Mental health has become a growing global concern with many employers looking at ways they can help their employees. The pandemic has led to a further increase in mental health conditions with it becoming the biggest claim category on many policies around the world. For employers, there are many considerations to be made.
Suicide/Mental Health exclusions and waiting periods
The World Health Organization has found that suicide is the world’s second leading cause of death for 15-29 year olds (https://www.who.int/health-topics/mental-health#tab=tab_1). In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 15 people attempt suicide, with women more likely to have suicidal thoughts but men three times more likely to commit suicide than women.
However, many life insurance policies either exclude suicide or only include it after a waiting period of 1 or 2 years. Employers can find the exclusions in the terms and conditions on their insurance plans. Where there is an exclusion, they may ask their insurer if this can be removed. As well as life insurance policies, it is also important to check disability and medical plans as these may also exclude suicide attempts and any pre-existing mental health conditions.
As mental health conditions have become the top claim on disability plans in various countries, insurers have come up with ways to try and reduce this. For example with bespoke mental and physical health therapy packages offered to employees from that point in time when the insurer is notified of a claim or entering a waiting period. Or by actively working with employers to gradually get employees back to work and continuing that support so that they can hopefully stay at work for the long term.
In addition, companies can provide assistance by offering additional support for extra counselling, wellbeing policies, flexible working and phased returns to work.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)
Many companies offer EAP plans for their employees. These are usually low cost policies that provide telephone and in-person counselling sessions. Employees are able to discuss not just work stress, but any other issues they may have such as relationship issues or financial worries. Previously, these policies were common but were rarely used by employees. With the increased awareness of mental health, the pandemic and more benefits communications from HR departments, the utilization on these policies has increased over the last couple of years. Some larger companies have also provided office therapists that come into the office every week or month and after serious incidents. The Allianz UK office, for example, provided access to a therapist after a colleague sadly passed away.
This year has seen many companies trying more alternative solutions to help employees. LinkedIn, Bumble, Hootsuite and Nike for example have all closed their offices for a week in 2021 so employees can take care of their mental health (https://fortune.com/2021/09/06/nike-close-office-mental-health-break/). Allianz have also provided an extra day off for all employees of all levels and entities for 2021, employees having used the extra day off for a variety of things from a day off when pandemic restrictions were eased, for beauty appointments, hobbies or extra time with family and friends.
Other companies have also tried to address work-life balance to address mental health of their employees. From more flexible working to more drastic measures of blocking emails sent in the evenings or weekend. In 2019, the Allianz UK office created meditation rooms with sofas and comfy chairs as a quiet place for employees to take a short break after stressful meetings or when needed.