Walmart Canada is increasing its mental-health benefits coverage for employees and expanding access to virtual health care.

Effective Feb. 1, 2023, the company will provide $3,500 in annual mental-health coverage per employee, up from $1,000. “We wanted to make a statement with our [employees] in terms of support for their mental health and $1,000 just wasn’t enough,” says Nadia Cerisano, vice-president of total rewards and global mobility at Walmart Canada. “We want to ensure that we’re providing additional support, especially during their time of need.”

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Through the company’s expanded virtual health-care program, employees will have access to primary care from trusted clinicians 24/7 and on-demand care via text and video consultations. These health-care professionals are trained to deliver inclusive care in a variety of languages, allowing employees to be matched with a compatible clinician, says Cerisano.

“Considering Canada is made up of a diverse population and Walmart is a microcosm of that, we wanted to make sure mental-health support was accessible in the language of the associate and their dependants’ choice.”

It was also important for the company to expand its virtual health-care offerings because many of its employees work onsite in stores, distribution centres, offices and delivery vehicles, she adds, noting it can be difficult for these employees to reach out for the right mental-health support during working hours.

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When it comes to providing mental-health support, employers should focus on communication and simplicity to help remove any barriers, says Roee Ben-Eli, director of strategic programs at Telus Health, which provides Walmart Canada’s virtual health-care platform.

“There are lots of different pieces to the [mental-health] puzzle and it becomes overwhelming,” he says. “The goal is for us to put everything in one place and we’re seeing a push for integration throughout the industry.”

Even though the coronavirus pandemic is waning, frontline workers are just starting to experience the long-term effects, adds Ben-Eli, and a lot of Canadians are reporting their mental health is still being affected by the health crisis, so employers need to continue making mental health a priority in the workplace.

Read: Survey finds mental-health support vital to move beyond pandemic