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Work, Mental Health and Insurance

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) Absence Management Survey (2016) tells us that the work days lost per employee each year was 6.3, the lowest since their surveys began[i]. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) Sickness absence in the labour market: 2016 suggests this is even lower at only 4.3 days per worker, the lowest since 1993 when it was 7.2. The ONS also reports 31.8 million people in work with a reduction of 0.3% in the unemployment rate over the year[ii].

These results suggest there is no problem to consider. The workforce is in good shape and taking less sick leave than ever before. However, there are different statistics that tell a different story.

11.7 million working days are lost to stress with an average of 23.9 days lost per case.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report 11.7 million working days lost to stress with an average of 23.9 days lost per case. 37% of work related ill health and 45% of working days lost due to ‘stress’[iii], public service industries experiencing the highest levels. One third of organizations report increases in stress-related problems, rising to half in the public sector[iv] For insurers, a significant and growing proportion of claims are for mental health issues[v],[vi].

The arguments that any work is good for you have become increasingly nuanced over recent years. Too little attention has been paid to ensuring that jobs are ‘doable’, bringing both meaning and purpose. In times of economic austerity, particularly in the public sector, it is unsurprising that companies are trying to do the best they can, but this has knock on effects for their workers.

The growth in resources offered by insurance companies to support firms and workers experiencing mental health difficulties is testimony to the seriousness with which these issues are being taken by the industry. Processes and tools to develop a broader sense of’ ‘workforce wellness’ that encompasses both physical and mental health can be partnered with more specific training in mental health first aid, web based support and hands on rehabilitation to help prevent and manage mental health concerns.

For some however, more radical interventions are required. This particularly applies to the increasing numbers of self-employed and those in small firms who do not have the support of group schemes or occupational health that larger firms offer. In the past the NHS relied heavily on primary care to manage these issues despite inadequate training and resource. It remains concerning that many people experiencing these problems do not have access to or are not accessing appropriate treatment[vii]. Whilst the growth of Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPTS) has increased the availability of talking therapies, many mental health services are face financial constraints and workforce shortages[viii] and are ill equipped to provide vocational rehabilitation. Significant investment will be required to meet the aspirations of the Farmer Report[ix].

Despite the complexities, the increasing recognition and management of mental health issues in the workplace is to be welcomed. People are more willing to recognize and label their distress in the language of mental health and seek help as stigma is reduced. Appropriate early interventions are more likely to be effective for the individual and also for the company, preventing escalation to more severe forms of distress. 

For insurers there are challenges for claim prevention and management, developing resources to support companies and individuals to get the best outcomes. In this evolving climate of openness about mental health problems, developing easily understood, meaningful products with underwriting philosophies to match is vital to give confidence to developing businesses and individuals that insurance can meet their needs. This surely must help grow the protection market. 

Join us on 2 November for our Tackling mental ill health with prevention and intervention event - find out more and book now. 

[v]  https://www.futureproofinsurance.co.uk/protection-claims-paid-zurich-2016

Last updated 31/10/2017