One in four people with a mental health problem are also in debt. This is backed up by research undertaken by the charity ‘Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’, which showed that people with mental health issues are 3.5 times more likely to be in problem debt, than those without mental health problems. This research also revealed that nearly half (46%) of all people in problem debt also experience a mental health problem.

Finances can be such a taboo subject and whilst some of us are often happy to show people that we look wealthy on the outside, we are not necessarily as happy discussing our finances and the fact that we may not actually be able to afford our lifestyles.

I listened to an interesting Podcast recently on this subject, which was hosted by group risk provider Unum. The Podcast can be found at https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-xizxt-f52cb8 and is well worth a listen. They pointed out how easy it is to make poor financial choices with contactless payments, buy now pay later options and the Klarna banking company all being examples of how we can be encouraged to spend irresponsibly. Many of us are not taught about money from a young age and as there are so many credit facilities available to us (which are very often easy to access), many of us have debts.

Debt can cause, and be caused by, mental health problems. It is easy to ‘bury your head in the sand’ and ignore debts. However, clearly this will just make the situation worse and potentially have an even bigger impact on your state of mind. Debt can make you feel depressed or guilty, maybe even hopeless, but it isn’t something people should be ashamed of. There are lots of options available when it comes to tackling debt but the first step should be to talk to someone you trust, which could be  hugely beneficial and help elevate some stress and take some of the weight from your shoulders.

It’s safe to say that the pandemic has had a significant impact on both people’s finances and mental health, and the need for financial education and mental health support is greater than ever. These are areas that myself and the team at Wingate are passionate about and I have certainly seen, from discussions with my clients, that both of these areas are also high on the agenda for employers.

There are lots of good options available, for employer’s to help support their staff when it comes to financial and mental wellbeing. If you would like to discuss this in more detail please do get in touch.

 

Lockdown is challenging in so many ways but it really has made me realise how important it is to keep active. We sit when we work, we sit when we drive a car, we sit when we get on public transport, we sit when we watch tv, the list goes on. I listened to a webinar recently where the speakers likened lack of movement to be the new smoking, which was really thought provoking and highlighted the importance of this topic. Whilst everyone is aware of how bad smoking is for our health, inactivity is also a big issue and not getting enough exercise can lead to a host of health problems both physically and mentally.

I know plenty of people are very active and I see social media posts about 10 mile runs at 5am (I wish I was that disciplined!!) There are however many of us who don’t move nearly enough, which has a huge impact on both our physical and mental health and wellbeing. The diagram below (taken from Gov.uk) was uploaded in October 2019, so prior to the pandemic. However, it illustrates the benefits physical activity has on our health and the figures are powerful to say the least:

Source: Public Health England

Let’s face it, the modern world doesn’t encourage us to be mobile and it’s all about convenience (drive throughs, online food delivery etc). During lockdown, we need to be more creative about activity. Below are some suggestions on how to get yourself moving more:

Stand up

Since you are stuck in the four walls of home even for work, make sure you try and do it standing up. You burn on average of 50 calories more per hour by standing. If you stand for 3 hours per day, five days per week, it adds up to 750 calories burned. In a year that adds up to 30,000 calories, which is almost 9 pounds. This is the equivalent of around 10 marathons per year!!

Place your laptop on a high table and stand for a while as you do your work. Take a work conference call whilst walking around the house, and make sure you take regular breaks away from your screen. The more you stand the more activity your body gets.

Work out

Gyms may be closed but we have so there are so many other ways we can keep fit. Whether it’s walking, running, or trying out one of the many workout videos which are being posted online. Try and find a routine that suits you best and dedicate at least 20 to 30 minutes daily to exercise.

Set realistic goals

Don’t throw yourself straight into a 10 mile run if you haven’t been running in a couple of years, start smaller and then work your way up.

Stretch

We can all do simple stretch and rotation movements in our homes or outside, to make sure we keep mobile. This, alongside being active, will help reduce the risk of back problems, shoulder pain, neck issues, headaches, not to mention our mental wellbeing.

Being more active during my working week is certainly one of my new year’s resolutions. This has never been more important, given the difficult times were are all currently going through.

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on the way we live and work and many employees are still working from home. We are in lockdown again and this time we don’t have the sunshine as a consolation. Some of us may be dealing with possible job losses within the family, having to shield loved ones, or having to provide home schooling. Winter is nearly upon us and for these reasons and more, employees may well feel isolated.

Since March, many employers have responded by putting more focus on promoting mental wellbeing and supporting employee engagement to make sure nobody feels alone.

There are lots of initiatives an employer can introduce, such as providing training for appointed employees to become mental health first aiders. They can then be the first point of contact to support staff who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress.

Mental health webinars would be another great addition, these are readily available and generally free of charge. Such webinars can provide employees with valuable information and tips on how to maintain their wellbeing, especially as we go into winter where isolation naturally occurs.

I think the majority of us have become accustomed to virtual meetings through platforms like Zoom and Teams. These have proven to be such valuable tools for business but it’s important to utilise these for social purposes too. We all miss going out for a team lunch, or a trip to the pub. Let’s hope we can get back to these in the not too distant future, but in the meantime we can make use of these online platforms to help create an inclusive environment for all for things like a virtual breakfast, a Friday quiz, an after work drink or maybe just a general catch up. The social element cannot be forgotten in these difficult times, we need this to bring our colleagues together.

Physical wellbeing is also so important, especially for those with busy sedentary jobs. It can be challenging to take yourself away from your PC/laptop to get that all important dose of daily exercise. Employers can promote healthy activities, perhaps a running ‘club’ or a challenge to achieve a certain number of daily steps. Communications to encourage hydration and health eating habits would also be a great way to promote physical wellbeing.

The challenges we have all faced over the last few months mean that employers need to make sure their employees feel supported and connected to the organisation and more importantly, each other. This is essential to make sure no one feels isolated, especially with those cold, dark days ahead.

If you would like to discuss your wellbeing strategy please do get in touch.

 

Group Life Assurance benefits will pay a lump sum benefit upon death of an insured employee. However, what many people overlook is that traditionally Group Life schemes are written under registered pension scheme legislation and as such, there are instances where an individual can invalidate their pension protection by joining such a scheme.

The Lifetime Allowance (LTA) was created when pension simplification legislation was implemented in April 2006. Benefits which count towards the LTA include registered pension and lump sum death benefits from registered Group Life Assurance schemes. Historically, the LTA was £1.8m but since April 2012, this has been reduced a number of times. For 2020/21, the LTA is £1,073,100. Benefits which exceed the LTA are subject to a tax charge of up to 55%.

Individuals with benefits above or approaching the LTA can apply for pension protection from the HMRC. Since the introduction of the LTA, there are several different types of pension protection which have become available to enable individuals to protect the value of benefits that they have built up (and future benefits that may accrue) from tax charges. If pension protection is granted, these protections are subject to different conditions and strict rules and if broken, the protection will be withdrawn.

A potential issue with registered group life arrangements is when an employee with Pension Protection joins a ‘new’ registered group life scheme due to the fact that they have joined a new employer, the protection may be voided, depending on the type of protection they have and when this was granted. An employer may not be aware of employees who have pension protection in place, as this is arranged on an individual basis. A Group Life scheme is classed as a ‘new’ arrangement if the Pension Scheme Tax Reference (PSTR) number which applies to the scheme changes or a new trust is arranged for a scheme.

The alternative, an ‘Excepted’ Group Life scheme, provide lump sum death benefits outside of the registered pension scheme environment. Therefore any benefits paid are not currently included in the calculation of the LTA. You may wish to consider setting up an Excepted scheme for a defined section of your membership. There will usually be no difference in cost for this type of arrangement and you would need to execute a trust deed prior to implementing the insurance policy.

There are advantages and disadvantages of the way a scheme can be established and managed over another. There are some differences between Registered and Excepted schemes, which include potential tax charges in certain scenarios on an Excepted scheme. If you would like to discuss the different options available and which may be suitable for your business, please do get in touch.

Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has caused real disruption to the Private Healthcare industry. Back in March/April there was concern that the NHS could be overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 related hospital admissions. In order to prepare for the huge strain on health services, the government needed to maximise the number of beds that can offer ventilation and intensive support, and the available healthcare professionals who can help. The NHS therefore enlisted the help of the private sector to help the national effort to fight the virus.

We feel at this time of national crisis this approach was right, and the responsible response to an unprecedented situation to help the nation fight the virus.  This however has had an impact on those with private medical insurance.

What impact has this had on private medical insurance?

The pandemic has led to a drop in privately funded care as non-urgent elective procedures have been subject to postponement. This means there have been a proportion of customer claims which have been temporarily deferred. Insurance providers have continued to authorise treatment to ensure treatment can be accessed as quickly as possible when services return to some sort of normality.

What benefits have remained in place throughout the pandemic?

Urgent and time-critical care, such as cancer treatment, has still been treated as a matter of priority. Virtual and 24 hour telephone services have also been available through many insurers, enabling members access to care through GP’s, musculoskeletal (bone, joint, and muscle) clinicians and mental health practitioners, all from the comfort and safety of their homes.

What have insurers done to help support customers?

The market has responded to the challenges the pandemic has brought about. This has varied between insurers but below are some examples of how they have supported their customers and members:

  • Premium payment deferrals and discounts for those who in financial hardship
  • Excess waivers for those who have had treatment delayed, which has resulted in the start of a new policy year whereby a new excess would usually apply
  • Enhancement of virtual/digital services to support health and wellbeing
  • Specific COVID-19 cashback benefit for members who require a hospital stay due to coronavirus

The market has stated that they are not looking to profit from the pandemic. Some providers have spoken about premium rebates/cash back, though this is not likely to materialise until next year when the impact of COVID-19 becomes clearer.

What is the current position?

Thankfully, the NHS have not been overwhelmed to date and this has resulted in some facilities being returned to the private sector. Whilst things are certainly not back to ‘normal’, some non-urgent elective procedures are now taking place. Therefore, private medical insurance policies are starting to see more claims being put through though it is interesting to note that the UK is seeing people defer treatment due to a lack of confidence, as a result of COVID-19.

As it is so important for some people to get treatment, especially for serious conditions such as cancer, If anyone holding private medical insurance needs to make a claim, they should call the insurer’s claims team and they will be able to confirm treatment availability and discuss options.

The situation has developed constantly over the last few months and no doubt will continue to do so over the coming months. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on developments and if you would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please do get in touch.

You’re satisfied with the employee benefits you have in place and are comfortable with the associated costs. But are you confident your employees fully understand the benefits which are available to them? If you have invested time and money into developing your benefits package, it is vital that you have an effective communication strategy in place to make sure your staff are taking full advantage of what is on offer. Below are some examples of aspects you may wish to consider when developing your communications strategy:

Communication

As the saying goes, ‘communication is key’ and often we find that staff are told about employee benefits when they join a company, as part of their induction, but this doesn’t get mentioned again. Regular communications thereafter will ensure everyone remains informed and engaged. This could include specific communications during different lifestyle events e.g. marriage/the birth of a child.

Appoint Employee Benefits ‘Champions’

One way to fully involve employees in the communication plan is to appoint employee benefit champions. Seeing fellow employees being proactive and positive about the benefits schemes will encourage the workforce as a whole to get involved and participate. This is a great way to spread knowledge and enthusiasm.

Put it in writing

All information about the benefits you offer should be in writing. This should be in a format which is easy to read and digest. Every employee should be given a copy of your benefits handbook, and an overview on how to locate commonly sought information.

Use of Online Platforms

If your company uses an intranet site, this can be a great platform to communicate information about your benefits. You could also look to maximise your use of free social media platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn. An internal group could be created to keep employees up to date on the benefits they have access to.

Staff feedback

Employee opinion surveys are a great way to measure the level of understanding that employees have about the benefits you provide and how engaged they are. These surveys can also provide you with an indication of what benefits your staff value the most. Effective communications don’t need to be costly. You can maximise the use of systems you already have to provide information in a quick and easy way. Wingate can help you to develop your employee benefits strategy, to ensure your staff are making the most of the valuable benefits you provide for them. If you would like to discuss further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

When employers think about employee wellbeing, they often think about employee sickness absence and how to manage and reduce this. However, research demonstrates that presenteeism is just as big a risk to businesses.

What is presenteeism?

Presenteeism is when employees come to work but experience decreased productivity and quality of work due to health problems.

A study by health insurer Vitality has found that more than 40% of employees said their work was being affected by health issues – a figure that’s risen by a third over the last five years. The study found that people are putting aside both mental and physical health problems to attend work.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also found evidence of unhealthy trends in the workplace in its 2019 annual ‘Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey’. The CIPD survey found that more than four-fifths (83%) of its respondents had observed presenteeism in their organisation, and a quarter (25%) said the problem had got worse since the previous year.

Research conducted by Group Risk insurer Canada Life also shows that nine out of ten of workers say they have gone into work when feeling ill, the equivalent to 29 million employees and that casual presenteeism’ is on the rise with one in five admitting they monitor work emails in their spare time and check emails first thing in the morning.

Why are employees doing this?

Canada Life’s research show the main reasons employees gave for going into work when unwell are:
1. Feeling their illness doesn’t warrant a day off (58%)
2. High workloads have forced them to go into work when unwell (27%)
3. Concerned about the financial implications of taking time off (23%)
4. Not wanting to handover important work to colleagues unless really necessary (18%)
5. Made to feel guilty for taking time off by other colleagues/senior members of staff (18%)
6. They don’t feel secure enough in their job/feel threatened by the risk of redundancy to take time off for illness (12%)
7. Concerned that they won’t be able to secure a doctor’s note (8%)

What can employers do?

In some circumstances presenteeism may be a result of workplace culture. Employers could improve the perception of illness in the workplace so employees feel secure that they won’t be seen as weak, lazy or less dedicated for taking time off with a short-term illness. Promoting a more positive attitude to health and wellbeing could be hugely beneficial to a business.

There are a number of measures which could be taken to help employees feel more comfortable taking time off when they need it to recuperate, such as:

• Flexible working
• A reduced workload
• Less pressure to be ‘always on’ and working
• Workplace support, such as an Employee Assistance Programme and ‘Early intervention’ services

Having the measures in place is not always enough though, the Canada Life research illustrated a lack of awareness about workplace support for sickness absence. Nearly half (47%) of employees said they were not aware of any form of support in their organisation with only 17% saying their employer had an Employee Assistance Programme in place. This highlights the importance of not only having the services in place but communicating them clearly and regularly to staff in order to improve employee wellbeing.

Wingate Benefit Solutions can help you to develop an effective health and wellbeing strategy, to include support services to help your business promote wellbeing in the workplace and re-assure staff that support is in place when they need it the most. If you would like to find out more, please contact us at Wingate.

Making the Most of Your Employee Assistance Program

October saw World Mental Health Day which certainly helps raise awareness. Clearly, we should all be giving this subject thought on a regular basis and not wait for these annual reminders.

One resource employers’ can rely on are Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). This invaluable support mechanism is often included within insurance products such as Group Life Assurance, Income Protection and Health Cash Plans. Should an employer not have access to an EAP through such products, standalone versions are available at relatively low costs to a business.

Making your Employee Assistance Program available is one thing, but to really make the most of this indispensable resource for your employees, you need to promote the benefits, outline how easy they are to access and how your company is helping employees manage their lives better. Consider the following steps to promote the benefits of your EAP programme to your employees:

Designate people to be your ‘EAP Champions’ within your company

Hearing first-hand how helpful your Employee Assistance Program is from another employee can motivate your staff to try it.  Directors, colleagues, managers, HR professionals — anyone with a positive EAP experience can provide a compelling testimonial as to the benefits of your EAP programme, the more senior the person making the personal endorsement, the better.

One approach we have found works well is to advertise the launch/relaunch/existence of your EAP by circulating a general communication of recommendation from the CEO, (or MD or similar high-ranking individual) praising the service and openly inviting everyone in the organisation to give it a try.

Better still, upload the CEO recommendation on to your staff intranet and make sure to include it with any induction pack materials for new starters. A senior member of staff admitting that they have used the EAP service and that it has helped them, can really break the ice and works well against any stigma associated with seeking help.  It can also help putting to rest any qualms relating to the confidentiality of the service.

Promote awareness of the Employee Assistance Program throughout the year

Continually sounding the bell on your EAP is critical to driving engagement. The need for EAP services is not seasonal, it is year-round, so the promotion of it should be as well. Keep an eye out for topical themes and awareness days so you can use these an opportunity to spread awareness of the benefits available.

Most EAP providers will be able to help you with additional wellbeing support and EAP promotional material.

Promote awareness of the Employee Assistance Program throughout the year

Continually sounding the bell on your EAP is critical to driving engagement. The need for EAP services is not seasonal, it is year-round, so the promotion of it should be as well. Keep an eye out for topical themes and awareness days so you can use these an opportunity to spread awareness of the benefits available.

Most EAP providers will be able to help you with additional wellbeing support and EAP promotional material.

Promote all the of services available in your Employee Assistance Program

No matter how minor a feature may appear, it could be important to someone. Be sure to give each feature its time in the spotlight, be it stress management, the employee wellbeing website, health and wellness materials, structured support sessions, legal/financial information, child & elder care support and so on.

Highlight the Work/Life resources available in your EAP

Emphasising the features that support a healthy work/life balance is an excellent way to get employees interested in the Employee Assistance Program. Companies whose employees take advantage of these services can experience many benefits, including improved morale, lower turnover, drops in employee presenteeism and being more likely to be seen as an employer of choice.

Consider your Employee Assistance Program an extension of your HR department

Most EAP clinicians offer more than just administrative and onward referral services. They are also highly experienced in workplace dynamics and can help you discover new ways to enhance productivity and morale and improve employee engagement.  They can help support not only employees but also team leaders and supervisors with skills such as Stress Management, Supporting Bereavement, Dealing with Mental Health Issues in the Workplace and much more.

Wingate Benefit Solutions can help ensure that you have the support in place for your staff by either providing you with full details of how you can implement this benefit or to provide you with the support and tools to promote the benefits of your existing EAP to your staff. If you would like to find out more, please contact us at Wingate.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that income protection is a benefit people need later in life when age-related illnesses and conditions become more common. However, this really is a benefit which should also be valued by younger members of your workforce. More and more people in their 30s are making claims for Income Protection benefits. Cover protects your employees if they are unable to work due to a physical condition but benefit will also be paid for employees who suffer with mental health conditions. Mental health is the second most common cause of income protection claims which may go some way to help explain the increase in claims for those in their 30s.

 

Lifestyle events also often prompt people to think about what cover and protection they have in place. Examples of events which may result in somebody valuing benefits like income protection would be buying a property, having a child or getting married.

Buying a property: When purchasing a property, it is of utmost importance for somebody to protect their home and the ability to make monthly mortgage payments, in the event of being unable to work. Income protection cover provides a replacement monthly income if your employee is unable to work because of long-term illness or injury.

Income protection should by no means be classed as a ‘sick pay’ policy. In addition to the financial benefits, the majority of income protection providers promote early intervention services and rehabilitation support services. This may include access to counselling or physiotherapy to help employees recover and return to work if appropriate.

It’s not only house buyers who need protection. If you’re renting and unable to work through illness or injury, bills still need to be paid if a tenant wants to remain in their property.

Having a child: Starting a family, or extending an existing one, is a very exciting time. However, this means your employees will have dependants relying on their income for them to be looked after. What would happen if an employee’s life was turned upside down by illness or injury? Income protection can help to provide financial support for those affected by illness or injury.

Getting married: Marriage is another event which can urge employees to consider income protection cover. Consider when partners are dependent on each other for splitting financial commitments such as mortgage payments. If one were to be hit by unexpected illness or injury, having protection in place could mean the difference between keeping their home or having to sell up and move.

 

Your younger staff may not fully recognise the benefit of employee protection benefits until they reach some of these milestones in their lives.

 

What should companies do to help all employees recognise the full benefit of a group Income Protection scheme?

  • Identify all additional benefits: Most income protection schemes will include additional ancillary benefits which are included free of charge. These may include an Employee Assistance Programme and Early Intervention and Rehabilitation services.
  • Promote these benefits to your staff: Regularly remind your staff of the additional benefits they have access to. Counselling services are available through an Employee Assistance Programme and promotion of these services is key to driving engagement
  • Review your employee benefits package: If you don’t have cover in place already, introducing policies such as income protection will provide your employees with vital support when they need it the most

 

We can carry out a free no obligation review of your employee benefits package. If you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your usual contact or at:

@: info@wingatebs.com

T: 01883 332260

Mental Health Misconceptions

There has clearly been a focus on improving general awareness of mental health over the last few years. This has of course been a very positive step and whilst we have not completely eradicated the ‘stigma’, more and more people are talking about mental health these days.

Paying specific attention to awareness of mental health in the workplace, millions of working days are lost each year due to mental health issues in the UK. Early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions can make a huge impact in terms of recovery rates however; many UK workers are delaying seeking help for mental health conditions due to widely held misconceptions.

I believe the majority of people could identify the key symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, Bipolar, Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are known to be mental health conditions which are most commonly misunderstood by employees. Greater understanding of the specific signs and symptoms is needed to recognise mental ill health in a colleague.

So, what can Companies do to help improve understanding within the workplace?

Utilise the support and services you have in place

Many organisations will have some form of insurance in place to protect your employee’s wellbeing. However, are you aware of the additional added value benefits which may be included within your cover? Support services are becoming common place in employee benefit insurances and are included at no additional cost.

Consider implementing a Health & Wellbeing Strategy

An effective Health & Wellbeing Strategy will help to improve the wellness of your employees and implementing a strategy through planned wellbeing initiatives will promote and encourage wellbeing in the workplace. Wellbeing produces positive attitudes, engagement, motivation and innovative thinking which are all key to an organisation’s long-term effectiveness.

Consider the use of Mental Health Champions

Most places of work will have First Aid ‘Champions’ so why not have Mental Health Champions? People from within the business who are specifically trained to spot the signs of colleagues who may be struggling. They can help with educating their colleagues to be mental health aware as this is the first step to encourage early intervention.

Remember, diagnosing and treating mental health conditions early will have a dramatic impact when it comes to recovery. To aid this, we must do all we can to combat the issues of mental health misconceptions.

 

There are many steps which can be taken to ensure your business is providing the relevant support for your employees which Wingate Benefit Solutions can help you with. From implementing/developing an effective Health & Wellbeing Strategy to reviewing your existing employee benefit products to see if they include supplementary benefits, we can help you provide support for your employees. If you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us on 01883 332260 or at info@wingatebs.com .