As a business owner, managing the cost of your employee benefits plan is important. You have many expenses to juggle, and rising benefit plan costs can have a detrimental impact on your finances. Sometimes, prevention is the best way to contain costs; this is especially true when looking at mental health disability claims.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to a person’s cognitive, behavioural and emotional well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. Mental health is not static – just like physical health, it can shift, deteriorate and improve over time.
During a state of poor mental health, a person may feel overloaded, stressed or like they can barely keep their head above water. It can be all-consuming for the individual.
Why Does Mental Health Matter?
Mental health matters because it has a direct impact on how your employees behave. Individuals struggling with mental health have trouble focusing on their work which can lead to poor productivity. It can also cause an increase in absences and eventually lead to an increase in disability claims.
Disability claims are usually one of the largest cost drivers for employee benefit plans. Finding ways to reduce the instance and duration of disability claims can really make a difference in plan costs. According to research, more than 1/3 of disability claims for employer-sponsored benefit plans in 2022 were due to mental health concerns.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. According to LifeWorks, 23% of Canadians report a decline in their mental health since the start of the pandemic. Manager and peer relationships have also deteriorated as a result of the pandemic, which has had a negative impact on mental health.
The takeaway here is that focusing on supporting and improving the mental health of your employees can reduce disability claims.
Supporting Mental Health
Supporting and improving the mental health of your employees is important – there are really two facets to this: prevention and active management.
You’ve likely heard the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This means it’s much easier to stop something from happening in the first place than it is to repair the damage after it has occurred. When it comes to mental health, this definitely applies.
One of the best ways to proactively support the mental health of your employees is to provide access to an employee and family assistance program (EFAP). An employee and family assistance program provides 24/7 access to counsellors and resources to support issues related to health, family, money, work and everything in between. Employees can access toolkits, podcasts, and articles online to address common challenges that may be negatively impacting their mental health.
They can also participate in counselling sessions to get advice and tools to cope with mental health challenges. With easy access to these resources, employees are more likely to reach out for help before their mental health deteriorates. This can ultimately reduce disability claims made to your employee benefits plan.
Another way to prevent mental health from taking a nose dive is to encourage employees to get physically active. Exercising and being active can reduce stress and anxiety and improve mental health. Some employers choose to offer gym memberships or personal training sessions that are geared toward the individual (like LIFT). Initiatives during the workday such as lunchtime walking groups or short yoga sessions can also help encourage fitness and improve mental health.
Encouraging employees to nurture their mental health is another way to focus on mental health as a means of reducing disability claims. This may mean creating a designated “quiet place” in the office where employees can take a short break from anything work-related to “reset.” It also means encouraging employees to use their vacation time, as opposed to carrying it over year after year. Vacation time away from the workplace helps rejuvenate employees so they can de-stress and return to work with a clear head.
Another way to help prevent mental health disability claims is to provide mental health training for managers. Training can allow managers to understand warning signs and how to support an employee who is struggling with their mental health. You must also work to remove the stigma around mental health so that employees feel comfortable getting help and support before their mental health seriously declines.
- Active Management
Once an employee’s mental health has declined to the point that they make a disability claim, it is important to actively manage the claim to help reduce its duration.
The best way to actively manage a disability claim is to utilize the services of a third-party disability management company like the Disability Management Institute (DMI). DMI connects with the absent worker to support them in getting the treatment they need. They help the employee through the claim process, secure treatment and create a customized return-to-work plan to get them back to work as soon as they’re able.
This is important because it helps reduce the cost of the claim, but it is also good for the employee’s health. Statistically, the sooner the employee returns to work, the more likely they are to return to pre-disability health.
Giving employees access to services like Virtual Healthcare can also help ensure the employee gets the treatment they need. Virtual healthcare means connecting with a doctor or nurse practitioner using technology. This removes barriers such as not having a family doctor, travelling to a healthcare facility and requiring help at hours beyond those traditionally offered at a doctor’s office.
An Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) is great for prevention but it is also an important tool to support mental health challenges as they are happening. Counselling, support and online tools can all help the employee as they are going through a mental health challenge.
Good Advice is Key
Are you ready to focus on mental health to reduce your disability claim costs? Does your employee benefits plan have the tools and resources to support mental health? Talk to one of our licensed advisors on the phone, or contact us for a comparison quote.
Whether you’re looking for extended health and dental coverage, disability coverage, or life and critical illness coverage, GroupHEALTH has affordable benefits packages that work as hard as you do.