Questions Canadian Employees Are Asking During COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact both home and work life, employees and plan members are contacting their human resource departments for information and help. According to a recent survey of Canadian organizations conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, plan members are turning to their human resource departments for information on a wide range of benefits.

Questions Canadian Employees Are Asking During COVID-19

Here are the top five topics Canadian plan members want to know about.

1. Mental health benefits

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half (52%) of organizations have either added (28%) or are considering adding (24%) components to their existing mental health benefits. Read more about the COVID-19 impact on mental health here.

2. Health benefits

This survey did not ask about updates to health care benefits, but organizations are paying attention. Many companies are offering webcasts and resources to help workers maintain their health. Other organizations noted they have extended health benefits to workers who are laid off or on unpaid leave.

Employers are making health care more accessible to participants. More than one-third (36%) of organizations reported that they either have already added (19%) or are considering adding (17%) telehealth/telemedicine benefits for plan members as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Read more about telehealth coverage in Canada here.

3. Employee assistance program (EAP)

Almost a quarter (24%) of organizations that have an EAP have either added (17%) or are considering adding (7%) services to their EAP. In addition, organizations are reminding their plan members about the resources available to them through their EAP. One organization told us, “We reintroduced our membership to the EAP. Members seem to appreciate this benefit more during these challenging times.” Another example comes from a union representative in British Columbia who told us they “are helping members access EAP and mental health services as well as access government programs and relief.”

4. Wellness programs

Employers are stepping up in many ways to support the overall well-being of both their workers and their workers’ families in a variety of ways. One organization told us about adaptations they have made to their wellness program: “We have a group wellness program, Living with Balance, that we are offering through a virtual platform (Microsoft Teams). Normally the groups would consist of 10-15 participants, but we have limited that to 6-8 due to the online format. In addition, we have offered two online groups to support local leaders during the pandemic.”

5. Prescription drug benefits

Of the organizations that currently offer prescription drug coverage, one in four (25%) has temporarily waived premiums for some or all plan members, while 17% have extended the time allowed under prior authorization periods for prescription drugs.

Organizations recognize that with so many changes, communication is more important than ever.

Because of the unprecedented changes and disruptions going on, organizations recognize that they must adapt how they interact with workers. Many respondents told us that their organizations hold regular virtual all-staff meetings and/or send regular all-staff emails. These communications serve to keep workers apprised of changes and support their well-being. An organization based in Ontario shared that they “continue to provide support to all employees pretty much daily, with postings and email notifications providing information for support and ways to keep themselves mentally and physically fit.”

53rd Annual Canadian Employee Benefits Conference

Learn More About the Impact of the Coronavirus

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.

Rebecca Estrada
Research Analyst at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

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