The constant question…is it mandatory? Why?

Typically employers offer an employee group benefit plan as an incentive, part of their positive culture building to retain staff and add to overall compensation. However, despite the best intentions, some employees refuse the insurance, yet they’ll partake in the added vacation, bonus options, and additional paid sick leave.

Employer benefits are those that are offered on top of the statutory minimum standards. 

When employees request to refuse coverage, it is important for employers to remember a recent Angus Reid Forum survey which states 62% of Canadian employees have no other Life Insurance coverage in place. This stands outside protecting one’s income through disability insurance. It is safe to assume that if the life insurance figures are so high, the percentage of Canadians with disability insurance, on their person, which stands outside a mortgage or loan, would be significantly higher. So much so, that even the Canadian Cancer Society has a page specifically to answer these financial needs when someone finds themselves diagnosed and no financial security. 

Remember crowd funding is not insurance.

Then there are the day-to-day needs of Canadians and what isn’t covered under our government programs, like pharmacy, paramedical services (massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, etc.), vision, and dental. Let’s stop discounting the absolute importance of an employer-sponsored benefit program and ensure that this program is mandatory for all eligible employees by remembering:

·      The only options for employees to waive coverage would be for the pharmacy, health, paramedical, vision, dental, and health spending account, IF they have spousal coverage.

·      If an employee is single, or has no spousal coverage, then there is no opting out of coverage.

While salary may be the incentive to attract a new hire, it is seldom the glue that holds them:

·      83% of employees say that health insurance is very or extremely important in deciding whether to stay in or change jobs.

·      80% of employees believe that employers have a responsibility to keep employees mentally and physically well

Still think your employees will see no value in offering a plan?

We know the vast majority of Canadians have at least one prescription and even those without an on-going, reoccurring need, have still filled a prescription in the last six-months. With the rising costs of pharmacy, imagine the compensation impact of having this covered on Dental, by and large is the number one most requested benefit by employees. It’s said that without coverage, Canadians will forgo dental visits.

When considering productivity in the workplace, imagine employees who do not have their hearing checked, or even purchase the necessary appliance which would provide them the ability to hear. How will this impact job performance when customer’s speak, or their team leads provide instructions? Consider vision care and the eye strain associated with the constant screen time that is now a mandatory part of the working day.

It’s true, paramedical services like chiropractic and physiotherapy have the stigma of “wants verse need”, but as employers, we need reverse engineer this to:

·      Will access to care make the employee healthier?

·      Will easy and affordable coverage enable staff to be more productive?

·      Will staff see the additional value of working here because a thoughtful benefit program is offered?

Going the distance to creating a valued plan

A strong plan strategically built with intention, where the value is constantly communicated back to the staff will see increased retention and ultimately more engagement. Employers really can’t expect the plan to be a set and leave and then wonder when no one seems to appreciate it, or the costs involved. No wonder, really. 

·      Handing out a booklet and explaining it once when they are hired isn’t enough.

·      How do they know what they have if they are never told?

·      How can they add value to something which seems without value to management?

·      How often are they asked what they like, what they don’t like so there is input in modifying and building the program?

·      How often are other options up for consideration, like:

o   Short Term disability

o   Critical Illness

o   Health Spending Accounts

o   Employee Assistance Programs

o   Gym Membership

o   Additional Training/Leadership Engagement

Consider this, employers can increase wages, provide an annual bonus, yet nothing will have the same impact as protecting that salary in the event of a disability, or providing the necessary medication when the costs to maintain health keeps increasing substantially year over year.

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