As the manager of a benefits plan, Lisa Redmond’s perspectives changed when she learned she had breast cancer and had to access the benefits from the perspective of a plan member rather than a plan sponsor.
“For me, much of these programs, and the value of these benefits, was basically theoretical in nature as I had limited need to access the programs over the years,” she told the audience at Benefits Canada’s 2016 Employers Cancer Care Summit in Toronto in February. “A cancer diagnosis changed my view of these programs as I began to view them through the eyes of an employee and a patient.”
Redmond is the manager of pension and benefits, strategic human resources and governance at the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia. She recently returned to work following a year of treatment. At the event last month, Redmond provided an overview of her journey.
Overall, she thought her benefits program did a good job of meeting her needs and highlighted some of the areas that were helpful.
Redmond had many medical appointments and tests to go to, all of which can disrupt a regular work routine. Her benefits program provided her with paid time off to attend doctor’s appointments if she couldn’t arrange them outside of work hours. That meant she didn’t have to worry about the financial impact.
“Money is a big concern,” said Redmond. “Treatment and having cancer is scary, but the thought of having to deal with the financial stresses is even sometimes scarier.”
She highlighted how having sick leave as well as short- and long-term disability benefits can help plan members with financial needs. She noted it’s important that programs have as little red tape as possible.
Redmond was also able to work from home on a flexible schedule. “This allowed me to manage my appointments and reduce the amount of disruptions in my day,” she said, noting the flexible schedule was helpful in managing her side-effects, energy levels and treatment while completing projects.
Throughout her treatment, Redmond found it was important to keep active and do as much as she could. “I used to get comments from people because I was out hiking and biking and doing all of these things while I was going through treatment and they would say, ‘Well, why aren’t you at work?’” But Redmond found being at work wasn’t always the biggest priority as she needed to make sure she was strong enough for the next round of treatment.
Redmond cautioned other plan sponsors that employees may not go through the same experiences as she did because she was fortunate to live in a big city, work at a large corporation and be in a management position. Someone with different circumstances would have a different experience, she noted.
“Looking back, if I had not been the manager of benefits programs, I can think of a number of things that would have helped me through the journey,” she said.
Redmond said a map of how the various benefit and wellness programs work together would help. Another way to help employees is by providing a guide or a coach. “It’s a wild world out there trying to figure out how the whole cancer treatment works,” said Redmond.