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How far is the protection industry addressing mental health?

There has never been a time where mental health has been talked about and promoted as much as it is now. Over the last 12-18 months, mental health has dominated the headlines as increasing numbers of high-profile individuals from the worlds of entertainment, politics and sport have come forward, openly sharing their own struggles with mental health. This is happening in the workplace too, with senior executives taking the lead, sharing their own stories and recognising the need for better mental health first aid training, coaching and support.

The latest figures from mental health charity Mind show that, at any time, one in six workers will be dealing with a mental health problem. So as business clients seek to better support mental health in the workplace, how is the protection industry stepping up?

“While there are several challenges for the industry, not least the reservations and misconceptions people have about how their mental health history will impact their access to insurance, the protection industry is responding and we are starting to see more innovative products designed to better meet the needs of business clients,” explains IHC’s Paul Roberts.

“Bupa made big strides in 2018 by removing their long-held rules of not paying for long-term conditions. In addition, the pathways are more flexible meaning that employees and their families can access talking therapies, CBT and psychiatric help through a single point of contact. It’s not that all these treatments will be needed by a single person but more that the customer journey is simplified and eased by the changes.

“And last month, Aviva launched a new mental health product add-on to extend cover where business clients want more. Both moves are pushing the boundaries of mental health treatments paid for by insurance,” says Paul.

Cigna has also responded with a self-referral programme which enables employees to access fast and convenient mental health support, without the need for a GP referral. Through the dedicated helpline, members can speak to an experienced nurse who will discuss appropriate treatment options and pre-authorise mental health treatment straight away.

“Cigna’s self-referral reduces the pressure on the employee because they contact Cigna directly for immediate support, rather than having to see a GP and then contacting the insurer. Less barriers to access treatment and support is a good step forward.”

Up until now the most common support offered by the protection industry has been an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) bundled into a risk policy. “The usage of these types of EAP are known to be below industry norms and demonstrates that just providing a service in not enough. And while we are seeing the industry making improvements here, there is still a lot more to be done,” explains Paul.

The CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work 2018 report, for example, found that while almost two thirds of organisations have an EAP with access to counselling services, where employers fall down is by not effectively communicating these benefits – with 56% of organisations communicating about benefits with staff on less than a quarterly basis.

And in a more recent poll earlier this year, Simply Health found that 73% of HR professionals said they were not confident that their line managers could spot the signs of mental health issues highlighting the need for more mental health first aid training in the workplace.

Talk to your IHC consultant to find out how you can better support employee mental wellbeing and for more information on IHC’s mental health first aid training courses, contact Paul Roberts.

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