Updated: Jan 20
Over the last 12 months, everyone’s life has been affected to a greater or lesser degree by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sadly, some have lost loved ones to the virus, whilst others may have had the virus themselves and are suffering after-effects, commonly known as long-COVID.
Through no fault of their own, many employees will have been put on furlough and others will have lost their jobs due to business drying up. For a large percentage of the workforce, home working has become the norm, even if their home set up might not be ideal.
Human beings are a social species and the lack of social interaction with colleagues, family and friends during lockdown, has meant that people haven’t been getting their normal level of access to their support networks.
As a consequence of all the above, levels of anxiety have been increasing and the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 are huge. According to the Office for National Statistics, mental health conditions were responsible for 12.8% of all days lost through sickness absence in the UK in 2018.* Due to the events of the last 12 months, that percentage is likely to rise much further.
So, what can employers do to maintain and improve the health and wellbeing of their workforces during these difficult times?
Responsible employers can review their current Health and Wellbeing Programmes to ensure they are still providing appropriate support to their employees.
One essential element of a good Health and Wellbeing Programme is the Employee Assistance Programme, also known as an EAP.
EAPs have been around for a long time, with the first support programmes for employees believed to have been established in the US in 1917** but they have become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years.
A typical EAP provides professional support 24 hours-a-day and employees (and their dependants) can make contact by phone, web chat, text or email.
Some of the more common matters discussed include: -
Death & Bereavement
Furlough and Redundancy
Financial and Legal Matters
Childcare and Eldercare
More comprehensive EAPs offer face-to-face counselling sessions, which might be substituted for online (video) or phone therapy sessions during lockdown.
As you would expect, the service is completely confidential.
An EAP can be implemented relatively quickly, allowing you to start supporting the mental health of your workforce within days. The service should be regularly promoted to your employees to encourage them to utilize it in time of need.
An employer can expect a high return on investment (ROI) from an EAP in terms of increased productivity due to reduced absenteeism. According to the EAPA's calculator, a company introducing an EAP in the services industry in the North West, covering 300 employees and paying £8.85/head with a 15% usage rate can expect a return of £9.14 for each £1.00 spent.
If you're planning to include an EAP in your Health and Wellbeing programme, contact MEC today to speak with one of our experts.
*Office for National Statistics – Sickness absence in the UK labour market – Released 6th November 2019.
**The Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) - History of EAPs