Companies maintaining employee benefits during pandemic

By Kate McCaffery | May 06 2020 09:30AM

Photo: Freepik

New research from the Conference Board of Canada shows that most organizations, despite pressure to reduce overhead costs, are staying the course and continuing to offer employee benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although some cuts are being made to healthcare spending accounts, most organizations are still continuing their benefits coverage for laid off employees, as well.

The employee benefits survey, entitled Working Through COVID-19, found that 68 per cent of organizations surveyed say they have not made any changes to their employee benefits offerings in the wake of COVID-19 while 32 per cent say they have made or are considering making changes.

“Leading the pack, 46 per cent of utility companies have made or are considering making changes to employee benefits coverage. Retail trade follows at 44 per cent of companies. Almost all organizations in these industries are looking to increase coverage as opposed to reducing it,” say the study’s authors. “Across all organizations that have made changes, 46 per cent increased their paid sick leave.”

Of those surveyed, 15 per cent say they have recently added virtual psychological services to their benefits, 30 per cent already had such services in place, and 12 per cent were thinking about adding the offering. Of those surveyed, 43 per cent say they were not planning to add virtual psychological services to their benefits. At the same time, 22 per cent say they have recently added virtual healthcare services to their benefits; 45 per cent say they have no plans to add virtual healthcare to their benefits offering.

The survey also found that 68 per cent of the time, laid-off employees were still covered by their company’s benefits policy. Of those that are still continuing to offer benefits coverage for laid-off employees, the Conference Board says nearly three in four have kept the same cost-sharing arrangements in place. “Another 20 per cent are now taking on the full cost of premiums for laid-off employees where they hadn’t during their active employment,” they write. Although in 71 per cent of cases the cost sharing arrangement remains the same, 20 per cent of the time employers say they are now fully covering 100 per cent of all premiums.

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