Why employers expect a mental health crisis this fall

Results from the Unum Group Employer Survey

September 21, 2020

For the first time in modern memory, there is uncertainty about how — or if — children across the country will 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, as well as 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 to save enrollment. Benefits and financial protections have become more important than ever, making enrollment critical. Employers need to ensure that employees have access to benefits counselors and education materials and find innovative ways to conduct enrollment in the COVID-19 workplace.

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.

About Unum Group and Colonial Life

At Unum Group, of which Colonial Life is a subsidiary, we help employers and employees prepare for life’s unexpected moments. We help millions of people gain affordable access to voluntary benefits, such as disability, life, accident, hospital indemnity and critical illness, through the workplace. In doing so, we empower them to protect their families, their finances and their futures.