Managing stress-related absence

Employers should be able to recognise when their teams are suffering from stress.


Wellbeing research has found that 47% of SME employees have reported suffering from stress in the past 3 months.  It is known that if stress continues over a period of time, longer-term issues such as burnout can occur. As an employer, it’s imperative to know how to manage this.


Employees can be fearful of admitting they feel stressed. Stress-related symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

  • Loss of interest in work
  • Reduced quality of work
  • Loss of sense of humour
  • Decreased communication
  • Increased sickness absence
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor time-keeping
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Physical illness, e.g. nausea, headaches, aches & pains


If an employee is off sick from work with stress, there are a number of steps employers can take to aid their recovery and ease them back into work.  Firstly, try to understand why the employee is stressed and should be done sensitively, in private and with compassion. Try to establish what it is that’s making them feel stressed.

The employee may find it hard to talk about their mental health and how they’re feeling but assure them that you’re there to help and support them. It’s important to be patient. Check in on the employee every now and then to see how they’re doing, gauge whether there’s anything else you can be doing to support them and get an idea of when they may be returning to work.


It’s also helpful for the employee to know of any updates that concern them within the business; this can help avoid a feeling of isolation during their leave and will also help prepare them for when they return.


When the employee is ready to return to work, it’s important you put some time aside to catch up, welcome them back and make your own judgement as to whether they’re ready to return. It’s also a good opportunity to remind them of how much you value them as an employee and of their importance to the business.


Once you’re aware that an employee is off sick with work-related stress, you have a duty of care as an employer to carry out a risk assessment and consider making reasonable adjustments if necessary, to prevent the stress from recurring.


Should you wish to discuss how to manage stress-related absence, contact our team of CIPD qualified Consultants on 0800 995 121.


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