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April 8, 2020

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Supporting mental, social, financial and physical wellbeing of staff

Gone are the days when people bought an insurance policy and left it on the shelf to gather dust. Nowadays, whether it’s car insurance, home insurance, employer liability or an employee benefits package, there’ll be a raft of extra services included which complement the core insurance because employers and consumers look for daily value from these products rather than a “just in case” prudence purchase.

employee mental healthThis is particularly useful for employers in terms of the support they can make available to their people for mental health and wellbeing, and also given the government’s increasing expectations that employers should do more to support their staff’s physical, mental, financial and social health. This is especially true in the current climate, when many employers are managing staff who are working form home during the coronavirus outbreak.

This might include helping people through serious health conditions – mental ill-health, heart disease or cancer for example, which industry data indicates are the top three most common serious health conditions employees claim for under some of their employee benefits.

Or it might include helping people with everyday or more serious distractions which can impact on engagement and productivity – things like moving home, dealing with a breakdown in childcare arrangements, relationship breakdown, finding emergency elder care, finding support for a child being bullied, flooding or health advice, Or it might include helping people towards better financial resilience and managing debt – all things that can also affect mental wellbeing.

Yet recent research* shows that most businesses provide employee support for serious health and wellbeing issues on a case-by-case basis – instead of through a more robust pre-organised programme.

The research highlights the following:

  • In cases of long-term absence because of ill health, disability or accident (6 months or more), or for those in mental ill-health, employers have most commonly supported employees in an ad hoc way (both 39%);
  • In cases of bereavement, 52% have supported an employee on a one-off basis, and 12% have funded one-off emotional support themselves;
  • In cases of serious illness, 43% of employers have supported an employee diagnosed or dealing with a serious illness on a one-off basis, and 11% have funded one-off emotional support themselves.

On the face of it, this might seem the right thing to do as one size doesn’t fit all, but employers that take this approach may find that it’s expensive, impossible to budget for, inefficient and inconsistent.

The research also highlighted that, despite the fact that businesses had faced serious employee issues occurring over the previous 12 months, they underestimated the likelihood of them occurring over the next 12 months. For instance:

  • Although 44% of employers dealt with an employee being absent for six months or longer in the previous 12 months, only 9% thought it extremely likely they’d have to deal with this again over the next 12 months;
  • In terms of SMEs specifically, their misperceptions were similar. For example, 40% of SMEs had employees dealing with mental ill health in the previous 12 months, but only 9% thought it extremely likely they’d experience that again over the next 12 months.

However, Macmillan estimates that 125,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer every year; Mind’s figures show 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year; and ONS data reveals that 16% of people who died in 2017 were of working age, so businesses need to deal with this gap between perception and reality – just because they’ve already dealt with a serious employee issue, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.

Putting in place a formal programme which offers access to professional specialists means a business can be confident that they are ready to deal with almost anything, and that staff will be treated fairly and effectively. It might transpire that two people with similar issues are helped in a different manner, but this will be based on independent specialist opinion rather than a lack or failure of process. This is especially pertinent when helping to support mental health, given the practical difficulties most people face in gaining timely access to the right kind of help for them.

But how can a business find such professional help for most eventualities? Fortunately, they might find the job’s already been done for them and they only need to look more closely at some of their insurance purchases. Some employee benefits come with embedded help and support that can be used every day by employees, line managers and business owners at no cost. It’s not practical to list everything as it is so huge but this can include access to an Employee Assistance Programme, fast-tracked talking therapies or physiotherapy , case management, apps for encouraging better mental and physical health behaviours, second medical opinion, nurse support, 24/7 GP access and so on.

Astute use of these embedded services can help release pockets of money to use elsewhere in a business, helps employers to support their employees with the difficulties they face and thus to deliver on government expectations of good work for all, supporting social, financial, physical and mental health.

By Katharine Moxham, Spokesperson, GRiD

*Research undertaken by Opinium on behalf of GRiD amongst 500 HR Decision makers between 4-18 March 2019.

Workplace Wellbeing Show

Taking place from 18-20 May 2021 at ExCeL London, Workplace Wellbeing Show will explore the link between workplace wellbeing and productivity. The event will showcase the latest thinking and solutions to improve the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of staff across all sectors with three days of free seminars and panel discussions led by industry leaders, solutions and products from key suppliers, and unrivalled insights and networking opportunities. Attendance certificates for CPD will be provided for visitors across all sessions.

For more information visit www.workplacewellbeingshow.com.

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