A meeting discussing productivity study.

Workplace Wellbeing – Top Goals of Global Employers

Conducted biannually by Xerox HR Services, a new global survey on workplace wellbeing collected data from 33 countries and across 428 different organizations revealing some surprising statistics for the four top goals measured by global employers:

  • 59% ranked increasing productivity in the workplace as their main objective
  • 56% ranked improving employee engagement as another major priority
  • 54% ranked attracting and retaining employees as vitally important to their success
  • 49% ranked increasing organizational values as also being vitally important

While only a third of respondents reported strong cultures of workplace wellbeing, 83% said they aspired towards a strong culture for their future, even though the following were ranked near the bottom of the workplace wellbeing survey:

  • Only 45% suggested that reducing costs for insurance and health care was a priority
  • Only 34% were interested in minimizing employee absences

Productivity Tops Priorities

The emphasis for almost all the companies who responded seemed to be directed more towards productivity and company growth. In this survey, global health strategies are currently being pursued by 69% of respondents, while only 42% indicated they were pursuing global wellbeing strategies.

As high as 74% indicated that workplace wellbeing programs were an element of importance where their employee value propositions were concerned. If this is the case, it will be necessary for them to invest in resources and programs that make these more readily available to their employees.

There is support from leadership (52%), and 92% credited the efforts of local ambassadors’ with making wellbeing part of their company culture.

Other programs were offered as well:

  • 92% of the companies offer financial security and preparedness programs
  • 91% offered financial programs for literacy (and skills where finances are concerned)

Employers also realize that to get employees to pay more attention to long-term strategies, employers need to assist employees in making ends meet in the short term. Find our more on our Benefit Services Planning page.

If you are considering the introduction of (or changes to) your workplace wellbeing program to increase productivity, why not discuss your ideas today with one of our experienced Benefit Strategists?

You can reach us at 1-780-437-5070 or by email.

Group at a table discussing benefit plan design changes.

5 Benefits of Working with an Employee Benefits Broker

Are you considering implementing an employee benefits plan in your workplace? Before starting to evaluate any employee benefits plan, here are 5 benefits of working with an Employee Benefits Broker at Benefit Strategies Inc.:

  1. Benefits brokers offer you a Comprehensive Evaluation
  2. There’s more flexibility in putting the Employee Benefits Plan together
  3. Benefits brokers have extensive industry awareness
  4. Brokers understand the best investment opportunities
  5. Employee benefits brokers provide sound, knowledgeable advice

You Get a Comprehensive Evaluation

Employee benefits brokers discuss your benefits needs without pre-determination. After evaluating your long and short-term goals, employee benefits brokers further examine your employee demographics, compare your benefits plan to other similarly-sized companies, consider the costs versus benefits of different plan designs, then provide you with an innovative solution that addresses your specific needs.

You Get the Best Flexible Plans

Employee benefits brokers have a distinct advantage over specific benefit carriers. Brokers can draw on a wider range of services from an extensive group of Canadian benefits providers. This allows your benefits broker to create a tailored employee benefits package, pooling from a variety of sources simultaneously. This approach allows us to blanket all of your particular considerations and broker a flexible plan that specifically meets your company’s needs.

You Benefit from a Broker’s Wide Industry Awareness

Because of their extensive industry knowledge of available benefits plans and plan carriers, registered employee benefits brokers can provide the most widespread and economically priced solutions for your company. Brokers also keep you up to date on any policy changes, as well as provincial and federal laws that may affect the coverage policies of your employee benefits plan.

Investment Understanding

Employee benefits brokers understand that benefit plans are an investment in your employees. Specifically tailored benefit plans can help ease the financial burden for those that need to use them, creating happier employees, which in turn, helps to increase productivity and employee motivation. Offering benefits also help make your business a more attractive place to work, enticing the best employees in your field of need.

You Benefit from Sound Advice

After appraising your needs, employee benefits brokers provide easy to understand explanations of the available benefit options and help you appreciate the value of each benefit so you can make an informed decision on a benefits plan that is right for you and your employees.

Benefit Strategies Inc., now has over three decades of service, providing group and employee benefits plans to companies across the western provinces and Canadian territories.

For more information on the benefits of working with an employee benefits broker, contact Employee Benefit Strategies Inc. today at 780-437-5070 or send us an email.

Businessman with his finger on the word BENEFITS

Millennials Willing To Pay More For Workplace Health Benefits

Millennials are an altogether different breed than the genXers or boomers that preceded them.

According to a Benefits Canada article, A third of Millennials would pay more for better health benefits. Millennials are also more likely to seek employment with companies that offer group and individually specific benefits.

To entice and retain this generation of employees, employers will have to up the ante for workplace health benefits to make their businesses attractive enough to appease this audience.

What Millennials Want In the Workplace

Unlike previous generations, Millennials are very focused on health benefits. In a Willis Towers Watson survey, Millennials signaled that if given an allowance to outlay for benefits, they would apportion more than 50% to health care.

According to a LifeCourse Associates article by Neil Howe, 63% of Millennials indicate that employee benefits are a significant reason they stay with an employer. This is a higher number and a sharp departure from any previous generation. In the same article, it suggests that 70% of Millennials rate health insurance as vital and worth the investment.

Wooing the Millennial Worker

Because Millennials think about health care differently than previous generations, their employers will need to consider workplace health benefits more targeted for this age group. Millennials expect that employers will be supportive and offer comprehensive health benefits that address their needs.

Even if the millennial has to contribute more financially to these health plans, they will more than likely be willing participants. What employers need to do is make the decision to offer a workplace health benefits plan that will attract and retain this sector of the workforce.

Millennials are prepared to work for you. Are you prepared to work with them?

For more information on Millennials and their willingness to pay more for workplace health benefits, contact Benefit Strategies by phone at 1-780-437-5070 |  or send us an email.

T1 Form - Taxable benefits for employees.

What Are Taxable Employee Benefits?

Recently Benefits Canada asked the question, “When are employee benefits taxable?”

The article suggests that deciding whether a benefit provided to employees is taxable is often not as easy as it might seem.

What are taxable employee benefits? The Income Tax Act is just not as cut and dry as one might suspect regarding benefits, and the courts leave much open to interpretation. In part, the courts are often a more reliable source of information than the Income Tax Act itself.

Tax Exemptions Can Be Moving Targets

As a general rule of thumb, Benefits Canada states that if the benefit primarily targets the employer it is non-taxable to the employee. For example, if an employer pays membership fees for an employee, those fees are considered a condition of employment. In this instance, the fees are not taxable.

However, if the beneficiary of the tax benefit is an employee, there are exemptions specifically created for a wide variety of circumstances that need to be carefully considered and addressed. Kevin Stienstra, a senior tax manager at Grant Thornton LLP, says, “You can also look at the facts around a particular benefit to see whether an argument can be made that it’s non-taxable.”

CRA Monetary Limits on Employee Benefits

It is important to look to specific exemptions (such as company holiday parties) to avoid a tax hit on the value of the benefit.

Holiday parties for example, are non-taxable up to $100 for each employee. However, if the total amount for even one employee is greater than $100, then the entire expenditure for the party becomes taxable, not just the overage amount.

Gift certificates and cash are always taxable, while non-cash awards escape taxation only if their value for the year is less than $500.

Awards are also only considered for workplace contributions and not for job performance. Gifts are deemed tax free only if presented on special occasions.

Caught in The Act

As mentioned in the article, based on the courts and the strength of cases, there is often a reliable source for determining what constitutes a tax benefit. However, you cannot rely 100% on this source alone.

Blend your findings there, together with the administrative policies of Canada Revenue Agency, and you will have a more consistent idea of how taxable benefits apply to your organization or company.

For further information on taxable employee benefits, read the entire Benefits Canada article online or contact Benefit Strategies in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-780-437-5070.

You might also like our article on the Top 10 Employee Benefits in Canada.

Older man with laptop at a table.

Employee Benefit Plans for Employees Over 65 Years

Are there benefit plans for seniors now that retirement is a thing of the past and more employees in Canada are working over the age of 65? Baby boomers in the workplace have a variety of reasons for continuing to work. For some, it is an economic necessity. For others, it is by choice.

According to a Benefits Canada article, only 35% of Canadian respondents have the necessary employee benefits plan in place to address a workforce with older workers over 65.

This aging workforce presents employers with some unique challenges regarding benefit plans for seniors. As more experienced and skillful employees remain on the job longer, benefit services planning will require adjustments to address the ongoing health issues specific to an older sector of the population.

Proportionately, older boomers in the workplace tend to have more ailments than the balance of the population, which in turn, means that their health claims will be higher.

Do you have an aging workforce? Are there boomers in your workplace? If so, there are two ways you can start addressing their employee benefits issues:

  1. Review employee benefits coverage
  2. Examine you collective agreements

Review Employee Benefits Coverage

Historically, Canadian health care plans have not provided for a population in this boomer age that continues to work past the age of 65. The average benefit plan has varying degrees of coverage for older employees and often decreased coverage where long-term, and life benefits are concerned.

Some health care insurers are beginning to develop forward-looking programs that specifically address the ever-widening niche of baby boomers in the workplace.

Examine Your Collective Agreements

One of the circumstances to analyze is if employees are working under a collective agreement. Unions have filed grievances in some instances when employee benefits are terminated or decreased after the age of 65.

An employer may need to review their policies on employee benefits for seniors in light of their collective agreements and ensure that their aging demographic does not experience coverage diminishment or disappearance altogether.

If you are over 65 and have questions about employee benefits for seniors and aging baby boomers in the workplace, please call Benefit Strategies in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-780-437-5070 to discuss your options on various benefits packages.

You might also like our blog on What Does Employee Health and Wellness Mean to Your Business.

Massage therapist working with a patient.

Massage Therapy Benefits for Employees

This last month Benefits Canada asked the question, “Are massage therapy benefits for employee worthwhile?”

The question comes up frequently as many benefits plan sponsors are being pressured to deal with rising drug costs and forced to find other places to reduce benefits costs. Is a massage therapy something that benefits plan sponsors can no longer afford to cover?

In this blog post we will explore three topics related to massage therapy benefits for employees:

  1. What employees are likely to use massage therapy and why
  2. Whether massage therapy is a necessary employee benefit
  3. The value of massage therapy as a way to deal with workplace stress

What plan members are using massage therapy and what are their reasons?

  • Massage therapy services are popular among teenagers and younger, healthier plan members.
  • 43% of plan members have submitted at least one claim for massage therapy in the past year, according to a 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey.
  • 50% of those who use massage therapy report the main reason is for treating a diagnosed or self-diagnosed injury.
  • 38% of those who use massage therapy report the main reason is for relaxation or relieving tension.

Is massage therapy a necessary employee benefit?

In trying to answer this question, Benefits Canada provides several expert opinions:

Barbara Martinez, Practice Leader for Benefits Solutions and Group Benefits at Great-West Life Assurance Co.

Barbara explains that many advisory boards are questioning the value of massage therapy because it falls outside of the traditional definition of medically necessary, yet so many younger employees are opting to use it.

Peter Gove, Innovation Leader of Health Management at Green Shield Canada

Peter states, “Other interventions show much stronger medical evidence, yet are not covered.” According to the Sanofi study mentioned above, there is little scientific evidence backing the positive effects of massage therapy.

Chris Bonnett, Principal at H3 Consulting

Chris argues that massage therapy is a, “Valued benefit for significant segments of the population.”

Art Babcock, Senior Vice-President at Aon Hewitt

Art urges employers to create a strategic benefits plan to measure objectives and results when it comes to the benefits. He argues that without this level of accountability it’s, “Open season on benefits that to do not meet the traditional definition of ‘medically necessary’.”

The 2016 Sanofi study took a look at how massage therapy benefits and usage have changed in the last five years. The 2011 study predicted massage therapy as one of the fastest growing employee benefits. However, in 2016 83% of employee benefits plans were offering coverage for paramedical services like massage therapy but only 49% of members used the service.

Employees seek relaxation through massage therapy – is this a bad thing?

In the 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare survey mentioned above, 38% of respondents expressed a desire to relax and relieve tension and 40% said that the workplace negatively affects their ability to manage stress. Is massage therapy in your employee benefits plan a good way to encourage your employees to relax and destress?

Anne Nicoll, Vice President of Business Development at Medavie Blue Cross seems to think so: “So here we have plan members telling us that they’re using their plan to help them relax. Is that not a good thing?”

Does your employee benefits plan include massage therapy and are your employees using this to their advantage?

If you aren’t sure or if you need to set up a cost-effective benefits plan in your workplace for the first time, please email Benefit Strategies in Edmonton, Alberta or call us at 1-780-437-5070. We’d be happy to go over your options!

Man helping a woman to try on eyeglass frames.

Do Your Vision Care Benefits Cover Your Employees’ Needs?

This week, Benefits Canada is asking “Is your vision care benefits coverage too low?”

The online Canadian poll questioned if the common $200 vision care coverage included in most employee benefits plans is too low.

Another recent survey performed by Sanofi found that employees have very low satisfaction with vision plan coverage when compared to other typical employee benefits. In fact, over 1 in 5 participants ranked their coverage as poor or very poor.

This low satisfaction is very contradictory considering how much members value vision care. It ranks third in terms of importance and over 90% of employee benefits plan members say it is somewhat or very important.

How do your employees feel about the vision care benefits coverage within your workplace employee benefits plan? Does this valued benefit fail to meet plan members’ needs when it comes to purchasing glasses? Should vision care for your employees be a higher priority?

Contact our benefits plan design advisors online or call Benefit Strategies in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-780-437-5070 if you would like to evaluate your current benefits plan or to get a new employee group benefits plan quote for your company.

Couple planning employee benefits with charts, tablet and calculator.

Industries with the Best Employee Benefits

Have you ever wondered what is the best employee benefits by industry and how your package compares to employee benefits in other industry sectors?

A recent study by Glassdoor (an employer rating website) looked at over 470,000 reviews on company websites for businesses that fall into 8 leading industries. The objective was to see how employee benefits compare. Here are the results from highest to lowest, rating overall employee benefits by industry on a 5 star scale:

  1. Finance
    3.72 out of 5 stars
  2. Information Technology
    3.68 out of 5 stars
  3. Manufacturing
    3.64 out of 5 stars
  4. Education
    3.61 out of 5 stars
  5. Health Care
    3.44 out of 5 stars
  6. Business Services
    3.37 out of 5 stars
  7. Retail
    3.11 out of 5 stars
  8. Restaurants, Bars, Food Services
    2.73 out of 5 stars

Based on these survey results, Glassdoor concluded that:

  • Employee benefits packages are highly diverse
  • Access to employee benefits and the quality of benefits are important in overall employee satisfaction

At Benefit Strategies Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, we believe that it is important to understand not only what a competitive benefits plan looks like for your industry or sector, but also the types of employee benefit plans offered across all job options in Canada.

Offering an employee benefits plan and coverage that you know your employees will value (and is competitive) is a key factor in attracting and retaining highly skilled employees.

Read the full article over at Benefits Canada.

To learn more about Benefit Strategies’ approach to designing an employee benefits plan to attract and retain good employees please call our employee benefits specialists in Edmonton at 1-780-437-5070.

Computer showing Insurance Policy graphic

What Do You Know About Long Term Disability Insurance?

One of the most frequently asked questions in regards to disability insurance in Canada is, “Do I really need to buy long term disability insurance?”

There’s no way to know if or when an injury or health issue will occur that might prevent you from being able to work for an extended period of time. In a matter of seconds, a serious accident could happen or a dire medical emergency or diagnosis might be made.

Your potential for earning future income could change and drastically change your way of life, and have very serious consequences for you and your family’s income and standard of living.

Here are seven questions you can ask yourself when determining if you should buy long term disability insurance or not.

These seven questions cover most of what you will need to know about a long term disability, about disability insurance coverage, and how it will affect you and your family.

  1. Can I afford the consequences of not having long term disability? (Who is depending on my income?)

In the case of an accident, disability insurance can help you focus on rehabilitation and getting better rather than worrying about how you will pay for ongoing daily expenses, such as your mortgage, car payments, child’s tuition, groceries, and so on. How would you continue to make ends meet? How would you maintain your standard of living? You may have other income earners in your family or you may have alternate savings plans in place that would help keep you monthly finances afloat while you are unable to work. But what if you don’t? What are your options?

  1. Does my employer offer long term disability insurance coverage?

If you work for a large company or have an employee benefits package through your employer, you may have a small Canadian disability insurance policy. Talk with Human Resources or your Policy Holder for the specific details on your insurance coverage and decide if you are comfortable or not with its level of coverage. Do you need to look at additional coverage options?

  1. Does my employee benefits plan offer enough disability coverage?

Even if you know you have disability insurance through your work’s employee benefits policy be sure to double check the details. Many disability insurance benefits cover between 54 and 70% of your gross taxable income. These plans often cap the monthly payout (ex. $2,500). Depending on your salary, this may or may not be enough to cover your monthly expenses. This is why private disability insurance plans are very attractive to large income earners.

  1. How will my age affect disability insurance coverage?

A younger person has significantly more years of earning potential and income to support disability insurance than a person nearing retirement. That is, the cumulative risk of suffering a disability lasting more than 90 days before retiring is much greater for a younger person than an old person.

For example, a 40 year old has an 18% cumulative risk of suffering a disability in their next 25 years of work before retiring at 65. Compare this to just an 8% cumulative risk of a 60 year old who has just 5 years left of work before retiring.

  1. What is my family medical history?

If you have a family history of medical conditions that you anticipate could be in your future that could prevent you from working, you may want to purchase disability insurance. Keep in mind that medical history plays a large role in qualifying and determining the cost of disability insurance in Canada.

  1. Does my profession have occupational factors that would make it difficult to return to work with a disability?

Some professions require significant physical requirements. For example, it would be very difficult to continue as a fire fighter with soft tissue damage or a knee injury. On the other hand, a professional with a desk job (or workload that could be adjusted given an injury) would likely be able to return to work much earlier on following an injury. They may even be able to fulfill their job description in spite of an injury that does not heal.

  1. What is my risk tolerance?

For a risk adverse personality, having the peace of mind in knowing that your family is secure in the case of a potential injury is worth much more than the disability insurance rates and premiums. Purchasing disability insurance may just help you sleep better at night.

Do you have more questions you need answered about disability insurance in Canada?

Contact a disability insurance advisor online at Benefit Strategies in Edmonton, Alberta or call our office at 1-780-437-5070 if you would like more information about disability insurance policies in Canada or to get a group disability insurance quote.

Larger Life Insurance paper cutout of a family in palm of hand.

Individual Health Monitoring Just Got Easier

You’ve probably heard about self health monitoring apps. Some health-related companies are now offering select groups of customers deeply discounted Apple Watches as rewards for adhering to long-term exercise plans.

As of March 21, 2016, the scope and range of personal health care just changed once again. Apple recently announced CareKit, the next step in the development of their health-related infrastructure that will undoubtedly begin to change the face of overall healthcare, as we currently know it, and could potentially positively affect employee benefits programs.

What Is CareKit?

CareKit is a new framework used by developers to build self health monitoring apps that will enable people to play a more active role in their personal healthcare monitoring.

Apple designed the first four modules of CareKit and is encouraging the developer community to take their lead and run with it. Those initial modules of the self health monitoring app include:

  1. Care Card – This app lets individuals track their medication and physical therapy exercises (what Apple calls Action Items). Some of these exercises are tracked using sensors in the AppleWatch, or on the iPhone.
  2. Symptom and Measurement Tracker – This area of the self-monitoring health app allows a user to record how they’re feeling, what symptoms (if any) they may have, and even quantify their range of motion using the iPhone’s gyroscope and accelerometer.
  3. Insight Dashboard – Apple designed this area of CareKit to show how medical treatments are working by mapping symptoms against action items in the Care Card portion of the app.
  4. Connect – This fourth module allows patients to share (at their discretion) information about their health or change in health conditions, with family members, doctors, or care teams.

It will be very interesting to see what other developers will come up with to add to Apple’s CareKit design.

How Self Health Monitoring Apps Affect Our Industry

Having the ability to improve the health of individuals through the use of self-monitoring health apps like CareKit, that offer more accurate and timely data collection of their actionable medical information, will presumably lead to better overall healthcare and inevitably, put less strain on an employer’s employee benefit offerings.

Employees that buy into self-monitoring health apps and adhere to long-term exercise plans should subsequently experience more satisfying health, increased longevity, and as a result, put less demand on healthcare.

This is very promising for our industry and for employers, and Benefit Strategies will be right there, just as we always have been, supporting our customers and their employees.

We are hopeful that through the use of CareKit and other similar self-monitoring health apps that will inevitably hit the market, employees will be able to enjoy considerably lengthier coverage periods offered by their employers.

Please contact Benefit Strategies online or call our employee benefits advisors at 1-780-437-5070 to discuss your employee benefits needs.