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Kate Phelon

Sift Media

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Employee stress: Providing the required support

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SupportThe current economic climate may be a huge contributor to employee stress, with stress-related illness becoming ever more apparent amongst UK workers. By offering an Employee Assistance Programme, employers can provide much-needed emotional and practical support to their staff, says Wojciech Dochan and Jeremy Campbell.


A certain level of workplace absence due to illness or injury is unavoidable. The great majority of absence is short term or very occasional and does not present significant problems. Sickness absence has attracted a good deal of attention in recent months, however, with businesses increasingly recognising its effect on productivity, not to mention the personal impact on the people affected, their families and colleagues.

Stress-related illness in particular is becoming ever more prevalent amongst workers in the UK, with an estimated 442,000 workers believing that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill (Labour Force Survey 2008). As fears regarding job security escalate, the potential health impacts could be wide ranging; this in turn could affect workplace performance and sickness absence rates.

“As the credit crunch continues to bite, it’s likely that employees will increasingly need somewhere to turn to discuss concerns about job insecurity.”

According to research from Unum, around half of UK workers believe that their work has been impacted over the past two years due to stresses and worries. The most common stresses cited by workers were work issues and personal issues; 72% and 71%, respectively of respondents who admitted that their work had been greatly affected by stresses and worries in the past two years. These are followed by stress due to personal health issues (66%) and the cost of living (57%).

As the credit crunch continues to bite, it’s likely that employees will increasingly need somewhere to turn to discuss concerns about job insecurity and financial worries. These days, employers are under great pressure to provide emotional and practical support for their people. Yet when a company is focusing on managing growth and meeting customer demands it can be difficult to also keep on top of all the people issues that affect productivity.

Strong resource

Employee morale and performance are at their highest when individuals are free from personal issues. Realistically, however, everyone experiences personal issues from time to time and an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can serve as a strong resource to have in place during these times. An EAP is a workplace benefit programme that can be offered by an employer, sometimes in conjunction with a health or income protection insurance plan.

It is intended to help employees deal with problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being, ranging from child and elder care problems to personal or work-related issues. An effective EAP can therefore play a vital role in helping an employer to manage their personnel and ensure that their welfare is kept a priority.

Specific services available for employees as part of an EAP vary with each provider. However, they often include access to telephone and face-to-face counselling, matched referrals for child and elder care and tips and advice on a wide range of subjects. Offering an EAP may result in various benefits for employers as well, including lower medical costs, reduced turnover of absenteeisms, and higher employee productivity and morale. It is important to look at how many counselling sessions are included per presenting issue by the EAP provider so that employees have a comprehensive service.

“Providing staff with access to employee benefits is a particularly effective way of helping to reduce overall staff absence costs and improve efficiency.”

Importantly, from an employer perspective, some EAPs will provide access to online and telephone legal and employment helplines for managers and supervisors and may even help the employer with the creation of tailored legal documents, helping the business stay compliant and make savings on legal advice costs. This can be a particularly useful feature for employers in an increasingly complex legal world.

Most employees will probably need to take sick leave at some point during their working lives and in most cases this lasts only a few days; the average British worker taking 9.1 days off each year in sick leave, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Whatever its cause, stress and anxiety problems can increase absenteeism and can have a negative effect on job performance, retention, morale and commitment.

Long-term sickness absence can have a devastating effect on the performance of a business and the health and well-being of the employees. Providing staff with access to employee benefits, such as an EAP, is a particularly effective way of helping to reduce overall staff absence costs and improve efficiency. It means that employees can seek advice at an early stage, before their worries may start to impact on their health and work performance.

The key concept to understand is that workers, in any organisation, are an asset to be enhanced and in which to invest. Businesses that take heed of their responsibility to look after the health and welfare of their staff will not only reap the benefits of a happier workforce but enhance on their business capital. Having a healthy, productive workforce is essential to business performance, particularly during hard economic times, and establishing a well-structured EAP can play an important part in this.


Wojciech Dochan is head of commercial marketing at Unum, and Jeremy Campbell is director of HRO sales at Ceridian.

2 Responses

  1. metrics
    We have plenty of EAP business case anaylsis for clients that we have compiled from Uk research.
    EAP metrics are very tough to compile in the UK as business needs to measure their own metrics better first.

  2. Compelling metrics?
    Although I’m a believer in EAP, I have yet to see any compelling metrics from any source which show compelling Financial benefit

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Kate Phelon

Content manager

Read more from Kate Phelon
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