Canadian employers are increasing their focus on employee well-being as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey from Aon.
It found approximately 60 per cent expressed the need to evaluate and improve their mental-health offering, either with new services or by closing coverage or delivery gaps (47 per cent) identified during the pandemic. More than one-tenth (11 per cent) indicated a need to rethink coverage from the ground up.
More than one-quarter (27 per cent) of respondents said they want to add virtual health-care benefits to their plans. Of the nearly one-third of respondents already offering these benefits, approximately 50 per cent had them in place prior to the pandemic.
About two-thirds of respondents said the pandemic increased employee interest in lifestyle benefits such as stress management and counselling (84 per cent), financial planning (74 per cent), nutrition programs (70 per cent), virtual fitness memberships (69 per cent) and fitness equipment purchases or rentals (66 per cent).
However, 47 per cent of respondents said they weren’t considering changes to their benefits plans. Of plan sponsors that were considering changes, they cited reasons such as enhancing benefits (36 per cent), adding flexibility (24 per cent) and rebalancing current benefits to better reflect new priorities (19 per cent). Nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) also said diversity and inclusion is a key factor influencing benefits strategy. Only five per cent were considering reducing benefits in the face of cost pressures.
The survey also found a majority of respondents weren’t considering changes in key areas like cost-sharing (81 per cent) or underlying financial arrangements (95 per cent), with factors such as maintaining a competitive recruitment and retention environment (64 per cent), budgetary constraints (62 per cent) and employee engagement (61 per cent) identified as the main reasons.
Amid the pandemic, the top benefits concerns for employers include the rising costs of short- and long-term disability (75 per cent), the availability of services (83 per cent), possible increases to reasonable and customary limits by insurers (79 per cent) and dental cost increases (64 per cent).
“[The pandemic] has uncovered some gaps in current benefit packages and may have triggered a desire to re-evaluate needs — not so much on the core benefits like health, dental and life, but in the optional and supporting benefit areas that favour work-life balance and employee well-being,” said Joey Raheb, senior vice-president for health solutions at Aon, in a press release. “More than ever, employers are looking for a balance between budgetary constraints and the need for enhancements that speak to employee engagement and retention.”