Hammer about to break a piggy bank.

Financial Issues Affect Employee Health & Productivity

What You As an Employer Can Do to Help

How does employee financial wellness affect the employer?

The relationship between health and productivity is an issue that most employers have to contend with.

As an employer, you’ve probably struggled with the effect of sickness in the workplace but have you also thought about employee financial wellness?

Does their financial health also affect their productivity and if so, what can you do about it?

recent study by Manulife Financial Corporation surveyed more than 200 employee assistance program counsellors. The study’s objective was to two-fold:

  1. To investigate how employees feel about their own financial struggles and how it affects their workplace productivity.
  2. And to find out what role employers can play in employee financial wellness.

Of the counselors surveyed, the results showed that:

  • 93% believe employee financial wellness affects work and productivity.
  • 99% think workplace pension and health plans play an important role in providing safety, security, and support to overall employee financial wellness.
  • 46% feel it is difficult for employees who suffer from financial health issues.
  • 74% feel personal finances have significant impact on the emotional and mental health of employees.

Only a third of the counsellors surveyed see people making this important connection between an employee’s personal finances and other problems.

As An Employer What Options Do You Have?

Are you aware of the employee financial wellness of your workforce? Are you wondering about strategies and how you can implement them to help improve productivity and the overall wellbeing of your employees?

Here are some suggestions that you might want to consider.

  1. Recognizethat the costs of an employee’s financial health are connected and similar to the costs of their physical and mental health.
  2. Help employees recognize how their financial health (along with physical and mental health) can affect their performance in the workplace.
  3. Provide resources such as employee financial wellness assessments that can help pinpoint potential causes of financial stress. (For example, your employees could be struggling with budgeting or debt, which can be huge stressors for an individual or household.)
  4. Incorporate employee benefits plans that could help alleviate financial stress such as health spending accounts that can take away the strain of a dental bill. You can also implement employee benefit plans that help employees start investing and saving for retirement.
  5. Break the stigma of financial health in the workplace. Over the last several years the movement to talk about mental health in the workplace has started to breakdown that stigma but it is equally as important to create a safe space for employees to talk about their finances, to ask questions and to get help finding the answers.

About Benefit Strategies Inc.

Benefit Strategies is based in Edmonton, Alberta and services business and corporate customers throughout Canada’s Western Provinces and the Northwest Territories. Let our experienced employee benefits brokers help you discover creative ways to reward your employees that will contribute to their financial wellbeing such as Group RRSPs and Pension Plans or Health Care Spending Accounts.

You can call Benefit Strategies Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-780-437-5070 or send us an email.

You might also be interested in these related blog articles:

Stethoscope resting on top medicine pills.

Comprehensive Managed Benefits Plans Help Control Costs

In a recent article titled, Businesses Need To Preserve Benefits Through Well-Managed Plans, SmallBizAdvisor urges private sector employers to ensure that their managed benefits plans are helping to preserve employee benefits.

The warning to private sector employers comes as a result of private plan spending increasing again in 2016. This is primarily due to rising drug costs as well as high-cost drugs and high-cost patients, as shown through a recent Express Scripts Canada Drug Trend Report:

  • 14% of employee benefits plan members account for 72% of total plan spending.
  • High-cost drug spend has increased from 13% of total drug spend in 2007 to 30% of total drug spend in 2016.
  • $1 out of every $5 spent on prescription drugs in 2016 went towards diabetes or inflammatory condition medications.

Furthermore, the study shows that cancer treatment drugs are very popular in the drug development pipeline.

In coming years, it is expected that many cancer treatments will move from hospital-administered treatments (covered by public health plans) to self-administered treatments (covered by private-sector claims). This is likely to keep the drug portion of employee managed benefits plans on the rise for many years to come.

Comprehensive Managed Prescription Drug Plans

Rather than abandoning employee managed benefits plans completely or eliminating the drug treatment portion of your plan, there are other ways to manage and curb rising costs.

Smart employers are seeking the help of creative insurance brokers like Benefit Strategies Inc. and starting to implement Comprehensive Managed Prescription Drug Plans. This concept comes out of the fact that only a small portion of plan members use a large majority of the total spending plan of a company. Often, these individuals with chronic or serious illnesses are on several different medications prescribed by different specialists.

As Michael Biskey, President of Express Scripts Canada says, “Most Canadians simply do not have the clinical knowledge they need to figure out which drug is the most cost-effective, clinically appropriate option for their treatment.”

Comprehensive Managed Benefits Plans work by focusing plan management efforts and educating members to make the most effective, informed health decisions while helping reduce out-of-pocket expenses and minimizing plan spending.

In turn, the employer achieves a better drug benefit ROI while still being able to offer employees and their dependents the life-saving treatments they need.

About Benefit Strategies Inc.

Edmonton’s Benefit Strategies Inc. has been serving small to medium sized businesses as well as corporate clients throughout Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and the Western Provinces of Canada for more than three decades.

Let us show you how Comprehensive Managed Benefits Plans can control costs and still help you reward your employees. You can call Benefit Strategies Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-780-437-5070 or send us an email.

Be sure to read our article How To Prepare for Benefits Cost Increases.

Payroll binders, notepad, pens, and pencils in a pencil holder.

Trend Alert: Canadian Salaries Expected to Rise in 2018

As you prepare for next year you are likely already thinking about whether or not to give out salary increases, and if so, how much. Here are two recent Canadian studies that showcase how other employers across Canada anticipate rewarding employees in the next year.

Two Studies Show Salaries Expected to Rise

A recent study by Willis Towers Watson, a Toronto based Insurance Company, surveyed over 300 Canadian employers on whether or not they project base salary increases for all or some employee groups in 2018.

The Willis Towers Watson survey results showed that:

  • 94% of Canadian employers expect to increase salaries in 2018 (up from just 90% in 2017)
  • Employers expect to award base increases of 2.8% – to both executive and non-executive employees

In another Canadian salary study by Mercer Canada, the study projects that Canadian salaries will increase by 2.4% in 2018 compared to the 2.3% increase in 2017.

Salary Increases Need To Be Strategic

The Mercer study found that top performers can expect to receive salary increases of up to 1.8 times that of average performers. Both top performers and those with in-demand skill sets will expect to be paid differently because competition is so fierce.

The Willis Towers Watson study found that most employers are rewarding what they call “star performers” with substantially larger salary increases while giving minimal – if any – increases to their weakest performers.

Employee Retention #1 Priority for Employers in 2018

The Mercer Canada study found that 69% of survey respondents are most concerned about employee retention when it comes to compensation decisions in 2018.

The second highest concern when administering salary increases is overall economic climate.

Alterative Compensations Instead of Salary Increases

Rather than just handing out pay raises only to top performers, or pay raises straight across the board, Allison Griffiths (principal at Mercer Canada), suggest employers look to alternate compensation packages.

For example, extra vacation days, education and skill development, or work-from-home options could be more lucrative than a straight across dollar raise. The report also showed that employee benefit plans can also fit in as an alternative to salary increases in 2018.

About Benefit Strategies Inc.

As employee benefit brokers based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Benefit Strategies Inc. is dedicated to helping Canadian businesses compensate and reward their employees. We service small businesses and corporations throughout Alberta, the Western Provinces and the Northwest Territories.

For more information about how to leverage employee benefits to retain and compensate your employees in 2018 please contact Benefit Strategies Inc. Call us at 1-780-437-5070 or contact our benefits brokers by email.

You might also our article titled How to Deal with Employee Benefits Cost Increase.

Stacks of coins showing increasing growth or profits.

Tips for Minimizng Employee Benefits Cost Increases

Minimizing employee benefits cost increases has always been an insurance industry concern. Let’s look at our options.

Why are benefit costs increasing?

The main reason for the rising cost of employee benefits is because of the skyrocketing costs of specialty drugs. Many of these specialty drugs are new to the market in the last five years and are now starting to affect insurance premiums. Insurance companies do not want to take on the risk of expensive drugs used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other complex illnesses.

Most experts believe that minimizing employee benefits cost increases will be an ongoing concern for employers as the costs of benefits continue to rise. Rather than fret about how you will be able to continue offering competitive employee benefit plans, call our Edmonton employee benefits advisors at 1-780-437-5070. We will be able to offer you creative solutions for reducing the costs of employee benefits.

In this article, our Benefit Strategies advisors will discuss several creative solutions for minimizing employee benefit cost increases.

1. Apply a cap to the drug component of your benefits plan.

Since we know that the rising costs of employee benefits are due to the rising cost of specialty drugs, many employers are placing a cap on the drug component of their employee benefits plan. Many Canadian provinces offer government plans to cover specialty drugs. For example, Alberta Health offers health benefit plans for eligible Alberta residents. In British Columbia, PharmaCare exists for eligible BC residents.

Many employee benefit plan providers are willing to help employees get access to these government programs in the case of unforeseen circumstances.

2. Check out Hybrid Health Spending Accounts.

You no longer have to settle for a defined employee benefits plan or a defined contribution plan. You can have the best of both worlds with a hybrid health spending account, a model that combines a traditional benefits plan with a health spending account. Hybrid employee benefits plans work great for small businesses who buy plans according to their specific needs while limiting employee benefits costs increases. This strategy can go a long way in minimizing employee benefits cost increases.

3. Pay what you actually use with an ASO Insurance Plan.

Many companies who plan to offer employee benefits for the long term are choosing Administrative Services Only plans or ASO Plans. ASO insurance plans are flexible, allowing the employer to fund the plan that is administered by a third party. At the end of the month or year (depending on the ASO plan), the administrator will calculate actual claims and either refund the employer (if the plan was underused) or bill the employer for any overage.

Over time, these ASO insurance plans are often more cost effective, although some businesses may be reluctant to use them because of unpredictable monthly claims.

4. Understand the reasons for your increasing benefits plan costs.

As your benefits plan broker, Benefit Strategies is committed to minimizing employee benefits cost increases. We can help break down and explain the rising costs of your employee benefits plan. For instance, many times the benefits costs increases are occurring because of claims made by spouses and dependents. Once we identify the reasons behind the rising costs we can likely help provide several solutions to minimize any further cost increases.

5. Shop around among different insurance benefits brokers.

If you feel your benefit plan premiums have increased too much you can collect quotes from other insurance benefits brokers. Most of the time it is more beneficial to stay with your company and ask what they can do to lower your rates. At the same time, by making yourself aware of the competitive plans and pricing available on the market you are being a smart and informed consumer. Even if you don’t end up switching providers, you will have the peace of mind that you aren’t paying more than necessary.

About Benefit Strategies

Benefit Strategies Inc. has been providing employee benefits advice to businesses and corporate clients throughout Western Canada for over four decades. Let us help you find creative ways to save money by minimizing employee benefits cost increases.

To learn more, please call Edmonton’s Benefit Strategies Inc. at 1-780-437-5070 or send us an email.

You might also our article entitled Budget Employee Benefits for Small Business.

Young woman with laptop at a table smiling.

Tips on Transitioning From Fixed to Custom Benefit Plans

The overall trend in the last several years for employee benefits is to move away from traditional or fixed benefits to more tailored, custom benefit plans.

One example is Health Spending Accounts that allow employees to choose the benefits they want. And, since employers only have to pay for the benefits that have been used, employers can save.

There are several reasons why Canadian companies are moving to custom benefit plans instead of traditional plans:

  • Cost Savings – Employers are able to control costs by setting benefit limits each year.
  • More Desirable – Employees are empowered to choose how to spend their employee benefits allowance, which helps them feel like they are getting better coverage.
  • Flexibility – Custom benefit plans are suitable for diverse workforces as employees can choose which benefits they actually need and want.

In this article, our Edmonton employee benefits brokers will offer four important employee benefits tips to consider if you are thinking of switching from a traditional benefits plan to more tailored, custom benefit plans.

1. Consider a Health Spending Account

Health spending accounts are great for employers because they can set the health spending amount. Employees in turn are able to choose where to spend their money. Be sure to read our article What Can a Flexible Benefits Plan Offer Your Employees?

Many companies transitioning between traditional and custom benefit plans ask this question, “What happens in the case of serious, costly medical issues or emergencies?”

Employees can often anticipate their needs for eyeglasses or prescription medications for the year, but what happens if there is an unexpected medical expense that exceeds their health spending account?

One solution is to keep a basic traditional plan and have a health spending account as an “add-on” for employees. Many employers are choosing to pair the custom benefit plans with a catastrophic covered or pooled plan. This ensures that employees are covered for more eventualities.

2. Check Out Administrative-Services Only (ASO) Plans

If your main reason for switching to custom benefit plans is cost savings, you may want to consider an ASO Plan.

ASO Plans are funded by the employer and administered by a third party. The employer only pays for what is used because the plan costs are based on actual (not anticipated) claims. If fewer claims are made than anticipated, the employer gets to keep the surplus.

The only downside to this option is that the employer will be left owing if there are any claims above the premiums paid for the year. Basically, the insurance company will predict anticipated claims for your workplace and if you exceed that amount you will be responsible to pay the deficit.

If you plan to offer employee benefit plans year over year, this option often ends up being slightly more cost effective.

3. Clearly Communicate the Potential Changes with Employees

Change in the workplace is often met with resistance regardless of how big or small the change is.

Be sure to work with your insurance broker to put your benefit plans into action to help make the transition very smooth. Employees may be worried the new custom benefit plans do not offer the same coverage or value. Be sure to outline the advantages of the change and confirm that each employee understands what they are getting under the new plans.

4. Find a Balance Between Employee Satisfaction and Bottom Line

There is always a fine balance of cost savings for the employer while still offering sufficient benefits plans to make sure your employees are well taken care. You should also consider making your traditional benefits plan or your tailored benefits plan a part of a competitive compensation package.

Can you attract and retain a qualified workforce with your current benefits plan?

About Benefit Strategies

For over four decades Benefit Strategies Inc. has been working with corporations and business owners throughout Alberta and Canada’s Western provinces to create cost effective employee benefits plans that reflect current market conditions.

Want to learn more about the differences between traditional and tailored health spending accounts? If you wish to discuss how to transition over to custom benefit plans, please call our office in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-780-437-5070 or send us an email.

Workplace staff meeting on set of stairs.

Do You Know What Health Benefits Your Employees Really Want?

In a 2017 healthcare survey by Sanofi Canada entitled, “Winds of Change – New Directions In Employee Health Benefits,” author Danny Peak reported some very interesting findings about which health care benefits employees seem to really want.

In this Benefit Strategies blog post we’ll give you a quick overview of the Sanofi survey results and take a closer look at what these results could mean to you and your employees.

Employee Satisfaction with Health Care Benefits Is Falling

According to the Sanofi healthcare survey, fewer employees (only 53%) feel that their employee health benefit plans do a great job at meeting their specific needs. This is down significantly from the 73% reported back in 1999!

Even more alarming is that 68% of the survey respondents (up from 51% in 2000) said they feel that their employers are putting a higher priority on cutting costs, at the expense of providing better health care benefits.

What Health Care Benefits Do Employees Want?

Sadly, only 11% of today’s employees report being content with the current levels of healthcare benefits coverage they receive for paramedical services, vision care, prescription drugs, basic dental, and for major dental services.

A significant number of employees stated that they would like to see an increase in healthcare benefits coverage for the following three important areas:

  • 25% want better coverage for Major Dental services
  • 21% want better coverage for Vision Care services
  • 21% want better coverage for Paramedical Services

Employers should take note since the perception of the employee is that there is still significant room for improvement where coverage is concerned.

Adding Health Risk Screenings As A Possible Benefit

The employees that took the time to complete the Sanofi Canada survey also stated that they would be interested in trying new benefits coverage such as “Health Risk Screenings” in an effort to better address their individual health issues. The survey report indicated that:

  • 83% of employees were interested in coverage for cancer screenings
  • 80% would like coverage for heart disease screenings
  • 71% would like coverage for diabetes screenings
  • 64% would like coverage for stress or mental illness screenings

What Health Care Benefits Would Employees Be Willing to Reduce?

If employees had the option to choose and could reduce one benefits plan coverage in favour of another, 60% of those who want major dental services, and 53% who want vision care services, stated they would be willing to reduce their paramedical coverage if necessary.

Conversely, of those who want better paramedical services coverage, 35% of employees would be willing to reduce dental benefits, and 32% would be willing to reduce vision care coverage.

How to Adapt – What Options Do You Have As An Employer?

In our last blog article entitled, “How Are Today’s Health Benefits Plans Changing?” we reported that only 23% of Canadian healthcare benefits plans have a flexible structure while 64% of surveyed employees said the would like to have better control over their own healthcare benefits plans.

Thankfully this is now possible with the League Digital Health Insurance App, which will also help employers save since they will only pay for whatever benefits have been used.

To learn more about how you can adapt your employee healthcare benefits plan to better meet the needs of your employees, or about the League Digital Health App, call Benefit Strategies Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta at 1-780-437-5070 or send us an email.

A meeting discussing productivity study.

Which Industries Offer the Best Benefits

While salaries are still the strongest incentive, many potential employees also look at industries with the best benefits like paid leave, health insurance, and retirement plans.

In 2016, Glassdoor conducted an anonymous online survey of past and present employees who rated employers across eight different industries, with over 470,000 responses. The objective was to uncover which North American industries (that currently have active job openings) offer the best employee benefits.

The three industries that came out on top with the highest rated benefits packages were:

  1. Finance Sector
  2. Information Technology
  3. Manufacturing

Not surprisingly, food service and retail industries were rated at the bottom of those surveyed with education, health services and business services rounding out the mix.

What Are the Top Industries Doing Differently

According to a Glassdoor study, 3 out of 5 respondents consider “perks” and “benefits” right up there with salary when evaluating job compensation.

In support of this, when searching for top employees, many finance and technology companies stated that they had “increased benefits” as a means of attracting the most desirable candidates.

In the manufacturing sector, offering significant incentives are necessary to attract and maintain highly skilled tradespeople. The unions who represent the employees generally negotiate premium benefits packages for employees in manufacturing.

Most respondents that considered parental leave a top priority were from the education and IT sectors, while business services, retail, and health care had the lowest ratings in that category.

Additional Perks

The Glassdoor survey also examined free snacks and free food as perks of the job.

While the quality of benefits in the food service industry may be some of the lowest, this sector did offer the best perks in terms of free food and snacks. However the education and retail sectors received the lowest rating for food perks.

Want to Offer Your Employees Better Benefits?

In today’s job market there seems to be an upswing in terms of the number of potential employees looking for added benefits along with a competitive salary.

Regardless of what industry you are in, Benefit Strategies Inc. in Edmonton Alberta can help you rethink your employee benefits package and help you attract the best employees for your job postings.

Call us today at 780-437-5070 or send us an email.

Waitress serving young patrons food in a restaurant.

Restaurant Finds Unique Way to Fund Employee Benefits Plan

A Toronto restaurant found a unique approach to employee benefits funding.

The restaurant began adding a 3% surcharge to each bill, with the funds to be used only to help provide employees with health and dental benefits.

Co-owner Heather Mee, was quoted in a May 2017 Benefits Canada article as saying, the surcharge was a “…more honest and transparent way” of funding the employee benefits.

In fact, there will be a separate item on each bill that is easily tracked and accountable so that it cannot be entered into the restaurant owner’s pockets.

The sole purpose for the bill surcharge is to provide a means of self funding employee benefits costs.

According to Mee, the average restaurant diner will spend less than $15 on a meal. This means that the surcharge for the benefits plan for each meal amounts to less than $0.50. As well, Mee states that diners who wish not to contribute will be allowed to opt out of the surcharge.

Aside from helping to cover health and dental, the employee benefits plan also covers services such as orthotics, massage therapy, and life insurance.

Mee acknowledges that the proceeds raised from the restaurant bill surcharge won’t cover all the expenses so the restaurant will pick up the balance.

In a market where few restaurants even offer benefits (because industry margins are minuscule and raising meal prices can be risky for the business), Mee admits that for her restaurant, this employee benefits funding alternative was a no brainer. Happy employees stay longer. And, many long-time restaurant customers are happy to contribute if it means helping the employees.

Need a benefits plan for your restaurant? Benefit Strategies can help.

Call us today at 780-437-5070 or send us an email.

Millenial using MyHSA benefits health app on her phone.

Introducing League Health Insurance Benefits

Benefit Strategies Inc. is proud to offer its customers access to League Health Insurance Benefits – an employee benefits plan that can be customized through the League digital health app!

League Health Insurance Company is an employee benefits provider that offers a digital alternative to traditional health benefits. With League, employees (and employers) can say goodbye to one-size-fits-all benefits plans and tight spending restrictions.

Employees Love League Benefits Canada

Here are four reasons why employees love this new League digital health app and four reasons you will love the health benefits plan too!

  1. Digital First. League Insurance is a fully digital health benefits provider. Employees can check their account balances, transaction history, statements, receipts, and more, all within the League Digital Health App.
  2. Diverse expanded benefits plans. League Benefits offers a Lifestyle Spending Account where your employees can choose a variety of services including gym memberships, personal training, health coaching, food and supplements, physiotherapy, and more.
  3. Convenience. In addition to going digital, your employees will love the convenience of on-site health screenings and flu clinics. If incorporated, they will no longer have to visit their local clinic for a flu shot, massage, blood pressure testing, and other health screening options.
  4. Membership reviews. Thanks to the League digital benefits marketplace, there are literally thousands of health services available from some of the best professionals in the business – all rated by League’s members. The League Insurance roster includes only qualified professionals who have been verified, rated, and reviewed.

Reasons You Will Love League Benefits

  1. Financial Control. League offers a fixed contribution model that allows for cost control and certainty. There will be no more end of the year surprises and you only pay for what your employees actually use.
  2. Flexibility. Build an employee benefits plan that is perfect for your business and team. Options include popular packaged benefits plans with flexible spending accounts or a-la-carte menu of products and services that meet your needs and fit within your budget.
  3. Onsite Workplace Health Services. Bringing healthcare to your employees can improve the overall wellness of your workplace, which can lead to reduced stress, improved morale, fewer sick days, and many more benefits. League’s Workplace Health Services include verified health professionals providing on-site services such as health screenings and clinics, group fitness classes, stress management, and more. When health is incorporated into your company culture, everyone feels they are well looked after!
  4. Tax Deductions. Your company can enjoy some great tax deductions by introducing an Employee Benefits Plan like League Insurance. Ask us how!

To learn more about League Benefits and the League digital health app, or how League can improve the overall health, wellness, and satisfaction of your employees, please contact Benefit Strategies Inc. today at 1-780-437-5070 or send us an email.

Older couple engaged in retirement planning.

Canada Pension Plan – Will It Be There When You Retire?

In this post, Benefit Strategies Inc. in Edmonton Alberta takes a look at how Canadians feel about retirement and some troubling statistics about the state of the public pension plan in Canada.

  • The belief that Canadian pension plans will cease to exist at the point of retirement is shared by as much as 21% of today’s working age Canadians, according to an HSBC report entitled The Future of Retirement: Shifting Sands.
  • Concern over the decline of public pensions is also worrying at least 62% of the respondents. That same percentage of Canadians (62%) was mindful of economic uncertainty as it applied to their ability to save for retirement.
  • On the heels of the 2007/08 financial crisis, 52% of Canadians polled stated that it is now more difficult than ever to save for retirement.
  • Employee pension plans were troubling 48% who question whether they will receive a full pension payout on retirement.
  • Rising health-care costs concerned 74% of Canadians, who feel they will have to spend more in the future.
  • The report also indicates changes in the landscape of retirement are compelling Canadians to adjust their retirement outlook. Many are using online technology to research saving options, with 22% having deposited money in an online savings account.

How Canadians feel about retirement is certainly a cause for concern. Are you feeling bewildered by these Canada Pension Plan statistics and the potential ramifications for your future retirement?

Contact Benefit Strategies today at 1-780-437-5070 or send us an email and let us show you how to develop a positive course of action in today’s volatile retirement climate.

You might also like our Benefit Strategies article entitled New Trends in Retirement Planning in Canada.