Kavitha’s keynote: Are some employers turning a blind eye to mental health?

Kavitha's keynote

Earlier this week, we reported that a fifth of employers provide counselling for staff in a bid to support their mental health. These findings, from insurers Aviva and the British Chambers of Commerce, highlight a growing awareness of mental health concerns among employers, as well as a commitment to help overcome them.

But the British Chambers of Commerce’s director general, Adam Marshall, warned that a large number of organisations are still turning a blind eye to the problem, which he says “saps productivity, morale and individual wellbeing”.

Worryingly this issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon, with 29% of respondents claiming to have seen an increase in the number of employees taking time off work for mental health-related reasons and 33% have observed an increase in the length of time staff are absent as a result of mental health issues.

Despite these figures, slightly more than a third (36%) of respondents review individual workloads to help support staff with their mental health, while just 18% train managers to better support employees. So, what will it take to encourage employers to take more proactive action? Inevitably those that choose not to will suffer the consequences of a less healthy workforce and, in turn, a less healthy bottom line.

Another cause for concern this week is research from insurers Aegon that highlights a significant gap between men and women in their preparation for retirement. Its Retirement confidence survey found that nearly a third (31%) of women and more than one in five (21%) men do not know how much they have saved into their pension. Additionally, 15% of men have saved more than £300,000 into their retirement savings, compared to just 4% of women.

Career breaks to raise a family or care for elderly parents have no doubt affected a woman’s ability to save for retirement, but Aegon is urging women to stop burying their heads in the sand when it comes to safeguarding their futures.

Where responsibility lies for addressing this pension savings gap between genders is debatable, but one thing is clear; employers are ideally placed to help close it, alongside the government and the industry as whole.

Kavitha Sivasubramaniam
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