Group income protection benefits have helped rising numbers of employees with support for mental health concerns, data from Canada Life has found.
According to quarter one data from Canada Life's group income protection customers, there was a 12.9 per cent increase in calls put into the employee assistance programme (EAP) in 2017, compared with the first quarter of 2016.
The data also showed that, across the whole of 2016, the single biggest cause of claims made on Canada Life's group income protection policies were related to mental health problems, at 24 per cent.
Paul Avis, marketing director for Canada Life Group Insurance, said: "We genuinely believe as an insurer we should be providing support services to employees of our customer organisations as well as the financial benefit provided by group income protection.
"EAPs can have a significant impact in prevention of sickness absence but also support those currently absent to reduce the length of their absence."
Canada Life works with Axa PPP Healthcare, which provides the employee assistance programme used by many insurers.
According to Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services for Axa PPP Healthcare, mental health problems are all too common in the workplace and are a leading cause of sickness absence.
He said: "A staggering 70m work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £26bn a year.
"EAPs have traditionally been used to tackle mental health and stress risks in the workplace but using these services seldom reflects the actual incidence or impact of this."
Dr Winwood commented it was "encouraging" to see a rise in the use of the EAP across Canada Life's portfolio of organisations who have group income protection with the insurer.
He said: "Organisations are increasingly focusing on mental wellbeing and appreciate that there is a moral and financial advantage of doing this. Awareness sessions are being organised for managers and staff along with an increase in Mental Health First Aid training being delivered."
Mr Avis added: "We would urge all employers to embrace both services for their and their employees’ benefit.”
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development, agreed it was vital for employers and their advisers to communicate the benefits of employee assistance programmes to staff, particularly when it comes to matters such as mental health.
She comments: "Although welfare counselling must adhere to certain guidelines to avoid potential tax implications, we really want to get the message home that, as employees can be affected when dependants suffer with mental ill-health, some help can also be provided to an employee’s dependants through an EAP.
"Many group risk policies include access to these services at no extra cost."