How does an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) reduce the cost of absence?
Guest blog from Simon Hurley-Smith, Managing Director, Health Matters
Absence is defined as ‘not present or available’. For employers this means that employees are not at work, not producing and not contributing to the organisation’s productivity, revenue or profitability. Absenteeism is failing to report for scheduled work. More recently, it has been viewed as an indicator of psychological, medical, or social adjustment to work." (Johns, 2007)
Dame Carol Black asserts that every year 140 million working days are lost to sickness absence1, and of these, 70 million days are lost every year due to mental ill health2.
Much of this absence ends in a swift return to work. However, a significant number of absences last longer than they need to and each year over 300,000 people fall out of work onto health-related state benefits. Absent employees and their families suffer through loss of income as well as the illness itself and this is often exacerbated by being unable to afford private healthcare. Employers must bear the cost of sick pay and associated costs of replacing or covering for the individual in the short or long term – estimated at £9 billion a year. The State spends £13 billion annually on health-related benefits3.
In an earlier report of 2008, Dame Carol Black stated that ill health (in terms of working days lost and worklessness) was costing the country £100bn annually – equivalent to the running costs of the NHS4.
Stress is the biggest cause of absence
Stress is now the biggest cause of absence in the public sector5 and is the single most common Health and Safety problem at work. In 2009, 1 in 7 people admitted being under high levels of stress at work6. By 2010, 1 in 5 employees had called in sick due to stress. 1 in 4 adults experience mental health problems in any given year and 1 in 6 experience mental health problems at any given time.7 The Samaritans state that the biggest cause of stress is money – 51%, followed by work related matters – 28% and then family issues – 27%8.
Employees with a mental health problem are absent from work 7.5 times longer than those with a physical illness and account for one third of all absence. On average, the average stress related absence equates to £659 per person and 29.4 days9
1 (Health at Work – an independent review of sickness absence), November 2011, Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE)
2 MIND Employee research, 2010,
3 (Health at Work – an independent review of sickness absence), November 2011, Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE)
4 ‘Working for a healthier tomorrow' - Dame Carol Black's review of the health of Britain's working age population (17th March 2008)
5 The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey in 2010
6 Health and Safety Executive http://www.hse.gov.uk/ 2009
7 MIND Employee research, 2010,
8 The Samaritans Research 2007
9 Chartered institute of personnel and development CIPD – 2007
10 Employee Benefits Magazine in 2011
11 Sainsbury’s Centre for Mental Health – December 2007
12 McLeod – Counselling at Work Journal – Autumn 2007 13 CBI - 2004