New research highlights the various professions which are struggling with stress at work. Most notably, HR professionals were impacted by rising stress levels, with stress-related leave rising by 70 per cent last year amongst this group.

e-days, a global absence management software, tracked different professions and their rate of stress-related absence over the last year. Unsurprisingly, HR professionals were among the top sectors to be experiencing high levels of stress in 2020.

Despite being responsible for implementing wellbeing policies and support during a tumultuous time, stress-related leave increased by 70 per cent among HR staff in 2020.

In addition to this, HR professionals were also responsible for sorting out the administrative tasks linked to the high rates of cancelled leave as holidays and other engagements were postponed.  e-days found that the workload associated with cancelled leave doubled over the previous year – adding to the responsibilities, and stress, which HR had to manage.

As such, HR professionals took 0.39 days off on average per employee which was only surpassed by workers in the healthcare sector and employees within Government and International Affairs.

Stress-related absence amongst healthcare workers rose by 146 per cent in 2020, caused by the central role these workers played in fighting the pandemic. With key workers on the frontline, they were also subject to continued and intense pressure along with a massively increased workload.

Employees within the Governmental and International Affairs sector saw a 39 per cent growth in stress-related leave over the last year. This meant workers within this group took 0.57 days off on average per employee. The research attributes this to the pressure of finalising Brexit whilst doing this during a pandemic.

Overall, stress-related absences around the UK saw a 64 per cent increase in 2020.

Steve Arnold, CEO of e-days, said:

Whilst the rapid rise in stress-related appointments is alarming it is sadly not surprising, but with HR leaders also struggling, we must recognise there is a perfect storm going on.

What we do have within our control is looking after people when they do need to book absence but are working remotely. We have to build a company culture which shouts ‘Absence Matters’ and do away with the fear of appearing lazy or unable to cope. The truth is during this pandemic the majority are probably working more than ever, and HRs themselves need to call in support services to help.

Dr Kate Bunyan, Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Care Anywhere added:

Businesses need to ask themselves what they can do to support their employees through stress or sickness and ensure employees know that it is no longer is it a badge of honour to work whilst sick.

There should be a clear procedure in place to support employees and fast track them to the necessary support services before the situation worsens. Employees who choose to work when unwell are negatively impacting their own health, and in turn their colleagues and the business will suffer too. Without direction staff will be unsure as to how best proceed when sick and continue working. Especially during current circumstances business leaders need to be wise to this, and properly support their workforce.

This research was taken from e-days’ data ‘Stress by Sector’. To obtain these results, e-days surveyed 1,500 clients.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.