It’s Time to Push Mental Health up the Workplace Agenda

In In The Press, Industry News by PCH Staff

The success and growth of modern businesses inevitably depends on attracting and retaining the right workforce. Therefore, being the kind of employer that people want to work for is crucial for businesses to thrive in their respective marketplaces.

However, salary is no longer the be-all and end-all of employee satisfaction; especially with today’s workforce being more benefits-conscious than ever. This means that employers are seeking to retain their staff through other means.

Being viewed as a business that actively cares for its employees is paramount today for maintaining brand reputation and ensuring staff welfare. To that end, one vital area that deserves the focus and attention of businesses is employee mental health, after all, it is thought that one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their lives. That being the case, providing support for problems of this nature has become increasingly important for employers.

According to Unum research, some 78% of employees want their employer to play a role in looking after their mental health. The problem, however, is that many managers feel that they lack the relevant training and guidance to deal with mental health issues. This is compounded by the stigma that is often associated with stress, depression and psychosis.

It should therefore come as no surprise that employee mental health first aid courses are now being introduced in some companies to help employees recognise the early signs of mental illness and provide assistance on a “first aid” basis. Furthermore, guidance can then be given to help individuals find the right support services going forward.

But with mental ill-health becoming an increasingly frequent occurrence, the issue of income sustainability arises. After all, the financial consequences of long-term absence can be considerable and affect both employers and employees alike.

Income protection has therefore become a very important benefit that is designed to help businesses support their staff, effectively manage employee absence and control associated costs. Moreover, studies suggest that income protection policies are even thought to reduce absence and assist with controlling payroll costs.

There are, of course, state benefits in place to deal with long-term mental health sickness, but these are often minimal and provide just a fragile safety net. This therefore makes the reassurance that income protection affords priceless to many individuals and companies.

With Group Income Protection policies typically costing around 1 per cent of salary roll, employers are opting to implement such schemes for the benefit of their employees. Plus, companies can choose to cover just certain categories of staff and provide varying levels of protection across the board.

One key consideration when opting for income protection is communicating the benefits to the company’s employees so businesses should look to promote the scheme, what it offers and provide information on how to make a claim.

At Premier Choice we have invested a lot of time in monitoring absence for our clients. Unum’s research confirms the trend we have seen since 2007 that an increasing number of claims have a mental health aspect to them. Interestingly, a recent survey highlighted that whilst absences are falling, perhaps as a consequence of the economic conditions, there is an increased incidence of mental health related episodes. We feel that this makes a compelling argument for Group Income Protection, as managing mental health issues is far more difficult than physical illnesses where often the symptoms are visible….we recommend that employers should look at bringing in specialist assistance for mental health absences within the first few days of absence and with some of our schemes we even have pre absence assistance in place.

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