Employers increasingly interested in flexible benefits plans

By The IJ Staff | March 12 2019 11:30AM

Photo: Freepik

Canadian employers are increasingly focusing their employee benefits plans on flexibility, mental health and virtual health care, says the Conference Board of Canada's Benefits Benchmarking 2019 report. 

While traditional health care plans remain the most common, nearly two-thirds of Canadian employers are now offering health care spending accounts (HCSAs) to employees, found the report which surveyed 217 organizations with more than 1.2 million employees across Canada.

Multi-generational workforce

"As Canadian employers look to appeal to a multi-generational workforce, flexibility and choice are the key watchwords for health and wellness benefits," said Monica Haberl, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board of Canada in a March 11 announcement. "Supplementing fixed benefits plans with health care spending accounts provides flexibility and choice to employees while keeping business costs predictable."

The report also says that employers are focusing more on preventative health measures and medicines, as well as investment in benefits technologies such as tele or virtual healthcare and counselling, pharmacogenetics and fitness and wellness apps to encourage wellness and try to prevent illness before it occurs.

Mental health and wellness

The study found that about two-thirds of all responding organizations report enhancement or introduction of strategies to help employees with their mental health and wellness. Psychological services are one of the most commonly offered benefits and have an average annual maximum coverage of $800 (up from $694 in 2015).

Sixteen per cent of surveyed organizations increased their psychological health benefits since 2015, which was the last time this survey was conducted.

Medical cannabis

Only six per cent of organizations surveyed currently cover medical cannabis, mostly through HCSAs. However, 48 per cent of respondents reported that they are considering covering medical cannabis in the future.

The report also found benefits costs were relatively steady at 10 per cent of payroll or an average of $9,011 per full-time equivalent. “That said, cost containment remains the key priority for organization,” found the report. “More than one-third (34 per cent) of organizations ranked cost containment as the top priority for their benefits strategy.”