Why employers expect a mental health crisis this fall

Results from the Unum employer survey, September 16, 2020

For the first time in modern memory, children across the country may or may not be going back to school full time this fall. 

School schedules nationwide have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many districts planning virtual or hybrid classes in place of in-person learning. 

Echoing the events of last spring, when schools in every state sent kids home to learn, modified school schedules place a heavy burden on parents who need to work during the school day — and on their employers. 

Mental health concerns are mounting, as employees exhaust both their time-off banks and their reserves of resilience. 

Our latest survey of employers across the U.S. shows what they expect for the fall re-entry and how they plan to help employees cope — including critically important plans for benefits enrollment. Read the report now


  • Part one: Modified school schedules will stress parents and employers. Nearly every business will be affected by modified school schedules. Employers think they will see a reduction in productivity and focus, and a big increase in requests for leave.
  • Part two: A mental health crisis is on the horizon. Employees who’ve been juggling parenting and work for the last five months may soon start dropping balls. Almost nine in ten employers we surveyed listed employee mental health as a top concern, and most have started planning to meet the challenge.
  • Part three: Employers need to get creative about enrollment. Just as financial protection benefits become more important than ever, enrollment is becoming more difficult. Employers need to make sure they’re educating employees about their choices, and find creative ways to conduct enrollment in the COVID-19 environment.

About the survey

We surveyed 409 employers from August 12 to August 20, 2020, with roughly 100 responses coming from employers in each of four employee-size categories: 1 to 99, 100 to 499, 500 to 1,999 and 2,000+. Respondents were limited to persons involved in employee benefits decision-making or administration at U.S.-based organizations representing a wide variety of industries. We are actively keeping a pulse on the market and employers’ concerns amid the pandemic’s disruptions and have been releasing bi-monthly reports since April 2020.

About Unum

At Unum, we help the working world thrive throughout life’s moments. We help millions of people gain affordable access to disability, life, accident, critical illness, dental and vision benefits through the workplace — benefits that help them protect their families, their finances and their futures.

Additional resources

  • Webinar
    How employers can mitigate a looming mental health crisis
  • June report
    Read the June 2020 Employer Insights Survey
  • HR Trends
    Visit HR Trends for more helpful resources, including podcasts, webinars, articles and reports
  • Introducing Unum Behavioral Health
    A better way to keep your employees healthy and productive

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