Group Risk Development (GRiD) is calling for better use of the benefits available within employers' incumbent group risk policies to improve stress management.
While 11.5 million people are covered by a group risk policy (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness), GRiD's research found that half of employers do not utilise the added-value benefits available with policies.
The mix of inherent benefits within group risk policies differs but many include support specifically to target stress - including mental health first aid training, fast-track access to counselling and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs).
GRiD said it is often "overlooked" that such services are often available to the entire workforce and not just the insured population.
The services are not just for use when people go off sick - they support employers, line managers and employees on an everyday basis. There is also preventative support that can help employees manage stress before it becomes a problem.
GRiD urged employers to first understand what is included under a group risk policy and communicate clearly the benefits available to staff, and then encourage regular utilisation.
Encouraging use does not increase costs, it can actually help to reduce them - effective use can reduce claims and premiums - and the services can be used every single day, even if a claim is never made, GRiD added.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: "Stress is one of the biggest causes of absence in the UK, but there is support available - for both employers and their staff.
"It is important that employers and employees realise these policies are not just there for when they need to make a claim. A wealth of support is available at no extra cost that can offer great help across many areas and, specifically, in managing stress.
"It is encouraging that many employers do utilise this support, but there is clearly still work to be done to encourage a greater number of employers to take full advantage of these services."
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