As we approach the new year, organizations will be reflecting on the past year and begin looking ahead to anticipate upcoming changes. In this blog, we will outline predicted trends for the benefits industry in 2023.
Changes in Government Programs
The Government of Canada announced changes to the EI sickness Benefit and the introduction of the Canadian Dental Benefit.
Canadians will see EI benefits extended from 15 to 26 weeks in late 2022. For employers who offer Long-Term Disability, Short Term Disability, or an EI-Sub Program as part of their benefits, talk to your advisor about how this upcoming change may impact your plan.
The government of Canada is also proposing a new dental benefit aimed to support families earning less than $90,000 per year. The proposed benefit will provide financial support for parents and guardians of children under 12 years old – if a dental insurance plan is not readily available. While this is a great step in the evolution of our public health care system, it ought not be viewed as a substitution to existing workplace dental plans. Most organizations contain staff in different income brackets who may not meet the threshold for this public health benefit. The benefit may also not be comparable to dental coverages employees have grown accustomed to within their workplace programs.
Holistic Support for Employees
The importance of mental health services for employees continues to be a key item of discussion. Mental health related cases are the most prevalent diagnosis within LTD claims and the biggest driver in rising costs of disability insurance. Considering the diverse challenges employees face, offering a holistic benefits program instills confidence within staff, reducing workplace stress and impacting quality of work.
Adding a health and/or wellness spending account provides greater flexibility in how employees may use their benefits. Your advisor can help trim down extended health care coverages that may be limited in their value to all employees, then reallocate dollars towards a spending account, with the goal of providing greater choice in how employees manage their health.
Another easy way to get more bang from your buck is to expand eligible paramedical practitioner criteria. Most extended health plans offer a standard listing of these professional services, but many employers have not considered that the types of services offered may easily be enhanced at minimal cost. Trends include enhancing the listing of eligible mental health specialists and combining physiotherapist coverage with the addition of licensed kinesiologists.
Over the past year, we have seen progress in the accessibility to gender affirming health care. Canadian insurers are making optional benefits more widely available, while many have already built these inclusive services into their standard plans. Working in conjunction with public health care, insurers will reimburse procedures not covered by the employee’s province of residence. Allowing employers to offer coverage for gender-affirming procedures to help support core values of diversity and inclusion.
Expanded Travel Coverage
Most extended health care plans include travel emergency coverage as a standard offering. These plans typically strictly cover emergency services for serious and unexpected medical events. A greatly valued benefit for the common vacationer but limited for the routine business traveler. Out of Country coverage within extended benefit plans place limitations on non-urgent care needs, exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, exclusions on travel destinations and limit other non-medical needs. When traveling is a part of the job description, consider enhanced travel plans to ensure employees are adequately protected. In addition to this, if hiring internationally, consider international health plans to help bridge the gap in benefits offered to employees abroad.
Related blog: Why Business Travel Insurance is Essential in 2022
Evolution of the Hybrid Work Environment
Looking outside the benefits landscape, it’s easy to see organizational trends that have impacted workplaces in Canada. Traditional 9-5 offices were forced to adapt to a hybrid or work-from-home model during the pandemic. Today, with the employee’s market, workplaces ought to continue to examine the future of hybrid work models. Offering flexibility and choice to employees, while retaining other advantages may be helpful in the fight for talent. With hybrid or work from home arrangements, organizations may no longer find the same geographical restrictions when hiring, along with reduced business overhead. Keep an eye on studies in 2023 on the correlation of hybrid workplaces and employee mental health. Studies suggest employees with flexible work report better mental health. As an employer, continue to consider additions to attract and retain talent, such as, flexible working hours, mental health days, and the right to disconnect from work.
More open discussions on workplace mental health now include metrics to measure the greater return on investment from employees that are more productive and engaged because they feel supported in their physical, mental, and financial wellness.
Reported in the 2022 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey 75% of employers currently offering benefits anticipate dedicating resources outside of their traditional health plan to support employees. Investments towards mental health (46%) were most likely, followed by physical fitness (32%), prevention of illness and management of chronic conditions (30%), social health (28%) and financial health (26%).
In conclusion, predicted trends for 2023 reflect a bright and well-balanced future for employers. To learn more about initiatives to support workplace wellness, talk to your advisor now.