Canadian HR Reporter

March 6, 2017

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.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 1 of 19

CANADIAN HR REPORTER March 6, 2017 2 NEWS Recent stories posted on Check the website daily for quick news hits from across Canada and around the world. WEB O N T H E ACROSS CANADA Trudeau tells business leaders to 'get real' about worker anxiety 'When companies post record profits on the backs of workers refused full-time work... people get defeated' BlackBerry class-action filed on behalf of more than 300 employees Allege they lost severance entitlements after transfer to business partner TTC dismisses 73 people over alleged benefits fraud scheme Related to criminal investigation that started in 2015 Saskatchewan finance minister mulls unpaid days off for workers Government also considering rolling back wages, layoffs to balance budget Inoculate corporate Canada from Trump's economic agenda: Business council Says country's ability to attract new jobs and investment will suffer Company must pay $60,000 in 'moral' damages for axing sexually harassed woman Zochem must also pay $40,000 to cover legal costs Toronto hospital lets go 31 workers after benefits 'irregularities' About $200,000 in claims found to be in breach of code of conduct AROUND THE WORLD Protests call for U.S. immigrants to stay home from work, school Effort an attempt to highlight vital role they play in society Trump's first weeks spawn anxiety, discord at some companies Some employees distracted, have less energy as focus turns to politics Brazil judge rules Uber drivers are employees, deserve benefits Uber to appeal decision, citing contradictory ruling U.S. insurers sense opportunity in unwanted pension plans Many expect 2017 to be strong year for pension deals Trump, Trudeau help launch women's business council Duo hopes female entrepreneurs' jobs can be made easier through newly created council FEATURED VIDEO LeNoury Law Proactive Advice to Management Employment Lawyer of The Year James LeNoury B.A. (Hons) M.A. LL.B 416-926-1107 • Toll Free 1-877-926-1107 • Employees feel entitled to their health benefits: Survey Employers should do more to communicate offerings, options BY JOHN DUJAY MOST Canadians not only ap- preciate their workplace health benefits plans, they take it one-step further: ey feel entitled to them. at's according to a survey of 2,402 people that found 77 per cent feel workplace health bene- fits plans are a worker's right and they are entitled to receive them, according to the Sun Life Cana- dian Health Index. "Benefits have become an in- tegral part of an employee's total compensation package," said Bri- gitte Parent, senior vice-president of Sun Life in Toronto. "(ey play) an important part in man- aging your total health of your family." The survey cited 2016 fig- ures from the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association that showed 24 million Canadi- ans rely upon benefits from their workplace (or their spouse's work- place) and this adds up to almost $30 billion per year in health-care expenditures. "Over time, as the generations watch their parents, it's kind of becoming commonplace to have a benefit plan for a worker and their families," said Glenn Kehrer, president of Group Benefits Con- sulting of Canada in Winnipeg. "Now, it's being extended to cov- ering your health and dental costs and helping you retire." Recruitment, retention Offering a robust health-care ben- efits package is a strategic way to find and maintain top talent, ac- cording to Julie Stich, director of research at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) in Brookfield, Wisc. "From an employer's perspec- tive, they are definitely a valued way to recruit and retain key tal- ent and key skills." Comprehensive benefits pro- vide a competitive advantage in the job market. "It's normal for companies to offer them and if you don't, you're not going to have a great ability to attract and retain staff," said Cissy Pau, principal consultant at Clear HR Consulting in Vancouver. Employees view the overall health benefits package "as a ges- ture of how that employer is going to treat them as an employee," said Joy Sloane, partner at Morneau Shepell in Toronto. And a good package will moti- vate prospective workers to sign up for the long-term. "ey are going to see an over- arching care for the individual and feel more amenable. They are going to feel the employer is more progressive, (the company) is going to care about me. at's going to give them the edge from a recruiting standpoint," she said. Cost concerns Despite their popularity, benefits are not a cheap offering. So what's an employer to do in trying to sat- isfy employee needs while watch- ing costs? ere are employers that are looking to cut back, "for sure," said Kehrer. "It's not the first thing they are trying to cut, but reducing the co- insurance on the drugs is one way that clients are (considering). If they have 100 per cent coverage, some are going to 90 per cent." But the spectre of ever-more expensive medications looms for employees, he said. "We are hearing about all these expensive medications and a lot of people like having their drugs cov- ered: Whether it's $100 a month or $30 a month, that cost is a di- rect hit to your income if you don't have coverage." Employers should be wary of cutting back on benefits and con- sider the effect it might have on the workforce, said Pau. "If you're going to offer benefits, you need to make sure you can pay for them. It's not something you want to take away once you offer them." To better manage costs, it's about focusing on cost-contain- ment strategies, she said. "Employers should be educat- ing employees (by saying) 'If you are going to fill prescriptions, go to Costco, not Safeway.'" ey're changing the way they approach the offerings to a "joint accountability model for total health," said Sloane. "Progressive employers are looking at their programs and they are saying, 'What can we do to put an offering together for our employees?'" she said. "Employers want to be able to support their workforce and so they are looking at sustainability of benefits, and perhaps shifting the accountability model to have employees participate in that." Plan design A separate Sun Life survey in 2016 involving 1,250 Canadians found only 37 per cent felt their benefits plan was meeting their needs. "Some employers will just put together a package of benefits and say, 'Here you go,' and it may not be what their particular employ- ees would want," said Stich. Employers should regularly ask workers what they are looking for in a benefits plan, she said. "It's a really good idea for employers to survey or ask when they are meet- ing one-on-one with employees, perhaps during a review time or checkup time, ask them what they would want." HR professionals must speak directly to workers to find out just what they want, said Pau. "It's tapping into what's impor- tant to their employees: at's the most important." Think about how to design packages by asking key questions. "What's your goal to offer bene- fits? Is it to attract and retain? Is it because you care about the long- term health of your employees? What's the purpose and how does it fit into the overall company's goals?" said Pau. "e cookie-cutter approach, it's a little bit homogenous, if you look back 20, 30 years. I think now that customization becomes re- ally important." When planning a benefits of- fering, employers should consid- er the makeup of the workforce in terms of age in deciding what workers might want, according to Parent. "It's not as much generations but more of the life stage of where people are at: are they married, are they starting a family, are they graduating from school?" Drugs, vision and dental coverage are usually at the top of the list for young people, she said. But as workers age, they start families, buy houses, and suddenly life insurance and disability insurance become more central. "It's kind of an evolution that way." But some younger employees just want more cash, said Pau. "For (young workers), they are healthy, they are not worried about prescription drugs, it's just not a big deal but then once they are married with kids, their per- spectives changes." And benefits can also include non-monetary items as well. "Flexible hours, your time off, tuition reimbursement, all those things that form part of your total compensation, it's really impor- tant to communicate to employ- ees so that you can attract new employees," said Pau. Flexibility, communication important In the Sun Life survey, partici- pants were asked what they val- ued more in their benefits plan: flexibility or greater coverage. e results were split: 45 per cent chose flexibility as a greater fac- tor, compared to 46 per cent who chose greater coverage. "But when we probed further, what we found people were look- ing for is more flexibility in terms of being able to choose various options," said Parent. is need for elasticity is an ex- cellent opportunity for employers to enhance benefits offerings, she said. "Flexibility was called out specifically as a point of interest for employees." From an employee's perspec- tive, having a menu to choose from and then knowing what the costs are for each of those menu items is a nice way to do it, said Kehrer. But employers communicate very little about their benefits plans, so employees don't even know what's covered, said Pau. "As an employee, there's so much information coming at you, but you want the information on a need-to-know basis." During the interview process, companies should "clearly spell out" what is offered, said Stich. But they should also constantly educate current employees. "Sometimes, employees don't know there is a benefit out there and they may not know how to use it." Effective communication helps a worker know just how much he is worth to the employer, said Kehrer. "One reason to promote would be to make sure the person un- derstands what their total value package is. For every dollar the employee is paid, it might be about $1.15 in cost." "It's always promoted at the beginning that they've got a good benefit package but people get complacent and they don't read their own booklet," he said. "Employers generally can do a better job. It's not that they're not trying, but a lot more could be done to be more effective," said Stich. "We are finding it's impor- tant to repeat, repeat, repeat." "You don't want to find that your message is falling on deaf ears, but everyone is so busy that if you just communicate once a year about your employee benefit plan, people are not going to re- member," she said. "Use different channels, do it frequently, and find a way to en- gage your employees." "If you are going to offer benefits, you need to make sure you can pay for them. It's not something you want to take away once you offer them."

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Canadian HR Reporter - March 6, 2017