Employees expect more from their benefits

While more than ever, Canadian companies realize that a healthy workforce is more productive, there’s often a discrepancy between what employees expect from their health benefits and what these benefits actually offer. Different generations also have different expectations about their benefits.

These are some of the main findings from the 2014 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey, which polled both plan sponsors and members.

The study reveals that millennial employees are more likely than their older co-workers to see benefits as a right. While 63% of baby boomers see health benefits as a perk or privilege, this sentiment falls to 50% among generation Y employees. Also, when offered the choice between $5,000 in cash a year or their health benefits plan, 45% of millennials would choose the cash, compared with just 25% of boomers. And 75% of gen Y employees want more flexibility in their health benefits plan, and the ability to choose what’s covered and how much is covered, compared with 66% of boomers.

The report also surveyed attitudes regarding postretirement benefits. Nearly half (48%) of benefits plan members expect to have access to their current benefits plan after retirement. However, only 23% of employers currently offer some kind of coverage or access to coverage after retirement.

Another disconnect between plan sponsors and members is around health screening. Most employees say they would participate in health risk screenings if their benefits plan offered them. Specifically, 91% would get tested for cancer, 89% for heart disease, 84% for diabetes and 75% for stress or mental health. However, only 35% of surveyed employers are likely to offer screening for mental health, 34% for heart disease, 34% for diabetes and just 24% for cancer.

The survey also examined the relationship between plan sponsors and providers. It found that sponsors particularly look to insurance companies for help. “On a scale of one to 10, plan sponsors rank insurers highest, at 7.6, in terms of expected level of support for wellness programs in the workplace, compared with 6.8 for healthcare providers and 6.2 for government,” the report notes.

And 79% of employers believe their insurance carriers should play a bigger role in helping them keep their workplaces healthy. “Since most carriers are already active, often through health education materials and online tools for plan members, the results suggest that plan sponsors may not be aware of their providers’ offerings, or they’re looking for something different,” according to the report.

The survey polled 1,502 primary holders of group health benefits plans as well as 500 benefits plan sponsors. — Yaldaz Sadakova

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Pal Benefits Inc. and Globex International Group, an American-based international employee benefits and risk management firm, have partnered to offer high-touch solutions in the areas of employee benefits, investment and compensation not just to large multinational companies, but also to small and mid-size businesses with employees in different countries. The expansion of services resulting from the partnership allows smaller employers to offer consistent plans to employees in all locations.

Aon Hewitt has a new talent insight and analytics solution to help North American companies better understand their HR data and make fact-based talent management decisions. The solution features services such as access to different workforce metrics and analytics, which would allow employers to predict how turnover and other employee behaviours within their organizations will change.

Karelab, a Montreal-based provider of engagement programs, now has access to the Happiness at Work Survey, offered by Happiness Works, a U.K.-based wellness analytics provider. The survey measures employee satisfaction and engagement by touching on areas such as the nature of tasks and sense of achievement. It can also be tailored to add specific questions.

Meet an Advisory Board Member

Duane Green, head of institutional – Canada, Franklin Templeton Investments

What attracted you to a career in the financial industry?

In my opinion, there isn’t a better industry than the financial industry to be a part of. I was fortunate to have been exposed to the industry early on by some great people who helped me see the potential in building a career in such a dynamic and robust environment.

What is the future of asset allocation for Canada’s institutional investors?

I feel institutional investors will look at ways to further diversify within asset classes and look at other types of vehicles in an effort to meet their risk/return objectives. I can’t help but think global fixed income will play a much bigger role in the future.

If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you invest the money in?

That’s a fun scenario to think through. I would want to look at ways to give back to worthy causes, invest in interesting startup opportunities or small businesses, and make sure I’ve planned for the future for my family.

Legal briefs

Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal recently issued a decision on entitlement to benefits for chronic stress under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA). The decision stipulates that the provisions in the WSIA limiting entitlement to mental stress benefits in situations where stress results from “an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected event” are unconstitutional. This is expected to lead to a rise in the number of claims filed by employees who allege that they have suffered stress due to regular workplace stressors.

The Canadian Association of Pension Supervisory Authorities (CAPSA) recently released CAPSA Guideline No. 8 – Defined Contribution Plans Guideline and an accompanying reference document. The guideline outlines and clarifies the rights and responsibilities of plan administrators, employers, plan sponsors, service providers, fund holders and members with respect to DC pension plans. It also offers guidance to administrators of DC plans about the tools and information they should provide to plan members, including periodic projections of their account balance at retirement. In addition, the new guideline clarifies what DC plan design alterations, such as matching formula changes, constitute an “adverse amendment.”

Alberta is considering two bills that propose amendments to its pension legislation. Bill 10, the Employment Pension (Private Sector) Plans Amendment Act, 2014 calls for changes to Alberta’s new Employment Pension Plans Act. One change states that when a DB plan is converted to a target benefit plan, the conversion may apply to accrued benefits in the DB plan. Bill 9, the Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, 2014 proposes reforms to certain public sector plans, such as the reduction of early retirement subsidies and the removal of guaranteed cost-of-living increases for service after Jan. 1, 2016.

Sources: Benefits Canada; Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP; Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP

This month in numbers

65% of North American employers that allow telecommuting report happier employees — 2014 survey by Staples

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