Despite progress, benefits gap persists in Canada: report

'Employers also need to consider union, hourly, contractors and other employee groups'

Despite progress, benefits gap persists in Canada: report

Canadian employers still don’t appear to be meeting the benefits needs of their employees, according to a recent report from Mercer Marsh Benefits.

For one, only 33 per cent of employers provide health assessments even though Gen Zers are looking for preventative health and screening tools. And for employers offering genetic testing as a screening tool, the adoption has been very low (less than five per cent).

Also, less than 10 per cent of employers provide child or eldercare programs or applications — even though half of Canadian employees are caregivers. Providing this benefit should be a priority, according to the report.

And less than 10 per cent of employers currently offer adoption and surrogacy allocations.

“Employees receiving such benefits are primarily still non-union, hourly, salaried and executives, but employers also need to consider union hourly, contractors and other employee groups,” says MercerMarsh Benefits in its Canada Innovative Benefits Survey 2023.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) of employees don’t participate in their employer’s retirement savings plan (RSP) matching program, according to a previous report. 

Benefits focus for employers

Despite the gaps, employers are making progress when it comes to offering some of the benefits that employees want and need, finds Mercer Marsh Benefits’ survey of over 370 employers.

Nearly 60 per cent offer ergonomic assessments and 55 per cent provide telemedicine in supporting physical wellness.

Employers are also making headway with meeting workers’ financial wellness needs. Many provide budgeting and other financial wellness education and support (51 per cent), discount programs (59 per cent) and financial coaching (36 per cent).

Nearly three in 10 (28 per cent) employers provide stand-alone integrated health and wellbeing platforms including incentives and challenges and 45 per cent provide fitness subsidies.

And employers have an obvious focus on supporting employees’ mental wellness: 

  • 64 per cent offer anti-stigma and education on self-care
  • 48 per cent provide online assessments/resiliency training
  • 57 per cent offer virtual therapy network access
  • 49 per cent provide mental health training for managers

Employees are looking for benefits far beyond the traditional ones – and employers are failing to meet the demand, finds a previous survey of 1,000 Canadians.

Getting ahead of competition with employee benefits

Employers can “get ahead of the competition” by identifying and understanding key focus areas of improvement, Mercer Marsh Benefits says. These include:

  • Designing benefits for all: introduce Gen Z into your mindset and keep caregivers top of mind
  • Better supporting mental health
  • Offering financial wellness solutions plans
  • Refining programs to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive
  • Driving resilience and mitigating risk
  • Accelerating digital health delivery

Most employers are failing to meet employees’ flexibility preferences, and the majority of them don’t have a plan to address this any time soon, according to a previous report.

Meanwhile, Forbes Advisor shared best practices for designing an employee benefits package:

  • Make sure the benefits you offer are ones that your employees will actually use and appreciate: There’s no point in offering a benefit that no one will take advantage of.
  • Consider the needs of your employee base: Offering benefits that meet the needs of your employees will make them more likely to use them.
  • Make sure the benefits you offer are affordable for your business: Offering too many expensive benefits can strain your budget and make it difficult to offer other perks or salary increases.
  • Be sure to communicate the details of your employee benefits package to your employees: They should know what benefits are available to them and how to take advantage of them.