Employee, employer views on quality of benefits plans differ, finds Sanofi survey

While nearly half (47 per cent) of Canadian employees described their health benefits plan as excellent or very good, this number is at the low end of results gathered since 2006, according to the 2020 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

Over the 15-year period in which the survey has been conducted, results have ranged between 47 and 59 per cent. In 2020, 44 per cent of respondents described their plan as good, followed by poor (five per cent) or very poor (two per cent).

On the other hand, employers are somewhat more positive about the quality of their health benefits plan, with 64 per cent describing it as excellent or very good. This number is consistent with results since 2011, the first year the question was asked.

Read: Gaps persist in plan sponsor, member views on benefits: Sanofi

Consistent with past years, 57 per cent of plan members reported their health benefits plan meets their needs extremely or very well, while 36 per cent said it does so somewhat well and just seven per cent said not very or not at all well. Those in poor health were less likely to report their health benefits plan meets their needs extremely or very well — 49 per cent compared to 72 per cent among those in excellent/very good health.

As well, 68 per cent of plan members with health-care spending accounts said their health benefits plan meets their needs, compared to 49 per cent of those without HCSAs. And nearly half (49 per cent) said their benefits plan will definitely or very likely meet their and their families’ needs in five years’ time, with those with HCSAs and a wellness culture in their organization more positive.

“If you are considering a plan redesign, ask plan members what they value,” said Carol Craig, director of pension and benefits at Telus Communications Inc. and a member of Sanofi Canada’s advisory board.

“Focus groups can give especially good insights. But don’t engage employees unless you’re truly ready to listen, let go of assumptions and respond to the feedback you receive.”

Read: Q&A with Telus Communications’ Carol Craig 

According to the survey, 60 per cent of plan sponsors said the main purpose of their health benefits plan is to support employee health and productivity, followed closely by peace of mind (56 per cent), attraction and retention (55 per cent) and the protection of employees from undue financial burdens (55 per cent).

Company size also influenced results: employers with fewer than 50 employees put attraction and retention (64 per cent) and peace of mind (64 per cent) at the top of the list, while larger employers gave top rankings to health and productivity (61 per cent) and avoidance of financial hardship (54 per cent).

In addition, while 86 per cent of plan members agreed their health benefits plan is an important factor when deciding on a job offer, 71 per cent said the plan is a strong incentive for them to stay with their employer.

The survey also found a wellness culture is an important factor when deciding on a job offer or remaining at an organization, according to 86 per cent of plan members. But almost half (46 per cent) of plan sponsor respondents said it’s become more difficult to attract employees over the past five years, with only 14 per cent saying it’s become easier. When it comes to retention, 40 per cent felt it’s become more difficult and 16 per cent said easier.

Read: Majority of benefits plan members agree workplace culture encourages wellness

“Organizations that promote the health and well-being of their employees certainly stood out in the context of the labour shortage before the COVID-19 health crisis. They will stand out even more after this crisis,” said Brigette Marcoux, organizational health senior advisor at SSQ Life Insurance Co. and a member of the Sanofi Canada advisory board. “A healthy workplace environment has never been more valuable to Canadian workers. Workplaces that are culturally focused on the well-being of their employees will do best when the economy returns to normal.”