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Worker absence jumps by a third in recession

22 February 2012

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One in four workers experience work-related stress during a recession, research suggests. 

A study of civil servants in Northern Ireland, which took place in 2005 and 2009, found work-related stress increases by 40% during an economic downturn. 

The findings published in Occupational Medicine also showed the number of staff taking time off due to job stress increased by 25% during a slump and the total number of days taken off due to stress jumped by more than a third. 

Researchers at the University of Nottingham said the findings should serve as a “stark warning” to employers. 

“We were fortunate to have access to staff survey data collected before the emergence of initial signs of a forthcoming recession and again four years later at the height of the recession,” said Jonathan Houdmont, the study’s lead author. 

“The stark differences in the responses given at these two time points clearly show that national economic crises can have substantial implications for workers’ health and organisational performance. 

“The findings suggest that those businesses which seek to reduce work-related stress during austere economic times are likely to experience lower staff absence and greater productivity.” 

The Society of Occupational Medicine claimed that the study’s results showed firms that they should use occupational health services or risk “long term damage to their workforce productivity”.