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Employers see increase in stress and mental health

Article by: Mark Witte | Published: 18 April 2017

Benefits and Trends Survey showed 55 percent of employers saw an increase in the number of stress and mental health related illnesses.

The survey also showed that while 72 percent of employers believed they had a key role in influencing employee health in 2015, this decreased to 67 percent in 2016. 58 percent would like a better understanding of the impacts of health risks, while 72 percent now use some form of data to drive health and wellbeing strategy. The most popular sources were absence data (57 percent) and employee engagement surveys (45 percent). In addition, the number of employers that have considered managing a known health risk is on the increase – rising to 48 percent from 25 percent in the last two years (42 percent in 2015).

Mark Witte, principal of Aon Employee Benefits, said: “Mental health statistics continue to demand action from employers. We know that one in four working days are lost to the issue. This represents a third of long-term absence cases and now this latest headline figure from our own survey suggests a robust mental health strategy should be at the forefront of the HR and business agenda. However, designing an effective strategy can represent a daunting and complex task for some as there can be many underlying influences contributing to the overall picture.

“We maintain that the best approach should feature a number of key phases. This would involve understanding the culture of the firm, robust analysis of data to guide strategy, an assessment of available support and resources, and then execution of the strategy, characterised by an effective, engaging communications approach.” The survey also showed that employers have tactics to support health and wellbeing – branded wellness programmes (21 percent) and flexible working (20 percent) are the most popular – but these may be disconnected to what employees and the business actually need.

Mark Witte continued: “The survey shows employers have an appetite to understand and manage the impact of health risks, but similar to the 2015 survey, less than half of the employers surveyed currently do so. Although more employers used data and analytics to inform or drive their health and wellbeing strategy, many employers don’t focus their attention where it might have the most impact. Data from providers such as absence, occupational health, medical and risk benefit claims can be invaluable in helping to understand people risks and inform targeted health initiatives and benefit decisions.

“Having a good understanding of health risks will enable employers to make informed decisions and to take positive action that will have a real impact on future cost projections. We strongly advise all employers to access and interrogate the data at their disposal to identify trends in employee ill-health – enabling benefits and approaches to be tailored accordingly. There is much help and insight that providers can offer here, but all too often it is going untapped.”

Among the survey’s other key findings is that the number of companies that do not use the claims management services offered by their insurer when an employee is absent through ill health has increased to 37 percent (29 percent in 2014 and 35 percent in 2015). Also, 39 percent of employers said that they had never used the early intervention or rehabilitation services offered by their Group Income Protection provider.