Health Benefits Packages: Meeting Employee Needs

Health Benefits Packages Publié le 9 June 2021 Par

For company leaders looking to recruit the best job candidates and create a supportive and positive work environment, they need to offer a solid health benefits package that meets employee needs.

The health of employees should be one of the main priorities of every successful business. Not only because this commitment helps to create a supportive and enjoyable work environment, but because it can also help a company to stand out in a crowded job market.

As any human resource manager or recruiter can report, health benefits packages are considered a top priority to both new recruits and existing employees. When deciding to accept a new job or commit to a position long-term, a recent survey found that 83% of employees cited health benefits as being an extremely important factor in their decision. The numbers attest to the advantages of strong employee health benefits package, from the perspective of employees and employers alike.

Health Benefits as a Recruitment Tool

In a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), they compared companies that use their health benefits as part of their recruitment strategy versus those that did not, and came to some interesting conclusions. Over the course of 12 calendar months, it was found that companies that promoted their health benefits package experienced a 58% increase in overall performance, compared to a 34% increase for companies that did not. Likewise, these same companies also experience double the increase in the rate of employee recruitment and retention.

One of the most effective ways for businesses and their HR managers to make their commitment to their workers clear is by creating encompassing health benefits packages. Such packages can include paid sick days, prescription drug coverage, healthcare and dental care coverage and additional benefits to support employee well-being. 

Paid Sick Days

Illness can be very detrimental to the workforce, and should always be taken with the utmost seriousness. Employees who arrive to work sick could potentially extend their illness due to a lack of rest and run the risk of spreading their illness to their coworkers. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vital role that paid sick days can play in preventing the spread and transmission of illnesses in the workplace and preserving the health of employees. Businesses owe it to their employees to do everything in their power to prevent the spread of illness in the workplace, and this has to include paid sick leave.

Working while ill has become known as “presenteeism”, and is an increasing trend that HR managers must face. When employees know that they can take a sick day without fear of diminishing their income, they will be able to recover faster, avoid unhealthy long working hours, minimize the chance of making coworkers ill, and return to work ready to perform at their best.

Paid sick days not only are an important component of an employee health benefits package, it is actually the law in many provinces. Provincial legislation mandates that employers provide a minimum amount of either paid or unpaid personal emergency leave days, the amount of which differs from province to province.

In Ontario, for example, every employer must provide full-time employees who have been employed for at least 2 weeks with a minimum of 3 unpaid sick days, 3 unpaid family responsibility leave days, and 2 unpaid bereavement days. As the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was also amended to include 3 days of paid infectious disease emergency leave for reasons related to COVID-19.

With provincial mandate providing the foundation, there is ample opportunity for businesses to build upon these minimums and set themselves apart in the job market.

Prescription Drug Coverage

Prescription drug coverage is not only one of the most important components of a health benefits packages, it signifies the largest amount of spending for private insurance companies – a total of $3.8 billion per calendar year. For Canadians, prescription drug coverage is a mix of Federal, Provincial and private insurance. In Ontario, some prescriptions are covered by OHIP and the Ontario Drug Benefit program, while the rest are covered by private insurance or paid out-of-pocket.

Prescription drug coverage is frequently cited as one of the highest valued benefits by employees, and wise employers recognize its importance. Many standard health benefits packages cover 80% or more of prescription cost, both to ensure a healthy workforce and to utilize it as a strong recruitment tool. Making certain that workers have access to the proper medication helps them to stay healthy and capable, while reducing the need for absences and long-term leave. Robust prescription drug coverage should be part of any strong health benefits program.

Massage Therapy and Physiotherapy

Chronic pain is an affliction that affects more than 6 million Canadians, representing nearly 20% of the total population and a sizeable portion of the workforce. Employees in both labour-intense careers and office jobs can find themselves afflicted with long-term chronic conditions affecting muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons and bones. These conditions can make workers uncomfortable and unable to properly perform their jobs.

Massage therapy and physiotherapy have the potential to treat, improve and even alleviate certain chronic conditions, while teaching employees stretches and exercises that can help ease discomfort. Although many health benefits plans do include an allotment for massage therapy and physiotherapy, it is normally not enough to cover repeat visits. Employers should reorient their focus to include wider coverage for physiotherapy, and even consider taking the added step of contracting for treatment in the workplace when it is safe to do so.

Dental Coverage and Vision Care

While not usually considered as high a priority for the majority of employers, dental coverage and vision care should always be taken into account when designing an attractive employee health benefits package. A majority of plans will completely cover the cost of at least one dental visit per year. A method to entice qualified candidates during the recruitment process, for instance, would be to extend this coverage to immediate family members.

Vision coverage is often more limited, and in many cases only covers a percentage of an eye exam, with limited or no additional coverage for glasses and contact lenses. By constructing a benefits plan that covers even just a percentage of the cost of glasses and contact lenses, a company will immediately make themselves stand out from similar competitors and attract high-performing candidates. 

Mental Health

Now more than ever, employers are acknowledging the impact that mental health can have on the overall health and well-being of employees. Employee burnout is on the rise, and this also applies to people who have been working remotely. Even before the pandemic, a 2016 survey conducted by the Federal Government found that 1 out of 5 Canadians will experience psychological health issues within a calendar year. A modern health benefits package should include coverage for mental and psychological health support and treatment, including counseling, therapy and medication.

Ensuring that proper mental health support exists in the workplace can only benefit a company. By allotting the same importance to these issues as to physical ailments, and providing employees with the tools, resources and support they need, it makes for a stronger work environment and, most importantly, happier and healthier employees.

For companies and HR managers seeking to retain the best employees and attract the best recruits, enticing employee health benefits packages will always stand out in a competitive job market. By ensuring that employees have access to paid sick days, prescription coverage, physiotherapy, dental and vision care, and mental health support, companies will enjoy proven boosts in morale, retention, recruitment and productivity.