Mental health ‘a priority’, say CEOs, yet only one in six has a clear strategy

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of UK chief executives identify employee mental health as a priority, yet just one in six (16%) employers has a defined mental health strategy, a study has suggested.

According to the research conducted by the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) in association with Punter Southall Health & Protection, only 37% of organisations without a mental health strategy planned to introduce one in the next 12 months, while a further 26% predicted they would have one in place by 2020.

Almost half (45%) of the employers polled had a general wellbeing strategy, the Employee Wellbeing Research 2018 found, up from 30% in 2016. Eight in 10 (84%) organisations without a wellbeing strategy planned to put one in place within the next three years.

Nevertheless, average wellbeing spending remained relatively low, the report claimed, at between £26 to £50 per employee per year.

Debi O’Donovan, director at REBA, commented: “Ensuring that the mental wellbeing of employees is safeguarded must be a priority and it is encouraging to see that over 80% of respondents highlighted this as an area that they will focus on.

“However, we would like to see stronger leadership come from boards, because where we see wellbeing led from the top we also see the most impressive results for both employees and their organisations.”

John Dean, chief commercial officer at Punter Southall Health & Protection, added that, while it was encouraging employers saw mental health as a priority, it was concerning few strategies were being driven at board-level.

“For wellbeing programmes to succeed, it is essential they are integrated into the business strategy and prioritised by the board,” he said.

Of the organisations with a wellbeing strategy, 85% had a programme to encourage physical activity, a similar percentage (85%) had a strategy that addressed health and safety issues and 84% had a plan to help employees’ mental health.

Work-life balance was considered in 73% of wellbeing strategies, while 69% covered nutrition and healthy eating.

Employee assistance programmes were the most popular wellbeing perk, offered by 93% of employers, followed by occupational sick pay schemes, which were offered by 83%.

The number of employers with financial wellbeing programmes increased from 47% in 2017 to 52% in 2018. A further 31% said they planned to introduce one in 2018.

Three-quarters of the employers surveyed offered discounted or free gym membership to their staff, while 64% provided health screenings.

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