Job fears as credit crunch bites

Of those people worried about job security, over two in five say their levels of stress have increased at work since the financial crisis began, while almost a quarter claim they are working longer hours to ward off the risk of losing their job.

Looking across the nation, Bristol and Birmingham represent the job insecurity hotspots, where fears about employment are five percentage points higher than the national average. In Newcastle, more than two in every five are feeling increasingly stressed because of the credit crunch, while London has one of the highest proportions of people working longer hours due to concerns over job security.

As employment fears escalate, the health impacts are wide ranging, with the potential to impact workplace performance and sickness absence rates. According to Bupa's survey, around one in three of those concerned about job security say they are losing sleep, one in five say they are depressed and almost one in every 10 are seeking comfort in food by eating more. Furthermore, research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that stress is the number one cause of sickness absence for non-manual workers.

Dr Rebecca Small, assistant medical director for Bupa UK Health Insurance, said: "For employers, the onus will be on spotting the signs of employee stress early, such as uncharacteristic short temperdness or an inability to concentrate and plan work. Offering counselling services in the workplace, like employee assistance programmes (EAPs), can help enormously, with 70 percent of employees using Bupa's EAP not taking sick leave because of the support provided by the service. Without it, they said they would probably have had time off work.

"At Bupa, we work with nearly nine out of 10 of FTSE 100 companies as well as thousands of smaller businesses across the country. We know that companies are keen to step up their preventative health agenda and understand that having a healthy, productive workforce is essential to business performance - particularly during hard economic times. That is why choosing the right provider, who can offer a broad range of health at work services and the expertise to tailor these services to a company's needs, is critical. In the year ahead, providers that offer a single-service point, through which multiple products can be purchased, will have the competitive edge. And, during uncertain economic times, past history shows that companies turn increasingly to the brands they know and trust - meaning reputation and experience will become more important than ever in 2009."