What would it mean to lose 10% of your workforce suddenly, without notice, for up to a month at a time. And know it could happen repeatedly? Staff absence through illness in any business is difficult to handle, but in small businesses it can be deadly.

The CBI’s 2013 report  ‘Fit for Purpose – Absence and Workplace Health Survey’ says each absent employee costs their employer an average of £975 each year. Non-work related illness or injury is by far the largest reason for absence. But one of the fastest growing areas is employees’ personal problems – involving for example relationship difficulties, drink or drugs – with nearly a quarter of all employers pointing to this area as a major cause of absence.

In my experience running a small business, long-term absence can be particularly destructive. When you’ve got a team of just ten people, when one of them is suddenly absent without notice, the affect on the business can be huge. The CBI’s report points to mental health conditions like stress, anxiety and depression, as the single most widespread cause of long-term absence (54% for non-manual employees and 42% for manual employees).

One of the things that employers can do to reduce staff absence is to have some sort of stress and anxiety management policy. Unsurprisingly, the CBI report shows that larger organisations are far more likely to be ready (92% have a formal policy in place) whilst just 35% of smaller businesses (less than 250 employees) are prepared.

We’ve been talking about this in the citrusHR office today. And so we’re starting work now on the Citrus HR Stress and Anxiety Management policy – one of the battery of policies we’ve got ready to help you and hundreds of other small businesses reduce the impact of staff absence on your business in 2014.

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