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Mental health: leave benefits and employee assistance programs

By Higginbotham on June 10 , 2020

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If 20 percent of your workers had a problem that increased absenteeism, decreased work performance and resulted in higher turnover, you’d probably want to do something about it.

One in five U.S. adults experience some sort of mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Work stress can contribute to mental health issues, and mental health issues can impact work performance. And employers can do something about it. They can help by providing leave benefits and employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Businesses Cannot Afford to Ignore Mental Health Issues

According to the World Health Organization, mental health problems can negatively impact absenteeism, work performance, staff attitude and behavior and relationships at work. Workers with mental health problems may miss more work, struggle to complete assignments satisfactorily, have conflicts with coworkers and leave the workplace entirely.

Mental health issues can also increase health care costs. According to the CDC, employees with a high risk of depression had the highest health care costs during the three years after an initial health risk assessment, even after other health risks, such as smoking and obesity, were taken into account. People with mental health issues often also have physical health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Approximately 20 percent of American adults suffer from mental health disorders, but even more Americans experience potentially harmful levels of stress. According to the American Institute of Stress, 83 percent of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress, costing businesses up to $300 billion in annual losses. Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths each year.

Mental Health Leave Programs

Have you ever heard people say they’re taking a mental health day? It’s not an excuse for being lazy. To avoid burnout and other serious consequences, people need to time to relax and refresh. Instead of punishing workers for this – and instead of forcing workers to lie about why they need to take time off – employers should consider offering personal days that can be used for mental health and stress relief.

Employers should also realize that many legal protections cover mental health issues.

The FMLA defines a serious health condition as “an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves: 1. inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or 2. continuing treatment by a health care provider.” If there is a mental condition that requires treatment from a health care provider, it’s covered under the FMLA.

The ADA also covers mental health issues. Reasonable accommodations for mental health issues may include leave, flexible scheduling, work-from-home options and breaks.

Employee Assistance Programs

Many businesses have turned to employee assistance programs (EAPs) to help with the various mental health and stress issues that workers face. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 54 percent of civilian workers had access to EAPs in March 2016.

EAPs can cover a wide range of issues, including mental health disorders, substance abuse, financial problems and relationship problems. Employees benefit by accessing confidential help with the issues they face. Employers benefit by gaining a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

According to American City Business Journals, EAPs often cost around $2 to $5 per employee per month, and many workers’ compensation insurance providers offer a discount to employers who provide EAPs.

To learn more contact our employee benefit services team.

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