Scotiabank secured its second win at Benefits Canada‘s 2020 Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 16 for adapting its existing benefits and introducing new resources to support employees in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the Coronavirus and Benefits category for an employer with more than 5,000 employees, the bank’s entry outlined how it transitioned 60 per cent of its global employee population to remote work when the pandemic hit and adapted existing programs to support their total well-being.

“The theme of any success this year in the benefits space or otherwise is probably agility,” says Simone Reitzes, vice-president of global pension and benefits at Scotiabank.

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While the bank increased its personal day policy on Jan. 1, 2020, to provide all Canadian employees with five days annually, it raised that further, to 10 days, for 2020 only. “There were so many different reasons [for this],” she says. “School closures were obviously a big one and a hot topic in society. But also, employees were taking a personal day to line up at the grocery store, so errands that we’d taken for granted, employees were having to approach differently. And that personal time, we heard from our employees, was greatly appreciated.”

Scotiabank added $500 to its well-being account for benefits-eligible employees during the pandemic. And, while the account already allowed for the reimbursement of a variety of expenses such as fitness and childcare, it was expanded to include food delivery, groceries and home office equipment as well.

In addition, while the bank introduced an optional virtual health-care program on April 1, 2020, it pivoted almost immediately to offer the program to employees for free until Oct. 31, 2020. It also streamlined its short-term disability process, adjusting it to minimize interruption of pay for employees who were displaying virus symptoms for several days.

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And in terms of childcare, Scotiabank leveraged an existing relationship with its vendor in September to pay for five backup care days per child per employee and funded a 10 per cent discount for full-time childcare and a five per cent discount for part time.

“We are so grateful to have been recognized in this category because we really did leave no stone unturned in trying to support our employees . . . ,” says Reitzes. “We have different business lines, so we have employees in our retail branches where banking is an essential fibre of society and of the economy, so mobilizing to support employees in branches, mobilizing to support employees in our contact centres. We had 24 nurses deployed across the country in a matter of days to our most populated sites, so that means over 5,000 employees had access to in-person support.

“This was a new area for us, so the recognition is really meaningful in recognizing all of the different kinds of support we rolled out for all of our different employees. That includes accommodating employees in branches, contact centres, as well as quickly mobilizing to have 60,000 employees around the world working remotely.”

Read a full list of the 2020 Workplace Benefits Awards winners.