Aon advises UK employers to proactively support mental wellbeing in the workplace amid growing crisis

Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, has published a report highlighting the role employers should play in supporting mental wellbeing.

The report, The Mental Health Crisis: Supporting Employees Through Turbulent Times, advises employers of the growing mental health crisis and how they can take action to help tackle it.

Charles Alberts, head of wellbeing, UK Health Solutions at Aon, said:

“It has been well-documented that there is not enough support for those with poor mental health. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that countries were spending less than 2% of their national health budgets on mental health[ii]. However, now the pandemic has impacted many more. We are at a point where there is increased demand and decreased support services available. On top of this, we are now learning that COVID-19 survivors may also suffer from mental health issuesiii.”

The Centre of Mental Health said that at least half a million more people in the UK are likely to experience mental ill-health as a result of the pandemici. In addition, the WHO recently found that the COVID-19 pandemic has halted or disrupted critical mental health services in 93% of countriesii.

The UK Government has recently recognised this impact, with the announcement of a new £500 million mental health recovery plan.

Although Aon’s UK Benefits & Trends Survey showed that employers are already recognising mental wellbeing as an area they can influence – 76% of employers have a strategy to address emotional wellbeing – Aon believes employers will need to do more to be proactive in this crisis to build a resilient workforce.

The Benefits & Trends Survey showed, for instance, that 70% of employers do not have a health and wellbeing budget currently in place. Of those that do have a budget, at least 22% of them are inadequate at £125 or lower per employee per year. Just 8% of employers invest more than £126 per employee, per year, in a health and wellbeing programme.

In addition, around half of employers are not delivering resources to help their managers and employees understand mental wellbeing. The survey found that 44% of employers are not delivering mental health awareness training, and 56% are not providing line manager mental health training.

Alberts further explained:

“Not only should employers provide targeted support for people managers and business leaders, they also need to provide adequate training to help them manage the specific issues their team members may bring to them. This has become more complex since the pandemic started for many reasons, so providing support and training is fundamental. Neither people nor managers should be left ill-equipped to handle an issue.”

However, some employees do not feel able to bring these issues to managers. Research from Mind showed that one in three adults did not try to access support over the COVID-19 lockdown because they did not think their problem was serious enoughiv. This is something employers can tackle.

In its Mental Health Crisis Guide, Aon advises employers to encourage people to seek appropriate support; through having an open and accepting culture towards all forms of illness, by signposting to both internal and external avenues of support and by educating employees about mental health to increase awareness and reduce harmful stigma.

Alberts added:

“The greatest opportunity employers have is to prevent the workplace itself causing ill health. Tackling the root causes of work-related stress, depression and anxiety starts with a stress risk assessment to understand what the key issues are for employees – be that workloads, relationships or a range of other common causes.

“Not all stress in our lives can be prevented. Equipping employees with the knowledge and tools to build their resilience is important; it can reduce the impact stress has on them and help them to ‘bounce back’’ faster from challenging circumstances.”

The report follows the recent launch of Aon’s mental health calculator, which helps organisations understand the financial impact poor mental health can have on their business, while revealing the opportunities that investing in the wellbeing of their employees can bring.

Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey found that improvements to employee wellbeing performance within a company have an impact on customer satisfaction and retention, and that whilst wellbeing performance overall has a direct connection to a strong and focused wellbeing strategy, a series of standalone wellbeing initiatives will have less impact.

Download The Mental Health Crisis report here.

To find out more about the Aon UK Benefits and Trend Survey 2021, click here.