Canadian employees with ongoing health challenges have faced unique challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey by RBC Insurance.

Among employees with a chronic health condition, 63 per cent said the inability to visit a doctor or clinic during the pandemic negatively impacted their health, compared to 47 per cent of those without a chronic health issue.

Read: Employee mental health top well-being issue for 72% of Canadian employers: survey

While 58 per cent of Canadian workers with a disability or chronic health issue said their condition would deteriorate even further without their workplace benefits plan, 40 per cent said they experienced challenges accessing their employer’s group benefits because of their unique needs. A majority (64 per cent) of these respondents were more likely to agree that using virtual tools to connect with mental-health supports were useful, compared to those who don’t have chronic health issues (50 per cent).

Approximately 40 per cent of working Canadians said they experienced a decline in their physical health during the pandemic, with the inability to socialize (72 per cent) and work-related stress (58 per cent) cited among the major factors impacting overall health.

Read: Half of Canadians increasing use of virtual health care amid pandemic: survey

Julie Gaudry, head of group benefits at RBC Insurance, says while the survey validated concerns over the barriers faced by employees with chronic health challenges, it also highlighted opportunities for employers. “Without employer benefits, those employees would have faced a further decline in their health, but they also cited challenges in accessing care. There’s definitely opportunities for employers to improve access to the services they provide for Canadians facing health challenges. One of those ways is through virtual health care. We’ve seen an increased willingness to use these tools, which is even higher among Canadians with chronic health conditions.”

Read: Plan sponsors focusing on well-being, virtual health care in year two of pandemic: survey