In Absence Management, Disability Claims

It is estimated that more than 80% of adults in the US have mental health issues. It is more common than you probably think, but it is also undertreated and costly to productivity. Both IBI and DMEC have been conducting research to determine the effects of mental health on the workforce and productivity.

According to recent IBI statistics, for every employee with diabetes, there are three employees with either depression or anxiety. Almost all employees suffering from diabetes will have been treated for their condition, whereas only one in four employees with depression have been treated. Mental health is of course an issue, which is seldom discussed, making it a difficult issue for an employee to address in the workplace.

DMEC conducted a Behavioral Risk Survey to examine the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. Since the last survey was conducted two years ago, 25% of respondents actually stated that mental health stigma has increased in that time; with another 41% reporting that associated stigma has remained the same. With employees feeling that stigma is associated with mental health, it is difficult to get the help they need to deal with the root of the cause, and usually, they end up going to work regardless.

With employees affected by mental health, they usually are unable to perform to the best of their ability, affecting employers’ bottom line. Employers should help employees to deal with these issues as soon as they arise and enable employees to get the help they need while ensuring presenteeism isn’t affecting productivity.

Mental illness has a huge impact on employer’s productivity due to days missed. The average employee suffering from depression misses an average of 4.7 days per year, compared to a three-day average for a diabetes sufferer. Diabetes is well known to be a serious illness, whereas mental illness stigma often prevents an employee from seeking the help they need.

By 2020 it is estimated that disability claims stemming from depression will trail only cardiovascular disease. This is a worrying statistic for both employers and employees. As well as being morally wrong to stigmatize an employee, it is in an employer’s best interest to help their employees on the road to recovery.

Employers wishing to help employees suffering from mental health issues need to begin addressing the issue early on in the process. If an employee has called out for an absence covered by company sick leave, the FMLA or ADA, and it results in a short-term (STD) or long-term disability (LTD), employers should interact with these employees to determine how they can help them to get back to work.

It is well known that out-of-work employees can suffer from further issues relating to depression, so quicker return to work with accommodations can really help. Screening and other tools allow employers to identify and address mental health issues. If your employees may be at risk, it may be worth researching some options to ensure employees’ mental health problems aren’t affecting your bottom line.

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