Three-quarters (73 per cent) of benefits plan members agree — 22 per cent strongly — their workplace environment supports mental wellness, according to the 2023 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey.
It found this percentage increased to 86 per cent among plan members who also reported a workplace wellness culture, compared to just 30 per cent for those without a wellness culture.
Eight in 10 (79 per cent) plan sponsors said they offer at least one out of nine possible wellness programs. Nearly half (48 per cent) offer a mental-health initiative, followed by immunizations at work (46 per cent) and fitness challenges (33 per cent). A fifth (21 per cent) weren’t interested in offering any of the listed wellness programs.
Out of 14 possible ways to support mental wellness, plan members most often cited good relationships with co-workers (47 per cent), a positive work environment (43 per cent) and a good relationship with their immediate supervisor (42 per cent). In comparison, plan sponsors cited good relationships with co-workers (45 per cent), a reasonable workload (42 per cent), a good relationship with their immediate supervisor (38 per cent) and recognition at work (38 per cent).
More than half (55 per cent) of plan sponsors reported having training programs for managers and/or employees to help them recognize and respond to signs of depression or other mental-health conditions. In 2018, only 37 per cent had one or both types of training. These programs were far more likely to be available in organizations with 500 or more employees (67 per cent) than those with fewer than 50 employees (29 per cent). More than a third (39 per cent) of plan sponsors said they provide training for managers and 35 per cent said they provide training for all employees.
One in 10 (12 per cent) plan sponsors reported not providing any coverage for mental-health counselling, up slightly from 2022 (nine per cent). Among the remaining plan sponsors, roughly a quarter provided employees with an annual coverage maximum of up to $500 (28 per cent), between $501 and $1,000 (25 per cent) or between $1,001 and $5,000 (23 per cent).
From 2020 to 2023, between 16 per cent (2023) and 24 per cent (2022) of plan sponsors increased their annual maximum. The average reported annual maximum was $1,627, down from $2,006 in 2022. For flexible benefits plans, the average annual maximum was $2,150, compared to $1,651 for traditional plans.
A third (34 per cent) of plan sponsors said they plan to increase their annual maximum for mental-health counselling, up from 28 per cent in 2022 and the highest number recorded in four years.
“We’ll also see more emphasis put on psychologically healthy and safe workplaces,” said Judy Plotkin, vice-president of health solutions at People Corporation Inc. and a member of the survey’s advisory board. “Mental-health benefits are important, absolutely, but they won’t be successful if we’re putting healthy fish back in a polluted pond. Organizational health is fundamental to the creation of a psychologically safe workplace.”