Why benefits should keep evolving to offer 'peace of mind'

Sense of stability helps employee well-being, says head of Group Benefits at RBC Insurance

Why benefits should keep evolving to offer 'peace of mind'
Andrejka Massicotte, Head of Group Benefits, RBC Insurance

As Canadians continue to feel the pressure of rising inflation rates on nearly every aspect of their lives, a new study from RBC Insurance finds that employer-provided benefits play an increasingly important role in maintaining a sense of overall well-being. Two-thirds of working Canadians (66 percent) that have access to employer-provided benefits rate their overall wellbeing as good or excellent compared to under half (49 percent) of those without these benefits.

Those with employer-provided benefits experience higher overall mental health (65 percent, up five percent from 2022) than those without benefits (51 percent, down two percent from 2022), revealing inverse trends and a widening gap between the two groups. To note, the majority of Canadians with employer-provided benefits also felt their employer enables them to have work/life balance (81 percent).

In addition, there is a growing disparity among Canadians based on their access to employer-provided benefits, particularly when it comes to financial health. More than half (54 percent) of workers with employer-provided benefits reported their overall financial health as being good or excellent, compared to only a third (33 percent) of workers who did not have any employer-provided benefits. Low-income households (less than $40K) are also significantly less likely to have employer-provided benefits (44 percent) than higher income households earning $60,000-$100,000 (83 percent).

Older Millennials (aged 35 to 44) reported the weakest financial health of all Canadians, with only 44 percent feeling positive about their current situation. This comes at a time when Millennials are facing high household debt. According to RBC Economics, these Canadians had a total debt-to-disposable income ratio of 250 percent in 2019 – compared to roughly 150 percent with the same cohort in 1999. This debt is set to grow in next few years as Canadians who need to renew their mortgage could face a 25 percent increase in monthly payments.

“There is a sense of stability that comes with knowing that your needs and the needs of your family will be taken care of in case of the unexpected, and that definitely contributes to feelings of overall well-being,” says Andrejka Massicotte, head of Group Benefits, RBC Insurance. “Considering all of the possible situations that can happen in life, having comfort that you will be able to focus on recovery rather than the cost of care if you get sick, or that you will be able to access mental health supports and services and well-being programs if you need them, can have a very positive impact on your financial and mental health. Group benefits offer a peace of mind that allows you to focus on the important things in your life.”

Online services key for benefit offerings

When it comes to accessing their benefits, Canadians’ preferences continue to shift towards the convenience of online services, which have become more broadly available in recent years. Among the features they desire most from an employer-provided benefits plan are:

  • access to doctors and specialists (73 percent)
  • online pharmacies (72 percent)
  • online prescription glasses (65 percent)
  • online mental health and wellness programs (61 percent)
  • services for wellness and management of chronic diseases (57 percent)

Tailored employee benefits are also increasingly important to the vast majority of Canadians (89 percent) who have access to them. Overall, satisfaction with their plans is high, with 83 percent of Canadians who say they are happy with their current benefits, and 87 percent who feel they have a good understanding of what is offered to them.

Health and wellness benefits are a key part of total compensation, says Massicotte. She adds that it shows the employer cares for both the preventive and educational aspects of its plan members’ health and also to help them to lead healthier lives.

“As the healthcare system evolves and as needs evolve, so should the benefits offered evolve. You should be confident that you're offering your employees more options, easier access to health and wellness supports, and really the best products from a plan member perspective. Regular review and evaluation of what you offer to your employees is important.”

Massicotte says the results of the RBC Insurance research “reinforce the importance and the value that employees are placing on their workplace benefits program and, therefore, the importance that plan sponsors should continue to place on benefits.”