World Mental Health Day on 10 October is more relevant than ever this year. The global health threat of coronavirus has meant a threat to mental wellbeing on the same scale, with financial wellbeing closely connected.
According to surveys by LV= in June, 44% of UK adults were more stressed and anxious than normal. This is in spite of 34% doing more exercise than normal and 30% eating more healthily. It may be no coincidence that 31% were more worried about money than normal and 29% had experienced a decrease in income from work.
The coronavirus pandemic is a stark example of the unexpected events that take place throughout our lives and a reminder of the importance of building resilience into financial plans. As obstacles to normal life continue for many employees, with increased restrictions a possibility too, it’s important for employers to support those employees currently struggling with mental health, while also setting up safeguards for people and the business.
Even prior to COVID-19, mental health was a leading reason for protection insurance claims. Some providers are now offering additional emotional support services to those affected by coronavirus.
Investing in employee benefits
The link between mental health and financial wellbeing is fuelled by uncertainty: a continuing factor of the pandemic. Some people may be dealing with the threat of redundancy or a pay cut, or conversely a more demanding workload; others may be braced for the closure of their child’s school or nursery, which would require them to juggle childcare and working from home. The coming months may therefore see mental health becoming an even greater concern – for families, organisations and nationally.
The need for employers to provide their team with a strong employee benefits package is clear. Supporting every individual with improved mental and physical health offers better engagement, loyalty and productivity. Despite this, owners who find their businesses in precarious positions may be hesitant about investing in employee benefits without what they see as an immediate demonstrable ‘return on investment’.
Coronavirus is showing how employee benefits are not so much an advantage as a necessity: according to Group Risk Development, in January-June 2020 the group life assurance industry paid out nearly £57m in COVID-19 related death claims. Meanwhile ‘Long COVID’, the serious post-infection symptoms affecting many sufferers physically and mentally, is a growing concern.
Maintaining financial wellbeing
Coronavirus’ lack of discrimination by age group or state of health means that extended workplace absence is a risk for any employer. Companies must establish provisions to absorb financial shocks. In addition, employers must account for those employees suffering from non-coronavirus related yet serious, debilitative conditions who may find their ability to work compromised by their treatment being put on hold due to the pandemic.
Protection insurance and specifically income protection should be a priority in order to best mitigate the impact of longer-term sick leave. Many policies come with additional services such as early intervention and employee assistance programmes which may make all the difference for everyone involved.
If your company’s goal is maintaining the strongest possible financial health during an economically challenging time, protecting your employees’ physical and mental health is vital to that.
For more information, please get in touch with your usual BKL contact or use our enquiry form.