The power of a strategic approach to employee benefits for mental health

Mental health is a significant issue for businesses, impacting productivity, morale, and engagement. Poor mental health is a big contributor to presenteeism and absence – it’s the biggest cause of long-term absence in the UK[1]. The cost to UK businesses of mental health problems is an estimated £33billion to £42billion a year[2].

Mark Witte, Head of Healthcare and Risk Consulting, Charles Alberts, Head of Health Management and Sarah Robson, Senior Communications Consultant 

Employers should, therefore, be highly motivated to address mental health in the workplace, providing support for employees and building a strategy to improve mental wellbeing. Aon’s UK Health Survey found that 41 per cent of businesses currently have a mental health strategy in place, and 43 per cent are looking to create one.

Many businesses look to build this strategy as a core part of their employee benefits provision, recognising that the right employee benefits play a critical role in prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, and longer-term support.

Taking a strategic view

No two businesses will face the exact same circumstances in terms of the mental wellbeing of their employees. This means any strategic approach has to start with your data. What is it saying? What are the major causes of absence, for example? Where are there known issues, and where are there problems hiding beneath the surface?

Employers may need to find out what mental health support is already available to them from their current providers. Once you know what you have, you can identify gaps or areas where provision needs to change or be improved. This should fit within a strategy to address mental health within the framework of wellbeing more broadly, recognising that financial, social and physical aspects can also impact on mental health.

Decide how you’ll measure the success of your mental health strategy. Reduction in absence rates may be one factor, others may be increased utilisation of your employee assistance or occupational health programmes. There are many positive outcomes to look for, so you need to establish your goals.

Tackling mental health effectively

Building a culture that encourages open discussion around mental health, breaks down stigma and increases the general level of mental health literacy among all employees is foundational to long-term success in this area. Mental health isn’t something employers can pay lip service to if they want to see positive change. A culture of openness should permeate the business and be led from the top down.

Communication is another essential focus for employers. You can have all the mental health support in the world, but if your employees don’t know what it is or where to find it, they won’t connect. We find employers are increasingly using technology to make support and information readily accessible to employees in a format that suits them, and not just during office hours.

Starters for success:

  • Design a robust strategy powered by data and insights
  • Ensure the right benefits and services are in place that support employees with varying degrees of mental health
  • Make mental health support engaging and accessible
  • Build a positive and open culture around mental health

Find out how you can effectively address mental wellbeing within your business: talk to Aon.

Aon Consulting Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority

[1] CIPD,

[2] Thriving at Work: The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers, October 2017


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