Money can have a huge impact on employee mental health, and proactive support can make an important difference

stress at work

BHSF’s new report, ‘Breaking the Cycle’, paints a devastating picture of how professional and personal stress-triggers are directly leading to mental health issues and absenteeism, with finances (31%) identified as the greatest contributor to employee stress.

The results clearly identify employee finances as a key area for concern, yet it seems that financial stress is being vastly underestimated by employers. Seventy-one per cent of employees have stated that their company offers no support above and beyond statutory sick pay of just £88.45 per week – leaving employees vulnerable to financial hardship, if unable to work.

In addition, more than 80% of employees admit to having no personal sick pay or income protection policy to help cover their outgoings in the event of illness. This lack of a financial safety net for more than three-quarters of the entire working population, vividly illustrates the tightrope that many employees are walking.

Breaking the cycle

Interestingly, women appear to be less prepared than men – only 15% have a policy in place, compared to 24% of men. Those with lower incomes are the least likely to have an insurance policy, with just 15% of employees in the £20,001 to £40,000 salary bracket having some form of support, compared to 40% in the £80,000 to £100,000 category.

‘Breaking the Cycle’ is a concept which describes the vicious cycle employees and their employers are caught in. We can see there is a clear path, starting with the build-up of stress, both in work and outside, which without relevant support can lead to long-term sick leave. If employees are signed off sick from work with no income protection policy in place, things can quickly escalate, which may result in stress levels to rise – ultimately impacting their mental health and the amount of time they are off work.

Stress and saving

Finance problems can not only contribute to the initial build-up of stress for many employees, but also have the potential to impact their mental health while on the road to recovery too. Our concern is that lack of income protection will exacerbate the downward spiral that many employees face in the event of ill-health and long-term sick leave.

As these figures suggest, many in this situation will have to rely on savings, at least in the short term, but realistically how many employees have sufficient savings, and how long will they last? As expected, our report found lower incomes are most at risk with 55% of employees in the £10,000 to £20,000 salary bracket admitting to having insufficient savings.

A proactive approach

Thus, employers must be more proactive. Our findings demonstrate that very few employees have the financial resources to cope with the inevitable income drop, which only creates stress and even more worries. Therefore employers can play a vital role here, in encouraging the uptake of sick pay insurance.

If necessary, this can be provided by a company-sanctioned scheme, which can often be delivered at zero cost to the bottom line – this sort of provision can go a long way towards breaking the cycle.

Processes like these can be easily implemented, ensuring finances needn’t be an additional stress factor if time is needed off work. However, that said, we must not forget that early intervention strategies are key to prevent employees entering ‘the cycle’ in the first place. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) can be game changers in terms of helping to build a resilient workforce.

The BHSF EAP offers a 24-hour helpline with access to a telephone counselling service 365 days a year, providing support on a host of mental health issues and emotional problems such as stress, debt and anxiety – reducing absentee rates and increasing staff retention.

The value of protection

Employers are well placed to ensure members of their workforce are protected if the worst should happen. Products like BHSF’s Pay4Sure sick pay insurance, which also provides a GP consultation service and telephone helpline, not only offers financial support, but also provides employees with the tools they need to become more resilient.

Download the Breaking the Cycle report at