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World Mental Health Day: employer support still lagging behind demand

More than eight out of 10 employers (83%) are reporting increased demand from their employees for wellbeing benefits, a poll ahead of World Mental Health Day has suggested.

However, whether this growing appetite is because of greater openness and transparency or simply a reflection of frustration about the current lack of support by many employers is less clear.

The poll by employee benefits technology company Zest, published ahead of World Mental Health Day on Wednesday (11 October), found nine in ten employers (89%) feel their employees are now more likely to discuss wellbeing at work.

Yet, while seven in 10 businesses (71%) had introduced a head of wellbeing role or equivalent, it is clear that actual access to benefits and support remains relatively low.

For example, barely a fifth (19%) of employers said they currently offer employees a wellbeing allowance as part of their benefits package.

Paid mental health leave was the most popular wellbeing benefit among the UK employers polled – yet is still only offered by less than a quarter (24%) of businesses.

Mindfulness programmes are offered by 21% and menopause support by just 17%, the research found.

It is perhaps less than surprising therefore that, despite 82% of businesses saying they are investing more in their wellbeing benefits offer, six in ten (57%) also admit that employee wellbeing is at an all-time low.

Matt Russell, CEO at Zest, said: “Employers not investing in their benefits packages will struggle to keep pace as the wellbeing revolution continues to accelerate. They risk being left behind by competitors and could face a real struggle to attract and retain key talent if they don’t listen to the demands of their workforce.”

This discrepancy between increased talk around employee wellbeing support and actual delivery on the ground has also been reflected in research by financial wellbeing firm WEALTH at work.

Its poll of 1,019 workers found 41% do not feel supported by their employer, despite many admitting that money worries are now affecting their work.

Nearly a quarter (23%) said they were struggling to concentrate and 15% felt their productivity had decreased. A significant minority, 16%, have incurred debts for the first time in their professional lives this year (excluding mortgage debt).

Financial concerns resulted in lost sleep (28%), feeling embarrassed (26%), arguing with family and friends (18%), and even reducing 18% of workers to tears.

Yet, more positively, more than half of employers (53%) do say they will be increasing financial wellbeing spend over the next year, according to a further poll from The Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA), in association with WEALTH at work.

Tackling financial distress in the workplace will be a key focus for the 44% of the 200 employers polled over the next two years, it found. The number of employers offering independent financial education, guidance and advice was also set almost to double.

The vast majority of employers (96%) also now recognise that financial wellbeing is an integral part of improving wider employee wellbeing, the research argued.

Jonathan Watts-Lay, Director, WEALTH at work, said: “Money worries are really impacting people’s home and work life. It’s concerning that so many feel unsupported by their employer when it comes to their finances.

“This is why financial education in the workplace is so important as it can not only help develop understanding and encourage engagement with the benefits on offer, but it’s also a catalyst for behavioural change and action, resulting in added value for both employers and employees,” he added.



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