Income Protection  

Advisers play key role in promoting mental health


Advisers must do more to help employers put in place robust support services and plans to protect employees' mental health, a director at Unum has said.

Liz Walker, director of HR for insurer Unum UK, said: "We need to see mental health as a business asset."

Ms Walker explained the first port of call would be for "advisers to help employers see mental health as an asset, see it as something that is comfortable and necessary to talk about, and sit down with the employers and put together a plan."

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This could help the employer put in place a benefits structure - designed for that particular company's profile with the right sort of "programmes, products and services around those issues", she said.

Once this sort of tailored benefits plan is in place, Ms Walker said advisers and employers should then help to educate employees as to what is on offer and what sort of support mechanisms are available.

"We're asking people to understand what sort of resources are available to help support employees."

According to Ms Walker, problem of mental ill-health has become more prevalent over the past few years. 

She told FTAdviser: "From an employee health perspective, our two largest sources for claims are cancer and mental ill-health.

"What is unique about the mental health situation, is the fact these present additional challenges to employers right now, there is still a stigma, and the National Health Service is not as well-equipped as we would like them to be to treat mental ill-health.

"It is one area where early intervention is absolutely key."

Ms Walker said with mental ill-health, there is also dual issue of absenteeism and presenteeism. "Absenteeism, people can quantify.

"But what about the people who are present at work but unable to be productive? We see this especially with mental ill-health."

Last year, the Stevenson-Farmer review into mental health and work found the cost of presenteeism, 'Thriving at Work', found there was a large annual cost to employers of between £33bn and £42bn from mental ill health.

It said over half of this cost was coming from "presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work – with additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover."

Her comments came as figures from the Association of British Insurers and Group Risk Development showed a rise in the number of payouts for claims relating to mental ill health.

For individual income protection, the proportion of mental ill health claims paid out in 2017 was 11 per cent. 

Roshani Hewa, assistant director, head of health and protection at the ABI, said: "With insurers paying out on more than 97 per cent of claims, consumers can rest assured that they’ll have the support they need if the worst happens."

Find out more

FTAdviser has published a comprehensive guide to mental health support and insurance, which qualifies for an indicative 60 minutes' worth of CPD.