Financial insecurity contributes to poor mental health for Welsh workers – and line managers want more training

  • 30% of Welsh workers are struggling to make ends meet, and fewer than half are satisfied with their current financial situation
  • More workers in Wales – 27% - than elsewhere in the UK  - 21% - report that their mental health negatively affects their financial situation
  • 67% of Welsh line managers have received no mental health training

A national mental health at work survey, commissioned by Business in the Community in partnership with Mercer, has found that employees are struggling to deal with the demands and insecurities of the workplace and that financial insecurity is contributing to the national burden of poor mental health.

The survey of over 4,000 people, conducted by YouGov and run for the third consecutive year, exposes the relationship between personal finances and mental health, with two thirds of respondents saying their mental health and wellbeing is affected by job security (67%) the state of the economy, (65%) and the cost of living (82%). 259 of the respondents were workers in Wales.

Financial concerns caused three-fifths of respondents to say they had experienced negative mental health symptoms such as loss of sleep, stress, lack of concentration, and fatigue.

Finding in Wales were broadly consistent with those across the UK but the report highlighted some specific issues facing Welsh workers:

  • In Wales, 27% of respondents were more likely to report that their mental health negatively affects their financial situation, compared to 21% in the rest of the UK feel comfortable talking about money issues at work
  • Just 46% of employees are satisfied with their current financial situation, Just 46% of employees are satisfied with their current financial situation, and one-quarter are struggling to make ends
  • meet. One in eight employees (12%) believe it is likely they could lose their job within the next 12 months.
  • Just 46% of employees are satisfied with their current financial situation, and one-quarter are struggling to make ends meet. One in eight employees (12%) believe it is likely they could lose their job within the next 12 months
  • Respondents in Wales were more likely to talk to their manager about general mental health issues (24%) than financial issues (12%) when given a direct choice
  • 30% of Welsh respondents say they are struggling to make ends meet compared with 24% across the UK
  • Welsh respondents feel more comfortable discussing issues like disability, religion and mental health compared to the workforce overall
  • Line managers in Wales – a substantial 42% as opposed to the UK average of 29% - report that their own lack of training is a barrier to providing support on mental wellbeing for staff, and 67% have had no training at all

Matt Appleby, director BITC Cymru, said:

“There is a clear two-way relationship between financial wellbeing and mental health and our research shows there is more that employers could be doing to support both in the workplace.

“There are many practical ways in which companies can help to prevent mental health issues, and to support those with existing conditions. Businesses can help by simply having more open conversations about financial issues, providing financial education, or signposting to professional money advice and support.

“More broadly, it is clear that good work is critical to supporting employee’s mental health and wellbeing. At a time of growing financial pressure on employees when wages are not keeping pace with living costs, employers can have a huge positive impact through fair pay, flexible working, training and progression, appropriate job design, decent work-life balance and a culture free of bullying and harassment.

Louise Aston, wellbeing director, Business in the Community, said:

“There is a two-way causal relationship between financial wellbeing and mental health, but very few employers support employees experiencing financial difficulties. Employers have a role in educating employees in financial literacy and signposting to appropriate sources of professional support.

“There is huge financial pressure on employees, with stagnant wages and living costs which continue to rise, so employers have an important role in educating employees in financial literacy and signposting them to appropriate sources of professional support.

“Although there has been slow incremental improvement of overall mental health at work over the past three years, collective and urgent action by employers is needed to build momentum quickly, taking a ‘whole person’ approach to physical, mental, financial and social health and wellbeing.

The report asks employers to take action to support financial wellbeing. They should:

  • Integrate financial wellbeing into organisational health and wellbeing policies and be explicit about what’s available or acceptable within the organisation to people with financial issues. For example, pay advances, hardship loans, time off to sort financial issues, travel loans, access to EAP, money counselling or other support services.
  • Offer financial education to improve employee financial understanding increase the use of existing benefits; making available salary deducted savings, in order to create a financial buffer; or offering salary-deducted lower cost loans to help employees who are in debt or have unexpected expenditure but no savings. Include awareness of financial issues in line manager employee wellbeing training and equip them with information about what solutions are available as part of the overall employee benefits package.
  • Signpost colleagues (staff, line managers and HR) to organisations that offer free help and guidance on money issues such as Money Advice Service (general money issues), The Pensions Advisory Service (for pension specific issues) and Step Change (personal debt counselling).

Wolfgang Seidl, Workplace Health Consulting Leader UK and Europe, Mercer Marsh Benefits said:

“For the health of the workforce to flourish, focus must shift from disconnected initiatives to approaches that address employees’ physical and mental wellbeing as one”, said Wolfgang Seidl, “Someone struggling to manage their income, may experience stress and sleep loss, leading to unhealthy comfort eating. They might not yet experience health issues and by encouraging a focus on financial wellness, employers can help prevent any from developing further down the line.

“Mental health has become such an abstract concept that it seems it cannot be treated, so a practical approach is important. Looking at the root causes, such as financial worries, harassment, lack of equality, lack of opportunities to exercise, and more, makes it easier to find ways to prevent and treat.”

Eve Read, UK Consulting Leader - DC & Individual Wealth, Mercer, added:

“Employers need to consider what workplace initiatives are required to support their employees’ financial wellbeing. Depending on the specific pain points experienced by employees company benefits programmes can be structured to drive positive change, by offering financial clinics, education sessions, personalised mobile communications on finances, savings options and debt management initiatives.”

Alongside the recommendations on financial wellbeing, The Mental Health at Work report asks employers to:

Ends 

Further details:

Please contact Lowri ap Robert Lowri.aprobert@bitc.org.uk 029 20 780 050

The executive summary, full report, Wales spotlight report and jpeg visuals of certain Wales statistics are available from lowri.aprobert@bitc.org.uk.

Mental Health in Wales event - 9 October

BITC Cymru is holding an event for members to discuss the findings of the Mental Health at Work Report (Wales findings) on Tuesday 9 October at PWC, Kingsway, Cardiff. Please get in touch if you would like to attend.

About Business in the Community Cymru

Business in the Community Cymru, part of the Prince’s Responsible Business Network, is a business-led membership organisation made up of progressive businesses of all sizes who understand that the prosperity of business and society are mutually dependent. We exist to build healthy communities with successful businesses at their heart. 

About Mercer

Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organisations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Mercer’s more than 23,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With nearly 65,000 colleagues and annual revenue over $14 billion, through its market-leading companies including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit www.mercer.com. Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer. In the UK, Mercer Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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