Nearly one-third of the year – 112 days. That’s the average length of time employees are out of work because of a mental health condition, according to research from The Standard.
The disability insurance provider released the results of a study that showed employee absence and disability are challenging employers in a tight job market.
In addition to the above-mentioned statistic on mental health leave, The Standard’s study showed some other disconcerting numbers surrounding employee absence:
Employees with chronic conditions are out of work an average of 64 days.
The average disability leave is 59 days.
60 percent of U.S. employers have job openings that stay vacant for 12 weeks or longer.
These drains on workforce productivity and extended job vacancies are costing companies an average of more than $800,000 annually, The Standard said.
“It’s one of those things that are right in front of everybody, but nobody is talking about it the right way,” said Dan McMillan, vice president of employee benefits for The Standard. “There’s a little bit of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with employers and advisors who think about employee absence and disability.”
McMillan said that it’s important for DI carriers, advisors and employers to understand the impact of absence and disability on the workplace. “It’s something employers are missing if they’re not managing it well,” he said.
Most employers who participated in the study said they need help keeping up with employee absence and disability laws. Sixty-one percent said that with so many absence and disability laws and guidelines, it’s hard to know which ones apply to their workplace. More than half of employers also said they need help staying on top of best practices for absence and disability, and when it is legal to fire an employee for being out too much.
Not knowing how to deal with these issues can lead to lawsuits and complaints. Three-quarters of human resource decision-makers at large companies told The Standard they have experienced complaints or lawsuits related to absence practices. Nearly as many experienced complaints or lawsuits related to disability management. Up to one-third of small-business owners said they are in the same boat, with fewer resources to deal with time-consuming disputes.
Two-thirds of HR decision-makers said their companies receive at least one request per year to accommodate a worker with a temporary physical disability. About half of the HR professionals said they are asked at least once a year to accommodate a worker with a chronic condition.
Percentage of workers taking leave for the following conditions:
Employers said they do provide accommodations to workers who need them. These accommodations include modifying a work schedule or providing leave, providing ergonomic or adaptive equipment, and referring a worker to support systems such as an employee assistance program.
However, fewer than half of employers said they provided other types of accommodations, such as job reassignment or modified worksites.
Employers said they also are dealing with mental health issues among their workers, with 38 percent saying they get requests to accommodate mental health conditions at least once a year.
Workers with chronic conditions reported their own set of issues. More than half (56 percent) said they are afraid of being seen as unproductive and concerned they might lose their jobs. Forty-seven percent said they are scared to discuss their condition at work.
The bottom line impact of these findings “is very real,” McMillan said. “Employers understand it’s a problem but don’t know what to do about it. Today’s workforce has four generations in it. The approach is not always the same as it might have been a decade or two ago. The ability to keep all those productive employees in place is good for the employer and the employee.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.