Workers suffering from stress too often get signed off work and then forgotten about by their employers, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has warned.
Organisations also need to be more proactive in helping sick employees back into work, or face a rising absence bill, the CIPD says.
To help tackle these issues, the CIPD has published new guidance designed to encourage employers to help to rehabilitate employees who are off work with stress.
Proper and proactive rehabilitative procedures can help get workers back to work more quickly and manage their return to work in a co-ordinated way, it added.
In research by the CIPD last year more than half of employers reported an increase in stress-related absence and highlighted the significant impact of mental ill health issues on long-term absence levels.
The key is not to let workers linger at home but get them back to work as quickly as possible, the organisation has recommended.
After six months’ away, there is just a 50 per cent chance of returning to work, dropping to 25 per cent after a year and practically nil after two years.
The guide Recovery, rehabilitation and retention is designed to offer employers practical guidance on how to support, rehabilitate and retain employees who are suffering from stress and other mental health problems.
It emphasises the need for a case management approach to rehabilitation to ensure that there is someone, whether a line manager or a representative from occupational health or human resources, who is responsible for ensuring that an individual’s return to work is managed consistently.
CIPD employee relations adviser Ben Willmott said: “Employers must do more than simply request and file a sick note if they are to cut absence.
"Managers should engage with their staff to get to the route of the problem and help staff to get back into the workplace - engaging with staff will help both organisations and employees."
He added: “Employers need to have a clear rehabilitation policy in place, this will help to ensure staff are aware of available assistance and managers are clear about the role they play in the process.
“Line managers play an essential part in the rehabilitation process and it is important they are trained so they are aware of how they can help members of staff who have been off work sick for long periods integrate back into the organisation.”