While more than ever Canadian companies realize that a healthy workforce is more productive, there’s often a discrepancy between what employees expect from their health benefits and what these benefits actually offer. Different generations also have different expectations about their benefits.

These are some of the main findings of the 2014 edition of The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey, which polled both plan sponsors and members.

The study reveals that millennial employees are more likely than their older co-workers to see benefits as a right. While 63% of boomers see health benefits are a perk or privilege, this sentiment falls to 50% among generation Y employees. “We might have some work to do with millennials [about] their sense of entitlement,” said David Willows, vice-president of strategic market solutions with Green Shield Canada, speaking at a Toronto event where the survey was unveiled. Companies need communication strategies that inspire greater appreciation for their benefit plans, he added.

Also, when offered the choice between $5,000 in cash a year or their health benefit plan, 45% of millennials would choose the cash, compared with just 25% of boomers, according to the survey. That’s because millennials “are probably healthier and probably have student loans to pay off,” said Chris Bonnett, president of H3 Consulting, who also spoke at the event. Employees have different priorities depending on their life stages, he explained.

Another generational difference highlighted by the study is that 75% of millennial employees want more flexibility in their health benefit plan and the ability to choose what’s covered and how much is covered, compared with 66% of baby boomers.

Above: David Willows presents survey results at the event in Toronto

The report also surveyed attitudes regarding post-retirement benefits. Nearly half (48%) of benefit plan members expect to have access to their current benefit plan after retirement. However, only 23% of employers currently offer some kind of coverage or access to coverage after retirement.

“Members realize they will need a [financial] plan in retirement” and they know they can’t rely too much on the government, said Connie Wong, director of pharmacy benefits with Manulife Financial, at the event. As a result, she explained, plan members worry about their finances, which can cause them to be distracted at work.

Another area of disconnect between plan sponsors and members is health screening. Most employees say they would participate in health risk screenings if their health benefit plan offered them. Specifically, 91% would get tested for cancer, 89% for heart disease, 84% for diabetes and 75% for stress or mental health. However, only 35% of surveyed employers are likely to offer screening for mental health, 34% for heart disease, 34% for diabetes and just 24% for cancer.

Above: Chris Bonnett discusses the results

“Wellness is no longer a risky initiative [in terms of return on investment],” said Wong, adding that the likely reasons why most employers are not investing in on-site health screenings include cost and the logistics of organizing them.

And while employees clearly expect more from their benefits, they will likely not have their desires fulfilled soon, according to Bonnett. “Most employers are not in any hurry to make fundamental plan design changes in the future,” he said.

Another area the survey touched upon is the relationship between plan sponsors and providers. It found that sponsors particularly look to insurance companies for help.

“On a scale of one to 10, plan sponsors rank insurers highest, at 7.6, in terms of expected level of support for wellness programs in the workplace, compared with 6.8 for healthcare providers and 6.2 for government,” the report notes.

And 79% of employers believe their insurance carriers should play a bigger role in helping them keep their workplaces healthy.

“Since most carriers are already active, often through health education materials and online tools for plan members, the results suggest that plan sponsors may not be aware of their providers’ offerings, or they’re looking for something different,” according to the report.

The survey polled 1,502 health benefit plan members as well as 500 benefit plan sponsors.

Above: Connie Wong explains the results in Toronto

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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