THE public sector could face large costs linked to stress related illnesses following the Government’s austerity measures, it was claimed yesterday.
Richard Coulthard, who is head of the stress at work department at Michael Lewin Solicitors in Leeds, said that, according to, estimates from the Labour Force Survey, stress at work accounts for 40 per cent of the total number of absences.
Mr Coulthard added: “An individual who is on long-term sick due to stress at work is a substantial drain on resources for the Government in many forms.
“The most obvious being that employees on long-term sick will receive full pay for several months while the Government is not receiving the benefit of that employee’s service.
“Another consideration is the cost to the NHS. Individuals suffering with work-related stress require considerable health care, primarily from their general practitioner, but in more serious cases, input will be required from counsellors or psychologists.
“Such psychological care is often extensive and expensive and can involve specialised treatment such as cognitive behaviour therapy.” According to Mr Coulthard, an array of legal issues often arise out of long-term sick leave.
He added: “Often individuals on long-term sick may pursue employment or civil claims for constructive dismissal, discrimination, personal injuries or harassment.
“Settlements of such claims can run into the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds when you take into account the legal costs of the solicitors and any damages. Of course, the individual should not be criticised for bringing such claims.”
David Sorensen, the deputy head of employment rights at Leeds-based trade union law firm Morrish Solicitors, said: “There’s been a great number of job cuts in the public sector, which have had a negative impact on those left behind with increased individual workloads, heightened fears of further dismissals for redundancy and increased stress levels.
“This has, in our experience, led to a number of experienced and well-trained public sector employees, such as nurses and teachers, seeking to leave the public sector, taking early retirement or changing careers.
“Those hidden social and financial costs are going to be high - ill-health and its impact, and the additional training for those who have to take over the work of the more experienced and qualified people who have left.”
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