Stress is now the most common cause of long-term sickness, according to this year’s Absence Management survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Employers planning to make redundancies in the next six months are also more likely to report an increase in mental health problems among their staff - 51 per cent compared with 32 per cent who were not planning redundancies, says the CIPD.

For manual workers, stress now runs level with acute medical conditions and has overtaken musculoskeletal problems to become the top cause of long-term absence. Among non-manual staff, stress has also moved ahead of acute medical conditions.

The survey notes a particular increase in stress-related absence among public sector organisations, with 50 per cent reporting a rise. Respondents identified the amount of organisational change and restructuring as the number one cause, highlighting the impact of public sector cuts to jobs, pension benefits and pay freezes.

Job insecurity is also reported as a more common cause of work-related stress in the public sector this year (24 per cent) compared with last year (10 per cent) and is higher than in the private and non-profit sectors (14 per cent).

More than two-fifths (43 per cent) of public sector organisations reported they will be making redundancies over the next six months, compared with 17 per cent in the private sector and 24 per cent of non-profits.

Overall employee absence levels have remained static at 7.7 days per employee per year. Public sector absence has decreased from 9.6 days last year to 9.1 this year, while private sector absence has increased from 6.6 to 7.1 days.

But although absence levels show little change, the proportion of absence that is stress-related has increased. Nearly four in ten (39 per cent) employers reported an increase in stress-related absence, compared to just 12 per cent reporting a decrease.

To download the report, go to The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development.