Employers taking many approaches to leave, benefits during coronavirus pandemic

Canadian employers are taking varied approaches to leave, compensation and benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey by Aon.

The survey, conducted between April 1 and 3, found two in five employers said they’ve laid workers off temporarily. About a quarter (23 per cent) said they’ve encouraged workers to take annual leave, while 31 per cent have extended paid sick/quarantine leave and 19 per cent have extended teleworking practices.

More than a third (37 per cent) said they’ve made no changes to compensation in light of the pandemic, but many are considering their options, including freezing or postponing non-statutory salary adjustments or merit increases (23 per cent), cutting pay (15 per cent) or reducing bonuses (four per cent).

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Almost a third (30 per cent) said they’re still paying workers who can’t come to their physical workplace or are working from home.

“Many businesses are grappling with operational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 economy, which has forced them to make decisions to try and manage absences, modify compensation and, in some cases, facilitate temporary workforce reductions,” said Alexandra Georgescu, vice-president of health solutions for Aon, in a press release.

“Beyond operations — half of survey respondents said they temporarily or partly shut down operations — a big area of focus in the immediate term is compensation, with many employers freezing non-statutory salary increases and reducing pay. Yet, the fact is employers will continue to grapple with the impact of COVID-19 not only while the public health measures are in effect, but also after they end, when organizations will have to face resuming ‘normal’ operations in what could be a radically changed economic environment.”

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About half of employers said they’re keeping all employees benefits, including disability, in place, while about one in five said they’ve stopped offering disability benefits. For non-unionized employers, one in 10 said they’re only continuing medical, dental and life insurance benefits during the crisis.

Most (72 per cent) said they aren’t making any changes to benefits cost-sharing. However, one in five said they’re moving to 100 per cent employer-paid coverage.

Just six per cent of organizations said they’re supporting business travel during the crisis and 60 per cent said they’re maintaining their relationships with expatriate employees.

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