New Report: 5 Changes Canadian Workplaces Have Made During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had dramatic implications for workplaces across Canada. A new report, Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada, examines the myriad effects of the pandemic on employers and their workers.

New Report: 5 Changes Canadian Workplaces Have Made During COVID-19

5 Changes Canadian Workplaces Have Made During COVID-19

1. One in Five Organizations Has Added Virtual Health Care

While one-third of the organizations surveyed had already offered telehealth or telemedicine services prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 19% have implemented telehealth due to the pandemic, and another 17% are considering doing so. In response to COVID-19, 9% of employers have reduced or eliminated cost sharing for these services, and another 9% are considering it. It seems that telehealth services may be here to stay, as more than three in five of the organizations that have added telehealth did so without a fixed end date.

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2. The Majority of Employers Are Making or Considering Enhancements to Their Mental Health Benefits

More than one-half of responding organizations have either added (28%) or are considering adding (24%) components to their existing mental health benefits. Due to COVID-19, 10% of organizations have added telepsychiatry or telemental health benefits, and 15% of organizations are considering it. A smaller number of employers have relaxed/removed eligibility requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic (4%) or reduced or eliminated cost sharing for mental health benefits (4%).

3. Many Employers Are Reducing Barriers to Prescription Drug Access

One in four employers has temporarily waived prescription drug premiums for plan members, while 17% have extended the time allowed under prior authorization periods. Smaller numbers of employers have waived prior authorization requirements (8%) or mandated/promoted the use of mail-order programs for maintenance drugs (4%) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Defined Contribution (DC) Retirement Plan Contribution Rates Remain Relatively Stable

Just 9% of employers are noticing a greater number of participants making changes to their contribution or deferral levels compared with pre-COVID-19 levels, while 8% are noticing a smaller share making changes. Most employers (64%) have not seen a change in the number of DC plan withdrawals—In fact, only 8% of plans reported an increase in withdrawals, with one in four organizations reporting that it was too early to tell.

5. Staffing Levels at Many Organizations Have Been Greatly Affected by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had substantial ramifications on operations, forcing many employers to make difficult decisions regarding workplace staffing levels. About two in five organizations (38%) have implemented a temporary hiring freeze, with an additional 6% considering doing so in the future. In addition, 28% have laid off workers/reduced their workforce, with 3% considering doing so in the future. Twenty percent of employers have reduced workers’ hours, and 17% of employers have required workers to take temporary unpaid leave.

Learn More About the Workplace and COVID-19

Download the full report: Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada to learn more about how employers are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is available free to International Foundation and ISCEBS members.

Find more coronavirus-related resources for employers on the Foundation’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page.

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Brenda Hofmann
Communications Manager at the International Foundation

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