Employee Assistance Programmes: a Smart Step in Reducing Employer Absenteeism Costs

Over half of employees (57%) in the UK have suffered from mental health problems at some time or another, with stress and depression cited as the two most common issues, accounting for 43% and 26% respectively, according to research earlier this year from Canada Life Insurance Group.

Furthermore, in the first quarter of 2015 alone, over half (51%) of those people who experienced mental health problems had time off work as a result. In fact, 14% were off work for longer than a month and 5% were off work for more than six months. More concerning is the reality that 60% said their mental health issues have negatively affected their performance at work.

In addition, the study also found that nearly one in five (19%) employees believe their working environments have affected their mental health in a negative way.

High pressure and excessive workloads (both 25%) were found to be the top causes of mental health worries, with workplace bullying or unpleasant treatment from a manager (15%) not far behind.

Perhaps the biggest revelation to come from the Canada Life study is the lack of employer awareness when it comes to mental health issues.

Indeed, over half (53%) of respondents said they had not made their employer aware of their mental health problems and it seems that privacy (49%); worrying that their employer may question their ability to do their job properly (17%); and embarrassment (11%) are the main reasons.

EAPs Help Both Employees and Employers

The Canada Life research further highlights the growing need for employers to have clear and well-communicated Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs). These integral parts of most group income protection policies can significantly help employees with any mental health issues they may be experiencing.

However, EAPs don’t just help employees.

Research carried out by Barclays last year discovered that 46% of employees are worried about their finances and 25% are concerned about the amount of debt they have. In addition, only one in five employees are satisfied with their employer’s efforts to help with their financial wellbeing.

The Barclays research concluded that a financially unfit workforce is less productive and has higher rates of absenteeism; the cost of which to the employer could be as much as 4% of payroll.

Despite this enormous cost, many employers still simply take out an EAP as a tick the box exercise or as part of a free bolt on with another product. In many instances, the EAP simply stays in the background with little or no usage. When this is the case, the employer is missing a great opportunity to manage staff issues in a controlled manner, without the need to get directly involved.

The correct launch of this type of product is essential to get the workforce to engage properly and subsequently use the services on-hand. At Premier Choice, whilst we appreciate the potential benefits of the embedded EAP, we do really feel that a standalone scheme properly developed and launched to the employer’s requirements can go a long way to help manage the difficult issues that employers may face.


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