning to work in the next 5 years, suggesting that mental illness is both a risk factor for unemployment and an outcome of it.”

“Individuals can get trapped in a cycle where their mental illness creates and maintains their inability to work which, in turn, worsens their mental health. Therefore it is important to offer support to help people to return to work or keep them in it, if appropriate.  And, as our research shows, offering early access to counselling and information support services can often stop a problem from escalating to a point where the employee then becomes absent in the first place.  Our research found that 54% of employees who have used employee assistance programmes to deal with stress say they would have taken days, weeks or months off work without it.   

Staff using employee assistance programmes are coping with a range of issues, both employment-related or caused by external factors like family problems, divorce, ill health or financial worries. And all of this can impact, directly and indirectly, on performance. 

“Employees told us that they had been irritable (72%), had lost confidence (77%), had been sleeping poorly (72%) and were working more slowly. But for those who undertook counselling the incidence fell significantly, to 31%, 26% and 27% respectively.

“And counselling can deal not just with the here and now but provide longer term benefits. Before counselling just 11% of employees were satisfied with their lives, but afterwards this increased more than five-fold to 59%.”   

“Employee assistance programmes therefore benefit both employee and employer – they help employees deal with the sort of life events that affect most of us sooner or later and ensure that performance issues and absence, and therefore the cost of managing such absences, are reduced.”     

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