68% see increase in stress and mental health-related illnesses in the workplace


More than two-thirds (68%) of employer respondents have seen an increase in instances of stress and mental health-related illnesses in the workplace, according to research by Aon.

Its Benefits and trends survey: January 2018, which surveyed 200 UK employers, also found that 41% of respondents are unaware of the implications of the new regulations surrounding optional remuneration arrangements (Opra), while 13% are decreasing or stopping salary sacrifice arrangements since the regulatory changes.

The research also found:

  • 82% of respondents cite employee engagement as the main objective of its online or flexible benefits strategy, 71% state retention as their main objective, and 65% think that employee choice is the main objective of their online or flexible benefits strategy.
  • 58% of respondents believe communicating with employees is one of the top challenges they face in respect of their flexible benefits scheme, and 30% feel one of their main challenges is around technology.
  • 92% of respondents offer life assurance, 89% provide private medical insurance (PMI), 33% give employees access to cash plans, and 36% offer critical illness cover.
  • 43% of respondents have introduced limits on their PMI scheme in the past five years, 39% have increased their usage, or started using for the first time, an excepted group life assurance policy, and 32% have included risk and healthcare benefits in a flexible benefits scheme in the last five years.
  • 49% of respondents offer telephone medical services as part of their health programme. Respondents also enable access to health and wellbeing apps (48%), stress reduction (42%), physical activity challenges (37%) and virtual GP services (27%).
  • 65% of respondents use email communications to educate employees around health and wellbeing, 44% use an online portal, and 37% use printed communications.
  • 53% of respondents feel it is extremely important to increase employee understanding and engagement with benefits and saving for retirement.
  • 41% of respondents provide printed or online total reward statements to employees, compared to 39% who do not offer them and are not planning to implement them.
  • 63% of respondents use printed communications to educate and engage employees with their pension, compared to 82% who utilise email communications and 52% who have an online self-service portal in place.
  • 28% of respondents review the investment performance of their default pension option on an annual basis, and 15% do this on a half-yearly basis. In addition, 27% have not changed their default option or any of the funds in it in over a year.
  • 44% of respondents provide pre-retirement seminars, 29% offer individual non-advice sessions for retirees, 17% allow access to drawdown advice, and 27% provide access to independent advice.

Mark Witte (pictured), head of healthcare and risk consulting at Aon Employee Benefits, said: “If there was one defining theme in 2017, it was the growth of and increased focus on corporate wellbeing programmes across several key areas. We now see 84% of employers saying that they consider themselves responsible for influencing their employees’ health behaviours.

“There has also been a 25% increase in the proportion of organisations with designated funding for their health and wellbeing programme, with over half of respondents now having a specific budget in place, or intending to within the next three years. This is a contributing factor to the increase in the proportion of employers offering programmes to help lifestyle behaviours, including weight loss, smoking cessation or physical activity.

“It’s particularly significant that more organisations are embracing technology to help deliver their strategy, with both health apps and virtual GP services seeing considerable growth. We expect this trend to accelerate further in 2018, as increased adoption of technology supports the growing understanding that employee engagement is critical to any successful wellbeing strategy.”