Only 26 per cent of dissatisfied employees are aware of their workplaces’ health benefits plans, according to the 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey.

That number rises to 38 per cent for satisfied employees, indicating a correlation between awareness and personal states of mind.

“Communication is clearly an issue,” said one of the survey’s advisory board members, Jacques L’Espérance, president of J. L’Espérance Actuariat Conseil Inc. “Employers may be sending out messages but for whatever reason employees are not understanding these messages.”

Read: 6 tips for engaging employees in their health

While 47 per cent of employer respondents said they provide health and wellness programs, only 33 per cent of plan members thought so. The larger the organization, the larger the gap, with 63 per cent of large employers (500 more employees) reporting that they offer wellness benefits, while 38 per cent of plan members at large organizations thought so.

However, even within benefit plans employees are aware of, usage rates can be low, according to the survey. Employee assistance programs tend to have an average usage rate of 11 per cent, said advisory board member Paula Allen, vice-president of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell.

“Improved communications can as much as double utilization and 20 per cent is good for ROI,” she explained. “That’s still less than two per cent of overall benefit costs, yet at that level we can really see reduced claims in other areas.”

Read: 93% of ABB Canada staff tailor their benefits plan

Targeted communication is another potential avenue to explore, with more than half (58 per cent) of plan members who responded to the survey saying they’d consent to receiving health-related information. But Anne Nicoll, vice-president of business development at Medavie Blue Cross and an advisory board member, warned during the launch of the survey in Toronto on June 14 that such communications could both attract and push employees away.

“This is where we need to think about targeted communications in both a push and pull form. Push communications is where communication is forced upon you, like direct mail, whereas pull communication is available to you when you want it, when you need and when you will use it,” said Nicoll. “Targeted communication to plan members needs to have components of both.”

How do the 2016 results compare to related questions five years ago?

Two-thirds (76 per cent) of employee respondents to Sanofi’s 2011 report said their employers did a very good or good job of communicating what’s available in their health benefits plan. The number climbed to 87 per cent among those who rate the quality of their benefits as very good or excellent.

The survey found that 37 per cent received health education materials through their company website, while 38 per cent received brochures or emails.

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Read more findings from the 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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