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Stress is the number one risk to employee wellbeing, claims GRiD

Employee stress is the number one health risk for businesses in the UK according to research from Group Risk Development (GRiD), the trade body for the group risk industry.

GRiD's annual survey of 500 employers, found that one in five (21%) of employers questioned considered stress/mental health issues to be the number one health risk to their business. Family concerns (20%) and maintaining a good work/life balance (19%) were shown to be the second and third health risks to businesses.

The findings also reveal how important tackling stress and fostering workplace wellbeing are to employers. And 31% of those questioned felt that managing stress and mental ill health was their top priority for 2013 - a 5% increase on the 2011 result.

Just over a third (35%) of employers questioned said maintaining a good work/life balance in the workplace was paramount, further highlighting the importance of instigating positive work practice, particularly in growing businesses.

Among the survey sample, employers appear to be taking active steps to reduce the impact of stress in their business and to improve work/life balance, with 34% of employers already having flexible working initiatives in place to tackle these issues.

The figures are particularly timely in light of Stress Awareness Day today, which aims to highlight the problem of stress in the workplace.

Katharine Moxham, spokeswoman for GRiD, said: "Stress is often not taken seriously and overlooked as a main health risk for businesses, compared to acute medical conditions such as heart attack or cancer. These figures prove just how big an impact stress can have on employers when managing the well-being of their business and the implications it may have on absence rates. It also provides a timely reminder for businesses to take action to avoid stress in the workplace developing into more serious, often preventable, conditions.

"In times of increased economic pressure it is important for employers to consider firstly the wellbeing of their employees and what wider implications are suggested by high levels of stress or other mental illness, and secondly what provisions they have in place to ensure both the employee and the employer are provided with coping mechanisms and are also adequately protected in case of long-term absence.

"Many employers in the private sector have a group income protection (GIP) scheme in place as part of their overall absence management strategy. Offering early intervention and rehabilitation support as well as all important financial support for employees and their families should illness or injury prevent them from working, GIP represents affordable peace of mind to many employers and can offer effective interventions when dealing with stress-related and mental health issues."