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Mental health-related issues across five key sectors

Mark Witte

Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey 2018 showed marked sector differences in the number of UK employers reporting employee stress and mental health-related illnesses. Contributor Mark Witte, Head of Healthcare and Risk Consulting – Aon.

Of the five markets analysed, the Legal and Professional Services sector showed the highest incidence of employers (82 percent) that reported an increase in mental health-related illness in their workforces. Also high was the Technology sector, where more than three quarters (78 percent) of businesses noticed an increase.

Sixty-two percent of Finance sector firms reported an increase, while, at the comparatively lower end, 50 percent of Manufacturing and 40 percent of Pharmaceutical companies reported increases. These compare to an overall UK figure of employers reporting an increase from 55 percent last year to 68 percent in 2018.

The survey also noted the percentage of companies that have a dedicated budget for health and wellbeing programmes. Legal and Professional Services have comparatively the lowest proportion (11 percent) of firms with a dedicated budget, in contrast to having the highest incidence of employers reporting an increase in mental health-related issues. A third of participants in the Finance sector and 24 percent of the Technology sector have a dedicated budget, while 13 percent of Manufacturing firms and 60 percent of Pharmaceutical firms have such a budget.

In the Thriving at Work report, the independent review requested by Prime Minister Theresa May into how employers can better support mental health of people in employment, it was found that mental health costs, on average, £1,119 – £1,481 per employee per year. This rises to £2,017- £2,564 in the finance, real estate and insurance sectors, compared to £1,473 to £1,998 in professional services, or £841 to £1,421 in information and communication sectors.

Mark Witte, head of healthcare and risk consulting at Aon, said: “There are interesting contrasts between sectors. For instance, 60 percent of Pharmaceutical employers have a health and wellbeing budget, the highest of the sectors, while only 40 percent have reported an increase in mental health-related illness, the lowest of the sectors studied. I would caution however, that although it is possible that there is a correlation between targeted funding and a lower trend of mental health-related illness, there are many other possible factors at play.

“Organisations need to analyse and define their own data to create considered action and, in time, measure impacts. This is the optimal approach, bearing in mind the diverse nature of every organisation. Increasingly employers are using data to help drive strategy and measure ongoing success (25 percent according to Aon’s 2017 Health Survey, with 40 percent intending to), but overall there is a long way for many organisations to go before they can characterise their wellbeing strategy as data-driven.”

Mark Witte continued: “We also know from a recent CIPD report, that after common illnesses such as coughs and colds, stress and mental ill health is the second highest cause of short-term absence, and the most common cause of long-term absence. But again, understanding organisational data means employers can engage in relevant and meaningful activity.”

Across all sectors, Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey showed a 25 percent increase in the proportion of organisations with designated funding for their health and wellbeing programmes, with over half of respondents having a specific budget in place or intending to have one within the next three years. Generally, employer investment in proactive initiatives to tackle mental health and stress specifically have increased to 42 percent from 36 percent in the previous year. Proactive initiatives include mental health first aid training, which teaches managers and staff how to spot the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, providing support and guiding a person to seek professional help and gain resilience coaching.

Eighty-four percent of employers overall said that they consider themselves responsible for influencing their employees’ health behaviours.

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