More employers offering support for physical health than mental health

Young workers and seniors are the most impacted when they need time off work due to an illness or disability because less than one-half are covered by employer sick leave and disability leave plans.
Gaps in employer programs to address mental health issues and chronic disease are also identified in the Conference Board of Canada report Disability Management: Opportunities for Employer Action, based on a survey of 2,004 workers, including 727 front-line managers.

"Both young people and seniors are more likely to have casual, contract or part-time jobs that can be less secure and offer fewer benefits. As we enter a period of tight labour markets, employers will need to think about how to best engage these two segments of workers to ensure they remain healthy and productive at work,” said Karla Thorpe, director of leadership and human resources research at the Conference Board.

Certain demographic groups are more at risk than others. One-third of 18 to 24 year olds in the workforce have paid sick days or short-term disability coverage while one-quarter (26 per cent) have coverage in the event of a long-term disability. Less than one-half of individuals in the workforce over the age of 65 have paid sick days or short-term disability leave, and only 41 per cent have long-term disability coverage, found the survey.

Employees with mental health issues are also somewhat more vulnerable — more organization offer supportive programs and services for physical health issues (61 per cent) than mental health issues (53 per cent). And 52 per cent of employees surveyed said programs and services that support their physical health are helpful but fewer (40 per cent) agreed mental health supports provided by their employer are useful.

This Conference Board publication is third of a three-part series, following the release of Missing in Action — Absenteeism Trends in Canadian Organizations and Creating an Effective Workplace Disability Management Program.

This research was also funded by Morneau Shepell, Sun Life Financial, Centric Health, Banyan Work Health Solutions and Sanofi Canada.