More than a third (38 per cent) of plan sponsors are planning to update their benefits plan design by the end of this year, on par with those that did so in 2020 (39 per cent), according to a survey by Arthur J. Gallagher Canada Ltd.

The survey, which polled more than 500 Canadian plan sponsors, found program enhancements are a top focus (16 per cent), as well as implementing a well-being strategy (15 per cent), introducing or enhancing benefits flexibility (11 per cent), adding drug cost-management initiatives (seven per cent) and introducing a health-care spending account (six per cent). Just three per cent indicated they intend to reduce programs this year.

Read: Employers making pension, benefits changes as pandemic continues: survey

Additionally, 64 per cent of respondents said they provide a traditional benefits plan with choices limited to optional life, accidental death and dismemberment or critical illness. Close to a third (27 per cent) offer a traditional plan with a health-care spending account. Only eight per cent offer a flexible-modular option with a choice of plans and a plan member cost share, while just one per cent offer a flexible-cafeteria plan with a choice of options for each line of benefits; however, this number rises to five per cent among employers with 500 or more full-time employees.

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) said they provide voluntary benefits, including optional life insurance (82 per cent), executive medical exams (26 per cent), home and auto insurance (23 per cent), pet insurance (eight per cent), legal services (seven per cent), vision insurance (five per cent), diagnostic imaging (three per cent), identity theft protection (two per cent) and long-term care insurance (one per cent). Another 23 per cent cited other types of benefits.

Read: An employer’s guide to curating a suite of voluntary benefits

When asked to rank insurer services by importance, respondents cited drug cost-management options in the top spot (56 per cent), followed by insurer technologies (52 per cent), well-being options (42 per cent), absence and disability management (39 per cent), provider technologies (32 per cent), plan administration capabilities (31 per cent), human resources support (17 per cent), mobile applications (15 per cent) and news bulletins (three per cent).

Over the last 12 months, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents have added flexible working hours to their offerings. The percentage of employers that said they offer telecommuting jumped 14 points from 2020 to 52 per cent — the highest gain for any work-life integration offering this year. Other work-life integration offerings now offered by employers are a compressed work week (21 per cent) and job sharing (seven per cent).

In terms of time off, most employers said they offer bereavement (90 per cent) and jury duty leave (72 per cent), while fewer provide maternity or parental top-up benefits (31 per cent), education leave (28 per cent), volunteer hours (21 per cent) or unpaid sabbaticals (20 per cent).

Read: How employers can tweak benefits offerings amid rising inflation