Mental Health Has an Important Place in Employee Benefits

The idea that mental health has a major impact on an individual’s personal and professional life has become a common topic. We now know how important it is to nurture good mental health; as an employer you have the power to positively impact your employees’ mental health through your health benefits plan.

The Impact of Poor Mental Health

Poor mental health can have serious ramifications on both the personal and professional lives of your employees. Benefits Canada reports that, “71% of employees said mental health affected their ability to work in the past year.” This is just one of the reasons that mental health should matter to you as an employer.


Poor mental health affects personal happiness. It can decrease the quality of a person’s life, and it can have a negative impact on family life. Whether it is mental illness or ongoing stress or anxiety, poor mental health impacts so many areas of a person’s life. It can even manifest itself in physical health problems.

Productivity and Absence

There are two important ways that poor mental health can affect your organization: productivity and absenteeism.

Employees who are struggling with mental health tend to work at a lower level of productivity. They are preoccupied and unable to give their full attention to their jobs. Often referred to as “presenteeism,” employees who are physically present but exhibiting sub-optimal performance can really impact the success of your operation.

The other byproduct of poor mental health is increased workplace absences. Employees who are struggling with mental health are absent more often than those not struggling. This means you are paying for temporary replacements or other employees are having to shoulder more than their share of the work (which affects their productivity).

From a financial standpoint, decreased productivity and increased absences are costly. You’re paying employees for sub-optimal performance and/or for replacement coverage. You may also notice an increase in employee benefits claims related to physical illness, as mental health challenges can have physical symptoms.

Disability claims related to mental health have also increased dramatically, so poor mental health can negatively affect your claims experience. This costs you money. Disability claims are one of the biggest cost drivers for employee health benefit plans.

As an employer, you undoubtedly want your business to flourish, but as a human you also want the best for your fellow colleagues. That’s why mental health support has an important place in employee health benefits.

Mental Health and Employee Health Benefits

When it comes to mental health, serious problems don’t just go away on their own. The right employee health benefits can prevent emerging mental health problems from developing into far more serious issues. They can teach coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills, as well as build resiliency. In short, mental health benefits are good for your business and they’re good for your employees.

1. Employee and Family Assistance Program

One of the foundational pieces of mental health support as part of your employee health benefits plan is an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). An EFAP provides safe, confidential services to help employees manage stressful situations and personal issues.

Some of the issues it can help with include marital and family issues, drug and alcohol abuse, grief and bereavement, financial stresses, and mental illness.

Most Employee and Family Assistance Programs operate on a 24/7 basis and provide consultive advice and referrals to appropriate agencies or providers. When an employee wants help, they call the EFAP and can receive immediate counselling; the program then schedules follow-up sessions with another provider in the community. This system helps remove barriers to getting help; short-term counselling is free, and employees do not have to search for a provider and reach out to find availability.

Employee and Family Assistance Programs focus on personal welfare and promotes wellness. It’s a great first point of access for someone struggling with mental health.

2. Paramedical Coverage

Sometimes an employee needs long-term counselling or other services to help manage their mental health. This is where paramedical coverage becomes important. Paramedical coverage related to mental health means employees are covered when visiting mental health professionals like a clinical counsellor or psychologist.

There are other providers who can help with the physical symptoms that can accompany a mental health challenge. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and naturopaths are just a few of the providers who can contribute to improved mental health.

3. Wellness Benefits

Research points to the positive impact exercise and fitness can have on mental health. Providing wellness benefits that are focused on elevating physical and mental health can help prevent mental health challenges from occurring or minimize their impact.

A wellness element is usually part of most Employee and Family Assistance programs, but there are additional “add ons” that can expand the program. For example, personalized fitness training (like LifeWorks LIFT) or subsidized gym memberships can encourage employees to pursue better health.

There are also options to provide employees with a wellness spending account. This gives employees encouragement to be active but also the power of choice for which activities and programs appeal to them.

4. Financial Wellness

Far too often, stress and anxiety occur as a result of financial worries. Providing employees with access to counselling, support, and practical tools to manage their finances can be another way to help decrease stress and anxiety. In this way, financial wellness programs can help improve mental health.

There are some financial management tools available through most Employee and Family Assistance Programs, but there are also opportunities to provide more comprehensive financial wellness programs.

Good Mental Health Support Pays Off

Mental health support should be an important part of your employee health benefits plan because they pay off in a number of ways.

First and foremost, supporting the health of your employees is the right thing to do. It shows employees that you care. It helps build a healthy work environment so that employees want to be there. It increases morale and pays off with better retention.

According to Benefits Canada, nearly a third of employees say they would consider switching employers for better mental health support. If this doesn’t reinforce how important mental health support is to your employees, it’s hard to say what would.

Keep in mind, it also matters to your future employees. In a competitive labour market, comprehensive benefits (that include support for mental health) are going to help you attract the best talent to help your company succeed.

Good advice is key

Mental health has an important place in your employee health benefits plan. Ensuring your plan is optimized to support both the physical and mental health of your employees is crucial in order to get the most out of your investment. Review your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone or in-person 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 benefit packages that work as hard as you do.

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