’Employers continue to have a vital role to play, ensuring that all employees can be themselves at work,’ says wellbeing manager

Only one in 10 employees with mental health conditions sought help from their line manager over the last year, according to Aviva.

The insurer said employees ”remain uncomfortable with discussing their mental health at work” after surveying 1001 employers and 2005 employees in the UK.

The findings, which were released ahead of Mental Health Awareness week (12 May 2023), revealed 14% of employees questioned said they would discuss their mental health with a work colleague, while only 5% said they would speak to their colleagues in HR or a wellbeing officer.

While these statistcis were slightly higher than 2020’s findings, Aviva’s wellbeing manager Sophie Money said it was interesting “that we have not seen greater changes in attitudes over this time”.

She added: ”The employee and employer experience has changed drastically in the three years that this research spans, with Covid-19 as the main driver of change.

”It is likely that many of the participants of this research had varying experiences of their own and colleagues’ mental health during this period.”

Aviva’s research also highlighted that there was a ”significant disconnect between employee and employer attitudes to whether the right support was provided to those struggling with their mental health in the workplace”.

It found that 79% of employers surveyed felt they were ”good at recognising when team members/employees are under pressure”, yet only 44% of employees surveyed agreed.

”This, however, is a slightly smaller gap compared to 2020,” Aviva added.

Stigma shift

Meanwhile, the survey highlighted that respondents concerned about colleagues with a mental health condition and did their best to help sat at 71% - down from 76% in 2020.

And 8% were sceptical whether their colleague “actually had an issue” – up from 5% last year – while 59% of employees and 49% of employers believed the stigma towards mental health had decreased in 2023 – down from 74% for both in 2020.

“Employers continue to have a vital role to play, ensuring that all employees can be themselves at work and can feel confident that they would receive the support required when they need it,” Money added. 

Meanwhile, Protection Guru chief revenue officer Niki Cooke said that “income protection is the most vital protection policy for those who earn an income and depend on it, [as well as] the most important one when it comes to protecting yourself and your clients again mental health issues”.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), income protection can only be obtained through an employee’s employer and usually forms part of an employee benefits package.

“Income protection policies are intended to pay out if the client is incapable of performing the material and substantial duties of their own occupation due to injury or ill-health,” said Cooke.

“Medical conditions, such as depression or anxiety, would therefore typically be covered and income protection plans can provide genuine protection should the client find themselves unable to work as a result of such a mental health problem.”