Company bosses have been urged to tackle the cost of absenteeism and improve profitability as the economic climate gets tougher.

At an event in Birmingham hosted by human resources consultant Hewitt Associates, delegates heard how stress can affect their employees as well as how to take control of healthcare costs.

“Poor employee health is an enormous problem for UK businesses, costing billions of pounds each year, yet companies are still not taking sufficient steps to handle -the issue,” said James Kenrick, of Hewitt Associates.

A recent survey showed 41 per cent of companies do not record absenteeism while 82 per cent fail to calculate the cost to their businesses. Estimates suggest ill-health costs employers an average of £1,000 per employee every year.

Dr Wolfgang Seidl, executive director of workplace counselling company Validium Group, said: “Research shows the more people feel they can control their workflow...the greater their resilience to stress and the adverse health effects that can result from stress.”