Small employers must review their protection policies to help their staff deal with stress, the head of RedArc has warned.
According to Christine Husbands, managing director of support services provider RedArc, many small business owners and staff feel the pressure more heavily over Christmas and January.
As a result, there is more stress - financial, physical and mental - on key staff and business owners, which she warned could turn into more serious conditions, such as anxiety.
Ms Husbands warned that small business owners should take time to investigate their protection policies, whether key person, life insurance, critical illness insurance, income protection and private medical insurance.
Most of these policies come with additional support benefits, such as mental health support, free of charge – even without making a claim.
She said: "Small business owner managers particularly feel the pressure at this time of year with fewer working days; the extra workload; various cold and flu bugs affecting staff; and employees trying to use up leftover annual leave.
"Getting help early is key to managing mental health conditions: while counselling and other therapies are available on the NHS, waiting lists can be very long and the condition will more than likely deteriorate during the wait."
She also suggested that getting long-term help was vital, as although the additional stresses leading up to Christmas can seem short-term, once mental health problems take hold, they often have long-lasting effects.
"Getting professional support that is available over the long term is vital is ensuring an individual has properly recovered and to avoid any relapses", she added.
According to figures from the government and trade body the Association of British Insurers, stress and mental health related issues are becoming one of the biggest reasons for claiming, next to cancer, heart disease and stroke.
In 2016, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported 11.7 million working days were lost due to stress with an average of 23.9 days lost per case.
Without having proper protection in place to support key staff in the workplace and help to rehabilitate them after time off, businesses could struggle.
FTAdviser'sGuide to Business Protection explained the financial implications of losing your main contact-builder and money-winner; being unable to cope with the workload or unable to recruit someone of sufficient calibre, in sufficient time, to replace a key person.
“At Lifesearch, we always point out the risks if the business owner does not protect themselves,” said Emma Thomson, life office relationship director for Lifesearch.
Moreover, according to Paul Moulton, small-medium enterprise director for Axa PPP Healthcare, although any insurance "can be seen as a cost", he advised this should "also be considered in terms of the impact to the business".
He said advice on protection should explain the costs to businesses, large or small, of key personnel being able to access support and treatment in a “timely and convenient way”.