English Industry Body Blames Increase In Worker Mental Health Problems On Austerity

Tyler Durden's picture

First the good news. According to the "Sickness Absence" survey of 330 firms, conducted by the EEF, or the UK's manufacturing association, the number of days taken off work through sickness is at a record low. The survey found that over the past two years overall levels of worker absence reached a record low of 2.1%, equal to 4.9 days per worker per year.

Now the bad news: while short-term absence is indeed at record low levels, long-term absence has increased, with almost two fifths of companies saying long term absence has increased in the last two years. Among the problems associated with long-term absence: mental health problems.

This increase comes despite more investment by employers in managing sickness absence and, placing employee health and well-being programmes on a par with other business investments. Two thirds of companies now have sickness absence programmes, while 68% of companies offer access to occupational health services for employees. Over a quarter of companies also offer employee assistance programmes, health checks and health cash plans.

The EEF's spin: "whilst this reflects to some extent the fact that short term absence is better managed and, therefore, long term absence occupies a higher proportion of overall levels, the survey highlights an increase in stress and mental health illnesses as a cause of long-term sickness absence."

Another take, of course, is that increasingly more workers are finding work avoidance loopholes, and just like the number of "disabled" workers in the US is hitting new record highs every month, so too English workers no longer bother with taking a day or two off, when they can just take a week, a month, or longer away from work.

Finally, the hilarious news. Since every organization these days has a clear and present agenda, the EEF being no exception, it was quick to scapegot the increase in long-term absence on what else - the same bogeyman that everyone in Europe now hates, one which despite constant pleas to crush it continues to be perpetually elusive: austerity.

According to the survey, stress and other mental health related disorders have shown the biggest increase in long term absence with just over half of companies reporting it as a cause, an increase of 7% in the last five years. A fifth of companies cited it as the most common cause, an increase of 4% in the last five years. This possibly reflects, for the first time, evidence of the effect on employees of the long period of recession and austerity.

Wait, so people are going crazy because the welfare state allows them to take increasingly longer paid time away from work - which by definition is against-austerity - and then blame it all on what otherwise would force them to work every day? Does not compute.

Or perhaps the reason increasingly more Brits, and Europeans, and everyone else, are losing their mind is because they look at new all time highs in government debt levels, continuing budget deficits, and then try to figure out just where this so-called austerity is hiding? Truly, this unprecedented propaganda paradox is enough to make even the most hardened workers insane.

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NoDebt's picture

You're not supposed to point that out, Nid.

It's all about the government and your relationship to it now.  If you're connected to the government (whether it be at a high political level, or just an EBT leech) none of this affects you.  For everything else, there's MasterCard.

NidStyles's picture

It's like they are trying to reinvent the language to make it seem like they can do no wrong. The cognitive dissonance with these people is simply astounding.

NoDebt's picture

Redefining words is a time-honored technique for statists, fascists and control freaks in general.  It's not accidental, it's not just to cover up their personal failures.  It's a control mechanism.  

NotApplicable's picture

Doublethink is hard work!

Contributes mightly to GDP, and freedom.

insanelysane's picture

Actual Austerity is when your spending is much less than your revenue as in being a miser.  Government Austerity is when their spending is only a little bit more than their revenue.  I forget the actual quote from Dickens but it is something like yearly revenue 100 pounds, expenses 99 bounds and some odd cents results in happiness; yearly revenue of 100 pounds, expenses of 101 pounds and some odd cents results in misery.

NidStyles's picture

Nope. The word Austerity already has a real definition.


See here for English learner's as it's apparent some of you barely know the language you are presuming to use. Number 2 is the one you should be thinking about.

NotApplicable's picture

There is no such thing as a "real definition" of a word.

They are ALL made up.

NidStyles's picture

Made up with definitions we can see in dictionaries. :-)

AnAnonymous's picture

What Austerity?

The austerity 'americans' keep pushing on other people in order to retain their 'american' way of life.

NidStyles's picture

So you're blaming me for you being born in some crappy hut in China. Gotcha, let me know how that works out for you in the long run. I could care less about your lineage, I am only responsible for my own.

Manthong's picture

Austerity is what happens when the state and bankers destroy the fundamentals of a market economy and the (real) capitalist system.

SAT 800's picture

Standard British Joke; "Bored of Trade".  It's actually the Board of Trade; but since they act like they're in charge of killing off the last surviving British Industry, the people in their wisdom have re-named them. Hint. Short the Fuck out of the British Pound; it represents an economy with no visible means of support. DOOMED. DOOMED, I say.

taketheredpill's picture



They should poll workers and ask "how many days last year were you too sick to come in but showed up anyway because you were afraid of losing your job?"


I'm sure short-term sickness days are falling off in US too...

NoDebt's picture

Know what gives me metal health problems?  Stories like this.  Fiddling away on marginal social issues like Nero while Rome burns.

Shizzmoney's picture

It may look like a marginal social issue (like gay marriage), but its not.  If you look back at history, the mental health of the average worker (along with wage health) always tips us to when revolutions and social unrest is about to occur.

First they put off calling in sick, then they go mad and get canned from their job, and then they come back and light the place up, Charles Bronson style.

Don't say the numbers didn't warn ya.

Hank Reardon's picture

Makes perfect sense to me.

Pressure of increasing productivity and extra "duties" with no pay increases and a rising cost of living. Living off the credit card when you have a full time position and can still not meet your monthly

costs will send anyone mad trying to hold it all together. In fact I am now completely cuckoo..

ebworthen's picture

Well, if you might get fired and you have paid leave you're going to use it up.

If mental illness works as a reason then you use it.

Unforseen consequences and moral hazard.

Steaming_Wookie_Doo's picture

Seems similar to the record disability claims going on in America. You score if you get some Dr Nick Riviera to say you have schlumpagosis of the noggin which is exacerbated by repeatedly going to work. But I hear they're getting tougher on actual disabilities, i.e. broken bones, stroke, etc. You suppose the Chinese have to worry about these kinds of things?

Red Lenin's picture

Do you mean English or British.

England is only one of the componant countries of the UK - it also contains the countries of Wales (where I live), Scotland and Northern Ireland and none of them like being referrred to as English because they aren't. 

NoDebt's picture

Um... what was the question again?  And are you really really sure about the Scotland thing?  I heard that's getting a little dicey.

Steaming_Wookie_Doo's picture

You'll have a hard time garnering sympathy from the american portion of the ZH audience. I suppose they're wondering why you live somewhere named after cetaceans. Just to be extra nitpicky and because it's always fun to stir up hundreds of years of animosity, does Wales or Scotland count as a country? They don't have their own embassies or vote separately in the UN, AFAIK. Not that we like the English either. They've passed on their ugly habits to the americans and manage to drink even more. To their credit, english tourists are detectable at hundreds of yards and can be easily avoided.

NidStyles's picture

The worst English trait, adherence to fiat... 

silentboom's picture

I feel severe drepession coming on, quick someone send me some money!

syntaxterror's picture

With $18 trillion in debt and tens of trillions more debt off the books, 'Murika must have have the healthiest population on earth.

spooz's picture

So, short term absence being lower could point to employees not taking needed time off until it becomes a crisis.  The weak labor market means people are forced to hold on to stressful jobs with increasing responsibilities in order to keep up.  Finally, with no mental health days to ease the stress, the result is burn out/mental illness.  And unfortunately for many of them, the austerity cuts to NHS mental health services means traveling hundreds of miles to find care.  


Thats my theory.

"This possibly reflects, for the first time, evidence of the effect on employees of the long period of recession and austerity"

LukeWorm's picture

It's not the austerity, it's the weather.