Manulife enhances family benefits for Canadian employees

Family-building benefits can go a long way in supporting employers’ attraction and retention efforts, says David Krieger, regional vice-president of benefits consulting at BFL Canada.

“Employees are looking for their employers to provide more support in all aspects of their lives, including building their families. We’re also seeing surrogacy coverage becoming more prevalent in Canada and we have more clients asking about this. Most Canadian employers seem to provide personal time off for both [biological and adoptive parents].”

Read: Plan member’s adoption dream becoming reality thanks to benefits offering

While the utilization of these family-building benefits is typically low, the return for offering them can be quite high, he adds, noting these benefits can also help support new parents’ well-being. In January, baby clothing company Kyte Baby found this out the hard way after its chief executive officer publicly apologized twice via social media to an employee whose remote working request was denied and was subsequently fired, while her adopted newborn was in the neonatal intensive care unit. The company’s initial inflexibility towards the employee spurred backlash and condemnation from the public.

“[For employers,] diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging continues to be a top focus and it’s increasing the importance of recognizing family outside of the traditional sense,” says Krieger. “There are all different types of families and I think there’s an expectation to be treated equally. There’s also an increased awareness of what offerings are out there and the types of supports and programs each organization brings to the table.”

A recent survey by EY found a majority (89 per cent) of Canadian employees felt leading with empathy helps to increase job satisfaction and a similar percentage (87 per cent) said leaders who practice genuine empathy can positively influence employees’ mental health and overall well-being.

Read: Walmart expanding fertility benefits for U.S. employees

Workplace support for adoption seems to be improving, as U.S. companies like the Walt Disney Company and Walmart Inc. being added to the 2023 Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Top 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list.

In Canada, Walmart offers maternity, parental and adoption leave top-up payments for employees looking to grow their family. These top-up payments are provided for up to 12 weeks and went into effect Oct. 1, 2021, said a company spokesperson in an email to Benefits Canada.

“Walmart Canada is always looking for ways to support our associates and attract the best people to our team. We regularly review our programs and continue to find new opportunities to support development, incentive and reward programs for all associates in our operations.”

Read: 84% of U.S. employers planning to adjust leave programs in the next two years: survey