Aurora Workplace Solutions are about creating brilliant futures by developing wealth security for businesses and individuals. As experts in the industry, they keep on top of recent news including changes to relevant group benefit plans, retirement savings options, and guidelines and policies. They also keep their eyes open for informative articles we think are of interest to our current and potential clients. Aurora Workplace Solutions are Trusted Saskatoon Group Benefits and Insurance Professionals!
Employers and the Rising Cost of Benefits
There is a new survey out from Aon that shows while Canadian employers are highly concerned about the rising costs of group benefits (due to drug expenses), they still prioritize the productivity and engagement of their employees and recognize the importance that group benefits play in creating healthy employees and a healthy work environment.
Canadian group benefit sponsors were surveyed by Aon to identify their Top 10 benefits and workplace priorities.
The results were:
Top 10 Workforce Priorities
- Employee productivity/engagement
- Employee wellness
- Attracting, retaining employees; developing skills for changing business environment
- Workplace mental health
- Employee financial wellness
- Family support obligations, the effect on productivity and well-being
- Chronic illness effect on productivity
- Multi-generational workforce
- Delayed retirement – productivity and performance challenges
- Delayed retirement – employees working past normal retirement age.
Top 10 Group Benefits Priorities
- Escalating drug costs generally
- Escalating specialty drug costs in particular
- Escalating extended health costs generally
- Chronic illness effect on plan costs
- Need to personalize employee benefits experience
- Rising payroll costs (e.g. minimum wage, CPP contributions)
- Compliance/governance obligations
- Cost-shifting – public to private
- The administrative hassle of employee benefits
- National Pharmacare discussions
“The key takeaway from our survey is that plan sponsors are keenly aware of the need to manage rising benefits costs, but they also put a high priority on ensuring their employees are engaged and healthy,” commented Canadian health & benefits chief actuary Greg Durant. Durant prefaced that although the top priorities sound contradictory, there are ways for employers to achieve a balance – they will just have to “think outside the box” in order to meet both their workforce objectives while creating value for their people. One suggested method to achieve this balance is to create wellness programs that could potentially reduce overall extended health costs.
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'Creating Brilliant Futures'
Wiegers Financial & Benefits is one of the largest private financial planning and employee benefits consulting firms in Saskatchewan. Its Saskatoon Financial Planning Division provides business owners, households, retirees, and students with expert investment and insurance planning services to help them reach their long-term financial goals. They also have a Benefits and Personal Insurance planning division- check out more on their Trusted Saskatoon Insurance Advisors listing.
What Mental Health Is and Why It Can’t Be Ignored
Most of us have heard – probably more than a few times – that if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. There’s no denying the truth of that but increasingly, and all the more during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an understanding that mental health is just as important and impactful as physical health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines positive mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (WHO, 2001, p. 1). Clearly, we all strive for this – or at least should be – but not all of us are mentally well, all of the time. Indeed, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that:
About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).
- Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend, or colleague.
- In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
- Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures.
- Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
What’s more, though final numbers aren’t yet available, Fardous Hosseiny, the National Director of Research and Policy at the CMHA predicted that by 2020, depression would be the leading cause of disability in Canada (preliminary indications are that Mr. Hosseiny was correct). Even more staggering is that approximately 1.6 million people continue to have their mental illness needs unmet. As Mr. Hosseiny explains, “Mental illnesses are episodic, but the key is that if it’s untreated, that’s when it’s really disruptive. We know that untreated mental illnesses are only exasperated with time.” Given the number of people not being helped, Mr. Hosseiny suspects that the number of Canadians who suffer from mental illness each year is even higher than what research shows (1 in 4 Canadians as opposed to 1 in 5), and that the availability of support systems – or lack thereof – plays a major role.
Clearly, something needs to be done.
Your Group Benefits Plan Can Be a Terrific Support to Your Employees and Their Mental Health.
My team and I have been promoting the importance of mental health and mental health supports in group benefit plans for many years – long before the stigma surrounding mental illness started to decay. One of the most effective tools available is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can be added to a traditional group benefits plan. Though the number of EAP providers is higher than ever, and the number of options available is ever-increasing, most EAPs provide, at minimum, confidential short-term counselling to employees and their spouses and dependent children, as well as referrals and other forms of support designed to help bolster mental health.
Other options include a robust Health benefits plan that provides coverage for mostly physical concerns, knowing that when an individual cannot afford to pay for a health product or service, his or her mental health can be severely impacted as a result. The same idea is behind Wellness and Health Spending Accounts. Providing your employees with healthcare dollars to spend as they need or choose to do helps reduce or even eliminate the financial concern that might otherwise present a barrier to their getting the help and support they need.
The Business Case for Mental Health Supports in Benefits
Aside from the obvious compassionate reasons for providing mental health supports at and through work, there’s a strong business case for it too. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) estimates that the total cost to Canada’s economy incurred by mental health problems and illnesses is well over $50 billion annually or nearly $1,400 for every person living in Canada in 2016. This includes significant employer costs due to absenteeism, presenteeism, and employee turnover. And it makes sense. Healthier, happier employees tend to be more productive than their less healthy, less happy colleagues so investing in your employees’ mental health helps you – and your business – too.
It’s a wonderful thing that awareness and acceptance of the need to protect and care for mental health is finally on an upswing, and the fact that employers can do so much for their employees’ mental health carries exponential benefit for everyone involved, including the employers themselves (given the positive impact on their businesses). As cliché as it might sound, benefits really are an investment in your team, and there’s never been a greater need than now for the mental health supports they provide.