Sponsor’s comment by Legal & General: Stress perks in health plan

This article is brought to you by our sponsor Legal & General.

Over the last decade, stress, and the way we manage it, has become an increasingly important issue. We are all under increasing pressure both at work and at home, and while it is now generally more acceptable to admit that we are suffering from stress this does not necessarily make it any easier for individuals to deal with it.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s latest annual Absence management survey conducted in March 2007, 40% of organisations reported an increase in stress-related absence in the previous 12 months and this rose to over 60% in larger organisations employing over 5,000 staff. To compound this further, mental health problems tend to result in longer spells of absence, representing 25% of absences for less than seven days, and 47% of longer absences, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Mental Health and Work report 2008.

As employers, what can we do to assist employees in dealing with these issues? We need to ensure that the correct systems and training are in place to improve the likelihood that both HR and line managers identify, and where possible, prevent mental health problems. One way of helping is to provide rapid access to assessment and vocationally-focused treatment. There is strong evidence both from our own experience as well as from recent government reports, that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for treating common mental health problems. Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of CBT via the NHS and there is often a long waiting time. As part of our group income proposition, we are able to fast track up to 24 sessions and, as a result, have achieved some very dramatic improvements with 58% of sufferers able to return to work in a matter of months.

It is also important, where appropriate, to encourage the employee to continue working while receiving treatment by providing reciprocal support. In our experience, returning to work is a fundamental part of returning to normality, and many employers find that an independent facilitator, and a structured return-to-work programme is crucial in order to achieve a successful outcome.

Diane Buckley
Managing director, group protection, Legal & General

The views and opinions in this article are those of our sponsor, Alphabet, and do not necessarily reflect those of www.employeebenefits.co.uk.