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Employee Assistance Programs Lead to Healthier, More Productive Workplaces,Says Morneau Shepell Study on Mental Health

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Employee Assistance Programs / Mental Health / Canada

Employee Assistance Programs Lead to Healthier, More Productive Workplaces,Says Morneau Shepell Study on Mental Health

Managers need training in how to deal with mental health issues

TORONTO, June 21, 2011 /CNW/ - Mental health in the workplace is costing Canadian organizations a lot of money and much of it is unnecessary, according to a new study by Morneau Shepell. The study says that intervention through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) translates into improved employee mental health and higher productivity, as well as a 25 per cent reduction in costs due to lost productivity.

"Mental health is a business issue in the Canadian workplace," states Karen Seward, Senior Vice-President, Business Development and Marketing, Morneau Shepell. "People with mental health issues are uncomfortable at work and it affects their job. However, most managers have little or no training in how to manage employees with these problems. There is definitely a lot of room for education and improvement."

For the study, titled EAP Improves Health Status and Productivity, and Demonstrates a Positive ROI, Morneau Shepell gathered information from 53,224 EAP client cases which opened and closed during 2010. The data was collected through a survey, and involved responses from both employees and dependents covered by the EAP.

Furthering awareness on mental health issues, Morneau Shepell sponsored the Conference Board of Canada report Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces: Perspectives of Canadian Workers and Front-Line Managers, which was released yesterday. That report provided a national perspective from working Canadians on their work environment, and the degree to which it supports their mental well-being. It said 44 per cent of employees surveyed had experienced a mental health issue, but only 26 per cent of surveyed employees felt that their supervisor effectively managed mental health issues, and 44 per cent of managers had no training in how to manage employees with mental health issues.

The Morneau Shepell study collected data to measure four specific outcomes: general health status, mental health status, productivity, and absenteeism. Here are some of its findings:

  • Employees rated their mental health 15 per cent higher after receiving EAP support.
  • EAP intervention resulted in a 34 per cent reduction in costs related to lost productivity.
  • Before EAP intervention, decreased productivity and absence was costing organizations almost $20,000 per employee per year.

"Research shows that workers with depressive disorders, in particular, can have almost four times more health-related lost productive time than those who do not suffer from these problems," Seward said. "The toll on the bottom line is huge."

The Mental Health Commission of Canada estimates that mental illness costs the Canadian economy $51 billion a year in terms of health care service use, lost workdays, and work disruptions.

Seward said that, in addition to EAPs, a number of tools are available to assist organizations. They include workshops about mental health in the workplace; consultants who design programs to address the problem; a disability program that focuses on identification, support and access to mental health care; Drug Analysis and a Sustainability Index which provides trends, benchmarks and best practices in mental health, and manager support. Other tools, both provided through EAP, are Work Assist which is a voluntary counselling support service that focuses on emotional and mental health and is designed to help employees on short-term or long-term disability benefits return to healthy productive living, and Depression Care which is an enhanced service that builds on basic confidential counselling.

Today EAPs serve about 75 per cent of North American businesses and are a key component of benefit plans. The Morneau Shepell study makes two key recommendations:

  1. Organizations should develop a more strategic partnership with their EAP provider as a first step in realizing the return on their investment. The provider can recommend strategies to optimize the use of the EAP as a preventative measure with the objective of saving costs down the line, and be positioned to make recommendations around the strategic use of EAP services to support the organization's health priorities.
  2. Organizations should consider a comprehensive, strategic approach to absence management. To promote sustained attendance at work, and prevent downstream costs and consequences, they should shift from standalone absence administration programs to attendance management strategies aligned with the company's business objectives, cost management goals, and strategies related to employee engagement and retention.

Earlier this year Morneau Shepell established a Mental Health Advisory Board to help advise its clients of mental health solutions in the workplace, and it includes internationally renowned mental health specialists from across Canada. Dr. Martin Shain, who is a member of the Advisory Board, has estimated that $3 billion to $11 billion could be saved annually in Canada if mental injuries caused by the actions of employers are prevented.

Morneau Shepell

Morneau Shepell is the largest Canadian-based firm offering industry leading benefits and pension consulting, outsourcing, as well as health and productivity solutions. The company works with clients to develop innovative solutions that integrate with their business strategies to achieve results. Through Benefits and Health Solutions Consulting, Pension Consulting, Health Management, Administration Solutions and Shepell-fgi's Employee Assistance Program, Morneau Shepell helps clients reduce costs, increase employee productivity, and improve their competitive positions by supporting their employees' financial security, health and well-being.

Established in 1962, Morneau Shepell has grown to serve over 8,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to some of the largest corporations and associations in North America. Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, it has offices in the United States and over 70 locations across Canada. Morneau Shepell Inc. is a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). For more information, visit

For further information:

Jerry Amernic
416 284-0838