The true financial cost of stress in the workplace

5th November 2014


Almost a quarter of UK workers have called in sick because of stress in the past year at a cost of £690 million per wasted day.

Friends Life, which carried out the survey, said this was equivalent to seven million employees.

Today, November 5, has been dubbed Stress Awareness day and it marks the third annual survey on the subject by the insurer.

This year the research found a large increase in the number of people taking time off work with stress, as 23% of those surveyed said they had called in sick because of stress compared to 16.5% in the previous two years.

Anna Spender, head of group protection proposition at Friends Life, said: “Stress levels are clearly rising and it’s important for employers to be aware of the strain their workforce may be feeling.

“The financial cost of stress is huge, and our research only takes into account the cost of paying people who take a day off. If you add in the lower productivity which stress can cause through presenteeism, where employees come into work when they really should be taking time off, then that figure would be even higher.”

For women in the 2014 survey, money was named as the biggest cause of stress while for men, money and work were rated as being equally stressful.

The research found that the youngest workers were most likely to take time off with a mental health issue.

A third of 18-24 year olds said they had called in sick because of stress in the past year – a much higher proportion than any other age group.

This new study follows an earlier survey by the insurer which revealed that 4 in 10 employed people in the UK had experienced a common mental health problem like stress, anxiety or depression in the last year and not told their employer.

In a clear sign of the contrast between the way physical and mental health problems are viewed, more than a quarter of employees admitted claiming a sick day was due to an ailment when it was in fact for psychological reasons.

Spender added: “Stress at work is a problem that cannot be ignored. It is still being hidden in the workplace and this is actually exacerbating the problem. Creating a culture where employees feel comfortable being open about a problem is vital if they are going to get the support they need to improve their mental wellbeing. Seeing the cost of stress explained by research like this will hopefully inspire businesses to put plans in place for employees who are currently suffering in silence.”

Latest ONS figures say there are 30.76m employed people in the UK. 23.35% of those surveyed said they had taken time off with stress this year, which would equate to 7,182,460 million workers having called in with stress in the past year

Average weekly pay is £479p/w or £95.80 a day. If you factor in the number of workers who have taken time off with stress in the past year this equates to £688,079,668 each day in wages paid to employees who are off work sick with stress.

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