Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace UK

January 29, 2021
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The issue of mental health in the UK is one that is not going anywhere, anytime soon, especially when you factor in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Mentalhealth.org, as of the third week of June 2020, 49% of the population had felt anxious or worried in the past two weeks due to the pandemic. With this in mind, you might be wondering what you, as an employer, can do to help the mental health of the employees in your workplace. In this blog article we will be exploring some of the numbers behind mental health in the workplace in the UK, how your business may be affected, and the role of a company-wide health insurance policy in supporting mental health in the workplace.


Please note: the information presented in this blog is correct as of 29th January 2021, and has been sourced directly from the relevant health insurance providers and external information sources.


Mental Health in the Workplace Statistics

Positive mental health in the workplace is something we should all be striving for, but unfortunately the statistics show that negative mental health was still prevalent in the year 2020, especially within the workplace:

  • In a separate study from GOV.UK, over 30% of adults in April 2020 reported levels of mental distress needing treatment. This is compared to 20% of adults between the years 2017 and 2019, an increase of 10%.
  • Studies from Perkbox show that 79% of UK workers experienced work-related stress, and according to GOV.UK, in April 2020, mental distress was 8.1% higher than it was between the years 2017 and 2019.
  • Studies from Deloitte show that 49% of employees felt comfortable talking to their line manager about their mental health.
  • With only 49% of people willing to talk about their mental health, it’s no surprise that the cost of poor mental health from employees for UK employers each year (as of 2020) was around the £42bn-£45bn mark.

These statistics alone show that mental health in the workplace in the UK is still very much an issue, and highlights the potential impact negative mental health may have on their workforce.


How to promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your employees to provide them with a working environment that they feel comfortable in, and the following actions can support the mental wellbeing of your staff:

Mental Health in the Workplace Training

Something that can hold back more senior members of staff at companies from offering mental health support is a simple lack of knowledge. 69% of UK line managers say that supporting employee wellbeing is a core skill, but only 13% have received mental health training. 35% of line managers reported a wish for basic training in common mental health conditions (MHFA England) and, as our previous statistic from Deloitte showed, with 49% of employees feeling uncomfortable talking to their managers about mental health concerns, employees may be lacking confidence in the ability of their managers to handle conversations on mental health. 


As a part of the health insurance cover provided by some health insurance providers, valuable training courses and resources may be available for your business to use as part of your wider business health insurance policy. Some health insurance providers may be able to provide your business with the resources needed to develop their skills in handling sensitive mental health situations. With this, line managers and senior staff may be in the position to offer help to their employees, and the employees themselves may have greater confidence in approaching other team members when needing mental health support.

How to talk about Mental Health in the workplace

As a company, especially at larger businesses with a corporate hierarchy, there can be some confusion as to how to approach the topic of mental health in a way that is comfortable for your employees. Research has shown that, when asked to select a list of topics they could talk openly about, 13% of workers said mental health, with the topic ranking lowest out of a total of 10 subjects. 


The ability of your senior staff to de-stigmatise the topic of mental health, and make it as open, transparent and comfortable as possible, could be another positive step towards supporting the mental wellbeing of your employees. In 2019, RedArc Nurses managing director Christine Husbands commented that:


“When the boss opens up about their own emotional wellbeing it is seen as giving permission for all staff to do the same, allowing employers to provide support and encouragement in helping staff work through their problems and be the best they can in the workplace”.


Discussing mental health openly within the office environment may help to normalise the conversation, making it more approachable for vulnerable staff. You should work to provide your employees with the opportunity to let them explain their needs; if your staff feel as though you will listen to them and act on what they say, then they may be more likely to seek further support. Health insurance policies including mental health cover may provide the training and resources needed to support this process, as well as providing further treatment options where needed.


Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

As well as the implementation of the previous two points into your mental health work policy, there are a variety of further actions you can take that may help to manage the mental health of your staff:


  • Confidentiality: As an employer, you should make sure it’s known from the outset that all mental health discussions with staff will be strictly confidential.
  • Regular Check-Ups: While this may be dependent on the size and resources of your business, making sure to check in with employees struggling with their mental wellbeing regularly is a great way to support mental health in the workplace. Regular check-ups may also prompt conversations in the workplace around mental health, encouraging other staff members to join the discussions. 
  • Work-life balance: As the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) outlines, “work-related stress can aggravate an existing mental health problem, making it more difficult to control”


Combine this with the working climate of 2020, where in April 2020, statistics released by the UK's Office for National Statistics showed 46.6% of adults in employment were working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and you have many workers struggling to perfect their work-life balance. As a business, you could be doing many things to help your staff avoid these struggles;

  • You should encourage employees to take holiday when able and to not overstretch themselves. Employees that are constantly working late and struggling with their workload may need a helping hand from their managers, and a simple word of encouragement.

  • Leaders within the workplace should make sure to set a good example to staff regarding a good work-life balance; as an example, staff may feel the need to be constantly “switched on” and connected to their computers if they see senior staff doing the same. This is known as presenteeism, and is estimated to cost the UK economy £15.1 billion every year, making it nearly double the cost of absenteeism. It is important therefore to set an example with regards to working sensible hours for others in the workplace.

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Mental Health & Health Insurance

When it comes to mental health in the workplace and business health insurance policies, there are many health insurance providers out there that can offer your business mental health support, including some of the many providers that we at Equity Health work with.

Aviva

With Aviva, you gain access to a successful wellbeing programme as part of your insurance package that may help to create a healthier, happier workforce:

  • Professionally-run wellbeing courses, sessions and workshops tailored to match the needs of your business
  • Mental health support for both managers and employees
  • A wide range of mental wellbeing courses and resources


For more information on what Aviva offers as a business health insurance provider, you can read our Aviva Spotlight article here.


AXA

With the mental health options selected as part of AXA’s insurance packages, your staff will have access to the following:

  • An approved network of mental health counsellors, psychologists and clinicians
  • Covered hospital care
  • Specialist consultations for psychiatric treatment
  • Access to the Stronger Minds wellbeing team

For more information on what AXA offers as a business health insurance provider, you can read our AXA Spotlight article here.


Bupa

Bupa is another health insurance provider we work with that can provide your company with access to mental health treatment. With a health insurance policy with Bupa, your business will gain access to extensive mental health cover options as a standard within their health insurance policies:

  • Mental health in-patient and day-patient treatment as standard cover
  • Paid-in-full up to 45 days each year for eligible treatment; in recognised facilities with fee-assured consultants

For more information on what Bupa offers as a business health insurance provider, you can read our Bupa Spotlight article here.


Cigna

Cigna is also a health insurance provider that can provide mental health treatment to your business. Cigna aims to provide businesses with affordable insurance plans to improve the mental wellbeing of their employees, and a variety of benefits including:

  • Access to the Cigna Virtual Health app, that provides tools and coaching to help you support your employees more effectively
  • Access to an emotional and wellbeing support helpline
  • The ability to self-refer for mental health treatment without needing a referral from a GP

For more information on what Cigna offers as a business health insurance provider, you can read our Cigna Spotlight article here.

Vitality

Vitality is the final health insurance provider we’ll discuss in this article, and another that can provide your company with access to mental health treatment. With a health insurance policy with Vitality, your business will gain to access to:

  • A series of mental health wellbeing workshops to train your staff on how to understand good mental wellbeing in the workplace
  • A variety of Mindfulness Apps
  • An online support community in partnership with Togetherall


For an additional monthly premium, your policy could include:

  • £1,500 worth of out-patient cover
  • Up to 28 days of treatment in a hospital, as a day-patient or an in-patient


For more information on what Vitality offers as a business health insurance provider, you can read our Vitality Spotlight article.


The Benefits of Mental Health Insurance

As mentioned throughout the blog, businesses may experience the following benefits from taking out a mental health insurance plan for their staff:

  • Reduce Costs: The cost of poor mental health from employees for UK employers each year was estimated as £42bn-£45bn, with Presenteeism accounting for £15.1 billion of the financial losses. By working to help improve the mental health of your workforce, you may as an employer help alleviate these costs for the business.
  • Boost Productivity: Making steps to improve the mental health of your employees may improve thinking, decision-making, workflow, and relationships in the workplace. According to Mentalhealth.org, addressing wellbeing at work may increase productivity by as much as 12%.
  • Improve Trust: If you as an employer put in the effort to make steps towards improving your employees mental health, then your employees may have a greater sense of trust in you. Showing your staff that you care about them in this way is a great way to create a happier working environment, and could even have a positive impact on productivity.


With this article we hope to have underlined the importance of supporting the mental health of your employees in the workplace, the ways in which you can go approach the topic, and some of the health insurance providers we work with that may make a difference in this regard. For more information on some of the mental health insurance covers on offer, you can read about the insurance providers we work with. Or, you can contact us to discuss how a health insurance policy can be used to provide mental health benefits to your workforce.

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