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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Stress costing British firms 1.24bn
More than 700 managers were surveyed
British industry is haemorrhaging a "massive" 1.24 billion a year because of stress-related sickness and lost productivity, according to a survey of managers.

A report in Personnel Today magazine concludes that the UK's productivity performance is "atrocious", with output per-hours-worked a fifth lower than in Germany and France, and well below the European average.

Bosses claim spiralling stress is seriously damaging attempts by British industry to boost productivity and attract new staff.

A majority of the 700 managers polled said they thought stress was lowering productivity and 60 percent blamed it for higher rates of staff turnover.

Problem worsening

More than a quarter of those questioned by the magazine and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said many potential recruits were put off joining a company because they feared the job would be too stressful.

The only reason Britain has kept pace at all is because we work the longest hours in Europe
Personnel Today report

Days lost to stress totalled 1,554,263 among the 581 employers who provided an estimate, which suggests that 11% of the UK's total sickness absence was due to stress, the report said.

And more than half of those polled said the problem was getting worse, with only 7% reporting an improvement.

About 50% of the employers said they believed that half the days lost to stress were not genuine.

Jane King, editor of Personnel Today, said: "As organisations strive to increase their productivity they appear to be putting greater stress on their employees.

"This in turn is adversely affecting their productivity. This is a vicious circle that employers must interrupt.

"A first step towards this is to ensure that individuals have clear, achievable aims and targets and that they are given proper training to help them achieve those targets."

The survey revealed that half of managers believed poor management was a major barrier to overcoming workplace stress, while a third thought managers did not even acknowledge stress was an issue.

The report concludes: "The only reason Britain has kept pace at all is because we work the longest hours in Europe.

More support

"We are having to work harder and longer to maintain our position in the pack, less inspiration means more perspiration."

Elizabeth Gyngell, head of the better working environment division at the HSE, said the research highlighted the need for greater support and guidance for employers.

"This survey has enabled us to find out directly from people at work, in particular HR managers, what will help them to tackle work-related stress.

"The findings have confirmed the feedback we have already been receiving from employers, that they would welcome help with identifying practical interventions to manage the sources of stress."

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