Canadian employers expressed renewed urgency around employee wellbeing and mental health, Aon report finds
Employers do not intend to alter medical cost-sharing arrangements
TORONTO, March 11, 2021 /CNW/ -- Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, has released a new report that shows most Canadian employers expressed renewed urgency around employee wellbeing and mental health, including virtual care benefits, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, Rethinking Benefits in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond, indicates employers will focus more on employee wellbeing in the next few months. Nearly 60% express the need to evaluate and improve their mental health offering, either with new services or by closing coverage or delivery gaps identified during the pandemic. Virtual health care benefits, now offered by a third of responding organizations, will grow with another 27% saying they want to add it. About half of those that offer a virtual health care benefit had it in place before the pandemic, but most organizations that implemented it during the pandemic intend to keep it in place after the pandemic subsides.
The survey highlights that optional benefits also garner more attention in the COVID-19 world. Wellness and lifestyle benefits have a preventative impact on long-term disability costs. About two thirds of respondents believe that the pandemic has increased employee interest in select lifestyle benefits such as stress management and counselling (84%), financial planning (74%), nutrition programs (70%), virtual fitness memberships (69%) and fitness equipment purchase/rental (66%).
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, Canadian employers have been very concerned about their employees' wellbeing," said Joey Raheb, senior vice president for Health Solutions at Aon. "COVID-19 has uncovered some gaps in current benefit packages and may have triggered a desire to re-evaluate needs – not so much on the core benefits like health, dental and life, but in the optional and supporting benefit areas that favor work/life balance and employee wellbeing. More than ever, employers are looking for a balance between budgetary constraints and the need for enhancements that speak to employee engagement and retention."
The survey results also find that a majority of responding organizations say they are not thinking about making changes in key areas like cost-sharing (81%) or underlying financial arrangements (95%).
Short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) costs continue to be top-of-mind for most plan sponsors, with nearly 75% concerned with how costs are escalating. The survey also shows that areas directly influenced by COVID-19 like the availability of services (83%), possible insurer reasonable and customary increases (79%) and dental cost increases (64%) are also concerning. Finally, demonstrating a commitment to change and adaptation, almost a quarter (24%) of respondents list creating an inclusive and diverse workforce as a factor that influences benefits strategy.
"Employers who were already reexamining benefits strategy in the face of cost challenges and changing employee expectations are forced to adjust yet again due to the current environment," Raheb added. "Rebalancing is on employers' minds but cutting benefits is not. For those who are new on the journey, it will mean defining what that means for their organization; for those with a defined approach, it will mean filling gaps identified during the pandemic or continuing to execute on their priorities."
Notes to editors
This new web-based survey was conducted in December 2020 and completed by more than 230 Canadian employers of various sizes in nine provinces across the country. It was designed to evaluate how companies have managed the pandemic, their priorities for reshaping their benefits packages and the implications for insurance.
Aon plc (NYSE:AON) is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance.
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