Canadian HR Reporter

January 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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CANADIAN HR REPORTER JANUARY 2020 2 NEWS Mike Babcock, Bill Peters and the problem with bad managers Bad behaviour by NHL coaches emphasizes the negative effects and liability of bad management styles Good news regarding length of reasonable notice But bad news regarding common law entitlement to bonus payments Connecting with peers an invaluable experience Executive peer groups contribute greatly to leadership development Making the move easier for everyone ere are some great workspace options these days, but HR needs to help employees with the transition Yukon to hold education campaigns against sexual harassment To include toolkits, online modules, conferences, workshops Hiring to rise by 10 per cent in first quarter of 2020: survey 'Unemployment remains low and wages continue to rise… it's still a jobseeker's market' One-half of jobseekers turn down offer due to bad hiring experience: survey Nearly 70 per cent give up because process takes too long Ontario boosts funding for training partnerships 'e skilled workers that businesses need to grow and succeed will be present in Ontario' Penguin Random House, Norton Rose Fulbright among top Toronto employers 'e Greater Toronto Area continues to be the most competitive employment market in the country' 1 in 5 employees feel more qualified than their boss: U.S. survey Men, middle management, millennials more likely to feel this way in U.S. BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO Recent videos, stories and blogs posted on Check the website daily for updates from Canada and around the world. Changing times call for changing benefits at work Today's employees are looking for more flexible work hours, work-life balance and mental health support, finds survey BY SARAH DOBSON TODAY'S workplace is consid- erably different than it was just a decade ago, so it's probably not surprising that almost all employ- ers (87 per cent) think employee expectations of benefits and the workplace have changed. A static benefits strategy will no longer suffice, according to John Gerbrecht, vice-president and Vancouver practice leader, health solutions, at Aon. "Evolving employee expecta- tions — driven by demographics, a focus on diversity and inclusion, and technology — mean employ- ers have to be agile and open to more flexibility and personaliza- tion in benefits plans," he says. "The workforce is changing, and employers offering one-size- fits-all benefit solutions might find themselves unable to keep pace with those offering more flexible and varied plan offerings in a highly competitive market- place for human capital." Changing expectations When it comes to the benefits workers expect today that they did not expect in the past, more flex- ible work hours (84 per cent) easily tops the list, followed by work-life balance support (79 per cent), a clear approach to employee mental health (78 per cent), and more agile home-work options (77 per cent), found the survey. "There's been a real marked shift toward benefits, the value of benefits around health promotion as opposed to health protection," says Gerbrecht. "at's going to change some of the things that are set as priority for both plan sponsor and member within the benefit plans, even in their exist- ing flex programs." For instance, a recent round- table of retail employers noted a de-emphasizing of risk benefits and more emphasis on health promotion, he says. "ey would lean away from some of their flex options on life and disability coverage and have scaled down coverage to free up dollars for increasing options that are paramedical practitioners, massage therapists, physiothera- py, that sort of thing." And it's not necessarily about employers reducing costs, says Gerbrecht. "I think it has more to do with members valuing that component of their total rewards, because ul- timately what [employers are] try- ing to do is attract and retain." ere is a general trend for members to pay more attention to benefits and fringe benefits, he says. "A lot of employers are actually starting to publish total reward statements, not just pay state- ments… as part of an offer letter. So, it's not just your earnings or your pension or your benefits, it goes into things like paid time off or discount purchase plans, other perks." Defining flex Currently, 67 per cent of plan sponsors provide a traditional benefits plan, while 29 per cent sponsor a flex plan. But then 84 per cent provide a health-care spending account (HSA) and 43 per cent provide a wellness ac- count, found the Aon survey of 214 Canadian employers. To understand those numbers, it depends on how you define flex, says Gerbrecht. "A lot of employers have inte- grated flexible options, whether they be voluntary benefits or whether they be things like HSA, but the impairment [of moving] to full flex, I think we're getting over the hump of the challenge of it be- ing a technology or an underwrit- ing issue. I think we've evolved to the point that most reasonable- sized employers can find a flex solution that will work for them." It's either end of the spectrum, with some plans that are com- pletely flex, which means the employer is contributing a flex allowance and each member can spend those dollars toward cus- tomizing their own benefits plan, while others have a traditional plan, says Sharon Dent, a part- ner and senior consultant at Dent Benefits in Vancouver, "and you're just creating a wraparound on the health-care spending account. It's just a very loose definition when- ever you're seeing 'flex.' But this type of plan is defi- nitely growing as the workforce changes, with older generations transitioning out and newer ones coming onboard, she says. "Ultimately, until the demo- graphics start to narrow, you have a wide range of individuals you have to make sure are happy… and benefits adjust to their needs, so there's more companies evolving toward some level of flexibility," says Dent. Catering to five generations in the workforce can mean an em- ployer has an employee just out of university with sizeable school debt and an older person worry- ing about retirement savings for potentially 30 years, says Sandra Ventin, lead consultant, benefits and health practice, at Gallagher in Toronto. "[ese] are really polar oppo- sites in terms of that total rewards commitment that the employer wants to give them." She says. "What is important to 20-year- olds might differentiate from a 65-year-old, but, at the same time, they both have a vested interest in what [is] their total reward… It's maybe just savings for different purposes." For sure, the plan has to be per- sonalized, and it has to be flex- ible, she says. "Employers need to have em- ployees that are engaged. ey know if employees are feeling supported and protected in this very tight labour market, that will increase their overall corporate effectiveness. So, yes, employers are extremely motivated and the insurance community has made significant investments in IT technology and AI technology in order to help with that employee engagement experience." Adopting a flex plan While there are many employers concerned about the administra- tive burden of a flex plan, that's not as common a worry these days, says Gerbrecht. "Vendors can show them the technology solutions that will fa- cilitate smooth administration of the flex plan, and they see how it's not that difficult, and it's not that expensive." If an employer has a traditional plan design and adds on a health- care spending account or a well- ness account, it does add some complexity in terms of adminis- tration, says Ventin. "Sometimes, the employer might say, 'Because of the com- plexity of the administration, we need another vendor to support and host this activity' and, there- fore, it becomes more costly. But we do have some employers where they might internally man- age a wellness spending account. And… then I would say there isn't a significant cost. And an em- ployer can still say, 'Yes, we offer the element of choice. And, yes, we offer a personalized program for employees,' but they might just internally manage that program." But flexibility can be "dove- tailed or co-ordinated around a traditional plan design," says Ven- tin. And, in the future, it would be good to drop the term "flex plan," she says. "It's more of a 'Do you offer a sense of choice, or some per- sonalization within your benefit program?' And if the answer is yes, then fantastic, let's unpack that a little bit and you know what you're doing. And if you don't, let's understand the reasons for why you don't offer the element of choice or some flexibility. And for some employers, it might be cost constraints." Employers may have concerns about both cost and complexity in moving to a flex plan, says Dent. "It is an extra layer of work be- cause now you actually have to en- able people to make a choice on what plan they'd like to see [such as] education of employees, how to submit claims, your health-care spending account." Ultimately, with flex plans, it's the employer deciding on their costs toward the benefits, she says. "It's just a shifting of funds. Rather than the employer paying all of it, they're just saying, 'We're going to decrease our contribu- tion and now it's on the members if they want to pay a little bit more to keep the same thing or if they want to decrease their plan.'" Emerging benefits Newer areas cited by the Aon survey include mental health, financial education and virtual medical care. When it comes to mental health, there are many different avenues in regard to how an employer can address the issue, says Gerbrecht. "It could be training managers to recognize issues, it could be pro- viding support, not just through things like an EAP and counsel- ling and psychological services in the workplace but recognizing that mental health is broader, and we're seeing employers using things like cognitive behavioural therapy, not just for recovery, but even for resil- ience training." Even if employers increase limits around mental health, Employers are freeing up dollars for options such as massage therapists. Credit: Akra Studios (Shutterstock) BUDGET > pg. 20

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