Canadian HR Reporter

February 2020 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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14 www.hrreporter.com N E W S Mental health coverage climbs substantially THE share of organizations in both the United States and Canada that provide mental health coverage to employees has increased substantially in the past five years. More than three-quarters (79 per cent) of Canadian employers offer this coverage, up from 40 per cent in 2014, while 87 per cent of U.S. employers do the same, up from 69 per cent, according to a report from the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). Why the growing interest? Stress levels could be a factor — workers said it's the top issue impacting productivity at work (72 per cent), followed by poor work-life balance (33 per cent) and financial concerns (29 per cent). Overall, there's greater recognition that this is definitely a challenge for employees and their family members and that people need help, according to Julie Stich, vice-president of content at the IFEBP in Brookfield, Wis. "From a productivity perspective, employers can see that if they help their employees, not only is that a good thing to be doing for their well-being, but it can also benefit the company," she says. "There's more and more awareness now of how debilitating [stress] can be from a physical level and a mental health level… People who are more stressed are more likely to be absent from work or tardy from work or they're at work but not engaged." What's on the rise Employer resources that are on the rise include: mental health assessments, offered by 33 per cent of respondents compared to 21 per cent in 2014; on-site meditation or mindfulness (23 per cent compared to four per cent); and mental health first aid or crisis training (17 per cent compared to six per cent), found the survey of 619 respondents. The most common wellness benefits directed at mental/behavioural health are EAPs (90 per cent), mental health coverage (86 per cent) and substance abuse treatment coverage (67 per cent), followed by mental health educational sessions (35 per cent) and mental health assessments (33 per cent). Mental health first aid training helps individuals recognize signs of mental distress or addiction issues, says Stich. "It can be used in the workplace to help identify an employee who's going through some challenges," she says. "It'll help you identify and help you understand how to approach someone and what to say, what to do." now than in the past 10 years, he says. "Some insurance providers are just embedding the EAPS in every single benefit program, which I think is a great thing. It's not the be-all-end-all solution, but it's intended for that short-term counselling just to give someone a confidential resource to at least get the ball rolling." Increasingly, there is a variety of tools available to support employees across the mental health continuum, such as web-based health portals and digital therapy, says Derek Weir, manager of health benefits solutions at Medavie Blue Cross in Moncton, N.B. "People want services that are transparent, people want self-serve and people want a seamless end-to-end experience." Cost considerations Of course, these employer offerings come with a price. Nearly three in 10 (28 per cent) of the U.S. and Canadian organizations said mental/behavioural health costs are one of their costliest health-care conditions — up from 15 per cent in 2012 according to the survey. And when asked which conditions have seen the greatest increase in annual cost over the past five years, cancer was reported by 25 per cent of organizations, followed by mental/behavioural health (18 per cent), musculoskeletal conditions (17 per cent) and diabetes (16 per cent). "There's staggering financial costs associated with all this. Antidepressants are a major driver of drug plan spending, and mental illness is the leading cause of both short- and long-term disability," says Weir. "There's really a rising demand for mental health resources, especially among younger people who are experiencing reportedly higher levels of anxiety, depression [and] thoughts of suicide." However, employers are realizing that it's about "the downstream savings on health and on the productivity side, which is where the real cost drivers are in terms of absenteeism, disability, presenteeism. This is viewed as more of an investment than a cost," he says. CHRR The dramatic rise in mental health initiatives in the workplace of late is highlighted in a recent survey by the IFEBP, with more employers offering coverage, assessments and training to employees Health claims data (73%) Worker/employee interest survey (56%) Health-risk assessment/ appraisal (46%) Disability or workers' comp claims (23%) DATA/METRICS USED TO GUIDE WELLNESS OFFERINGS Source: IFEBP While mindfulness can be a successful way to get people from going the medication route right away, there's a challenge, says Bryan McLoughlin, director of group benefits and insurance at Humi in Toronto, a provider of HR solutions. "Unless you have a champion who's really going to promote it and get people to do it, it's more of an optional type of thing." But EAPs are probably more popular "From a productivity perspective, employers can see that if they help their employees, not only is that a good thing to be doing for their well-being, but it can benefit the company." Julie Stich, vice-president of content at the IFEBP

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