Britain's workforce at risk over mental health issues

Britain's workforce at risk over mental health issues

Employers must do more to support staff through periods of stress and anxiety or risk a lack of productivity, research has warned.

A study carried out by group insurance provider Canada Life found one-third of UK workers have suffered anxiety or stress because of high workloads or pressure to perform, and this has been affecting their productivity.

The research, conducted among 1,001 UK working adults aged 18 and above, warned without adequate support being given to employees, an estimated 9.7m people in the UK could find their productivity hampered because of stress.

According to the survey, 54 per cent of employees said their workplace did not provide any protection products or services to support their health and wellbeing.

Some 23 per cent of those surveyed claimed their employer did not care about their health or wellbeing - and only 16 per cent of people said their employer actively provided information to them on how to improve their health or wellbeing.

Mental health has fast become one of the three main reasons for insurance claims in the workplace in 2017. 

Last year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported 11.7m working days are lost to stress with an average of 23.9 days lost per case.

Canada Life's research highlighted the need for advisers and their corporate clients to work harder on prevention and support before point-of-claim.

Paul Avis, marketing director for Canada Life Group Insurance, commented: "With a quarter of staff saying employee benefits and perks would have the most positive impact on their productivity, employers need to ensure they are supporting staff not only through flexible working but also through their corporate benefits packages."

Earlier this month, David Shearman, employee assistance programme expert for wellness specialist Lifeworks, agreed there has been a shift in the types of claims groups insurers have seen in recent years, from illnesses such as cancer to claims for mental health and psychological issues.

However, he said advisers are not doing enough to explain the various add-ons and support services, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that come with group insurance packages to their corporate clients.

As a result, employees do not know they can have tailored and dedicated help at points of stress in their lives, through their workplace policy, and therefore do not feel supported in their workplace.

He told FTAdviser: "If you attach the word 'free' to a service, it can devalue the service that it offers. But we believe advisers need to drive more of the value that EAPs can provide to their clients."

Mr Avis added: "Ensuring employees have access to a range of protection solutions will ensure staff feel they have a robust support system to help them should they need it.

"Whatever changes businesses make to increase productivity in the workplace, it is important that staff wellbeing is at the heart of it."