Despite a greater awareness of the issues surrounding mental health, the topic still has a stigma attached to it, particularly in the workplace. It is sad to say that many employees will experience stress or anxiety at some point in their career, with as many as one in four people suffering mental health problems in their lifetime. In the UK alone, mental ill health is responsible for 91 million working days lost every year, and costs employers £34.9 billion annually.
At Legal & General, we know this is not a new issue. Mental health has been the top cause of claims on our Group Income Protection (GIP) policies since 1999. In addition, research we conducted last year revealed that only 4% of employees who have experienced depression, and 5% who have experiences anxiety, feel able to talk to their manager or superior about it.
So how can GIP help employees? Firstly, employee assistance programmes that provide staff with access to telephonic and face to face counselling is provided by all GIP providers. In addition to this, most providers will also offer access to talking therapies and early intervention services. Services like these not only facilitate a quicker return to the business, but may even keep employees in work when they otherwise would have taken time off sick.
Comprehensive early intervention programmes and rehabilitation services are essential in supporting employees as part of a wider health and wellbeing strategy. Having access to specialists and trained clinicians ensures that businesses can assess the best course of action to help employees cope with their issues and also support them throughout their time off work, from the initial consultation to their return.
Early intervention services can give employees with mental ill health much-needed support, whether this is an immediate referral for psychological intervention, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or advice on how the individual can help themselves by taking more exercise, maintaining a routine or having a healthy diet.
The value of GIP doesn’t just come from the financial support it can provide to employees during unexpected absences from work, but also from the access to trained experts who are 100% focussed on giving them the support they need, when they need it most.
However, with fewer than 17,500 GIP policies in the UK, covering just 2.4m employees, more needs to be done to raise awareness of the benefits of these products in helping people get the help they need during times of hardship.
For employers, GIP is also a way to ensure a thriving and productive workforce. By helping an employee who has been absent due to mental ill heath return to work more quickly, employers benefit from shorter absences.
With so many benefits on offer, advisers have an important role to play in making a case for GIP with their business clients to ensure they are aware of the value of this proposition and how it can support employees experiencing mental health challenges.
As an industry, we need to do more to articulate the value of GIP to a wider audience in order to make sure that all employees have access to the services and experts who can help them achieve – and maintain – positive mental health.
Vanessa Sallows is benefits and governance director at Legal & General