At a time when mental health is in the spotlight, some employers are still refusing to look after staff
More than one in 10 (12%) of UK employers do not believe they have a duty of care to support the emotional and social wellbeing of their staff, research by Group Risk Development (GRiD) has suggested.
The survey of 500 HR decision makers estimated that over 700,000 UK businesses do not see it as something they are responsible for.
Of the 88% that said they do believe in supporting staff wellbeing, the most popular methods to do so were found to be via flexible working (43%), work-life balance initiatives (33%), social events (31%) and allowance to take mental health days (31%).
Other popular initiatives in place include access to professional support such as counselling (27%), stress management (19%) and mental health training such as mindfulness (18%) as well as mental health first aid (15%).
According to Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, group life assurance is the most popular group risk product with over 9.8 million people insured in the UK.
She added that in as a financial pay-out, these policies also support the day-to-day emotional wellbeing and access to counselling through employee assistance programmes (EAPs) regardless of a claim.
During 2019, GRiD data shows 75,446 interactions additional help and support services funded by group risk insurers across employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness policies. Given that the overall number of people covered by this industry exceeds 12.8 million, Moxham said it is clear that more people could be benefitting from this emotional support.
"It's vital that both employers and employees know they have access to this added-value support, as for many it really is an untapped resource that is not being used to its full potential," she said.
"As for the 12% of businesses that do not believe there is any requirement to support the emotional wellbeing of staff, they will certainly feel the consequences at some point, whether that be a higher-than-average absence rate, falling productivity, or lower staff retention. No forward-thinking organisation can afford to ignore the emotional wellbeing of its most valued asset."
Commenting on the research findings, Lee Lovett, managing director, group protection at AIG Life said: "In an age when society is becoming so much more comfortable with talking about mental health, it's great to see that a high proportion of businesses appreciate they have a duty of care towards their employees' emotional wellbeing. What is perhaps surprising is one-in-nine businesses don't believe people need support, and that giving time out to care for mental health is appreciated by only one in three employers, when recent research by AIG found one in six people have had to take career break to do so.
He added: "Companies that don't proactively support employees' health and wellbeing could see their own productivity, as well as employees trust in them, suffer. That doesn't need to happen - group protection providers give employers access to the tools to help support the varying needs of their employees."
"There are a wealth of support tools, for example counselling services linked to employee assistance programmes or through virtual wellbeing services, such as AIG's Smart Health. Promoting access to them so employees look after themselves when they really need it will not only help people get the support they need but make them feel more valued by the business."
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