World suicide prevention day: benefits won’t help if they are not appreciated

Suicide is preventable. Employee benefits can and do help to prevent suicide in many ways – from providing access to mental health support such as counselling, to help with debt and money worries. However, employee benefits can only help if they are utilised and appreciated.

GRiD, the industry body for the group risk sector, has carried out extensive research into employee benefits and whether they are well-received. Undertaken among over 500 HR decision makers in companies of all sizes across the UK, the research has been released by GRiD today to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September. It reveals that only 53% of companies say their staff appreciate their employee benefits ‘very much’. 

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, says: “If employees don’t appreciate their benefits, then it is going to be difficult for them to achieve what they are designed to do.

“For this World Suicide Prevention Day, we would like to highlight how important it is that employers don’t just put benefits in place, but that they regularly tell their staff what support is available, actively encourage them to use it, and measure how much it’s utilised and appreciated. This is the best way to ensure benefits do what they’re designed to, which is particularly important in terms of accessing support for mental health.”

Lack of measurement

The research found that only 51% of employers even measure staff appreciation of benefits. This decreases and increases in line with numbers of employees: with the smallest companies being least likely to measure appreciation of benefits, and large corporates the most likely to assess how they are valued.

When it comes to measuring staff appreciation of benefits, the most popular methods are through informal feedback to managers or HR professionals, or through formal survey. Both of these methods are used by 41% of employers. The next most popular options are a suggestion box and employee benefits forums or working groups, both used by 38% of companies.

Management information (MI) on utilisation of benefits is the least popular option, only used by 16% of employers. This is a missed opportunity to gauge how much a benefit is really used and is a good option in conjunction with other methods to understand how employees value benefits on offer.

Worrying indifference

The survey revealed that of those companies that measure appreciation of benefits, 42% said their employees only ‘somewhat’ appreciate them.

Katharine Moxham comments: “There is a concerning set of circumstances in which employees seem to be blasé or indifferent to the benefits they are provided. Preventing ill health, both physical and mental, is a key reason for offering health and wellbeing benefits. Employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness all include a great deal of support for mental wellbeing. But if these benefits are not being communicated and appreciated, then they are not able to perform to their full potential and wellbeing may suffer as a result.

“Suicide is preventable, and the support within employee benefits can help with this. Employers can play their part by joining in with this year’s theme creating hope through action and boosting understanding and appreciation of the benefits they have in place to support their people. This will in turn lead to better mental health outcomes.”