Crossgrove Blog

5 things to know about group benefits

Wed, Dec 21, 2022 5:00 PM GMT

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re among the nearly three-quarters of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 who would leave their current job for one with better benefits. Sounds about right?

This is according to findings from a recent survey by RBC Insurance, which also showed an increase in how Canadians with employer-provided benefits ranked their job satisfaction, level of well-being, physical health, mental health, and financial health compared to those without benefits.

To help us gain more perspective on the subject, we talked to the Head of Group Benefits at RBC Insurance, Julie Gaudry, about recent trends that RBC is seeing in group benefits, what to look out for in a package when applying for a job, and how employers can better meet the needs of employees.

Basics of benefits

If you’re not familiar, a group benefits plan is something many employers provide to support their employee’s health and financial well-being.

A typical package will include coverage for medical expenses that are not paid for by your provincial healthcare plan, such as dental, prescription drugs, and mental or physical therapy. Employees may also have access to other coverage such as life or disability insurance and, increasingly, additional services that are designed to encourage employees to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Job applications will often list that they have a “competitive” benefits package, but Gaudry notes that what is considered “competitive” can vary.

“Since benefits aren’t ‘one size fits all,’ it’s important employers know the workforce they’re looking to attract and retain to ensure that they’re truly offering a package that meets their needs,” Gaudry tells Daily Hive.

Gaudry points to the RBC Insurance survey, which showed that young Canadians are looking for more mental health support, along with flexibility in their coverage, to meet their personal needs.

The realities of what’s offered


While there’s still some work to be done with what employers are offering, Gaudry says that there has been a shift in employers’ benefits packages.

“One of the changes we’re seeing, which is great progress, is an increased desire to offer health and wellness spending accounts,” says Gaudry. “There’s also greater investment in mental health support, whether that’s higher levels of coverage for a psychologist or social worker, or adding new benefits and services that help employees self-serve mental health support or navigate a complex health care system when they need it.”

Gaudry notes that while these changes have been happening over the last decade, progress has accelerated in recent years. She attributes this to pandemic-related concerns and a tighter labour market which, according to RBC Economics, has roughly 60% more job postings and 7% fewer available workers compared to pre-pandemic levels in Canada.

This has created a “buyers market” in the workforce, meaning employers have had to adapt by offering more competitive packages.

What to ask during the interview process

When looking at future job opportunities, Gaudry says it’s important to center questions around your particular needs when you get to the final stages of your interview process.

 “You can ask specific questions about the benefits package around the same time as you’d ask questions about other aspects of the total rewards or the compensation package,” says Gaudry.

While getting into specifics should generally be done at a later stage, Gaudry notes that asking general questions earlier in the process can give you an indication of prospective employers’ attitudes about their benefits. How they frame their benefits is a great indicator of the culture of a company, rather than simply looking at the details of what they offer.

“There’s a big difference between offering something that’s more of a ‘tick-in-the-box’ versus actually encouraging its use,” says Gaudry. “Those general questions about company values and culture could really elicit some insightful information as you’re considering where to work.”

During those early stages, ask for examples of workplace policies or programs they have in place to support employee well-being, and their company values — and take note of how they discuss them. Then, as you’re entering the offer stage, you can get into those specific questions about benefits.

You got the job… What’s next?

Once you’ve got an offer and are heading into your first day, you’ll most likely be given information about your benefits package and other HR policies. This is where you’ll want to consider your personal health needs and ask specific questions if you’re unsure what benefits or services are available that matter to you.

“It’s not just about what you think you’re going to use now, but what you want to have coverage for should something arise in the future for you or your family,” says Gaudry. “What matters will vary from person to person, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you start getting into some of those questions.”

Gaudry tells us mental health coverage, health and wellness spending accounts, and online wellness services often go underutilized as many employees aren’t aware of what they have access to.

“Group benefits are there to support you in managing or recovering from a medical issue, but there are certain components that can be used more preventatively to help you lead a healthier lifestyle,” she says.

A clearer picture of group benefits

Given the current labour market, workers are more easily able to compare employment opportunities to arrive at the best fit for their needs. Young Canadians are scrutinizing group benefits packages more closely than in previous generations, and employers are needing to adapt to attract top talent.

“We’re seeing people reporting lower levels of overall well-being or mental health,” says Gaudry. “Employees should look out for an offer from an employer that has policies, programs, and coverage in place that tells you they care about your health and well-being. Ones which are going to help you lead a healthier and more productive lifestyle.”

For employers looking into how they can adapt to this change in the job market, now is the time to gather data on what your prospective pool of employees is looking for in their benefits. Upping your mental health and wellness support, offering flexibility, and being transparent and encouraging of what you offer are all areas that are seeing change for the better.

“What we consistently saw in our research, when it comes to job satisfaction and overall well-being, was that those with benefits rated these factors higher than those without,” says Gaudry. “There is real value in making a competitive benefits package available to your employees in terms of retention, satisfaction, and improving their health and well-being. For employees looking for that, if you’re fortunate to have access to a job that provides benefits, it will have a meaningful impact on many aspects of your life.”

The vast majority (87 per cent) of small- and medium-sized employers agreed employee mental health is very important to the success of their business, according to a new survey by the Business Development Bank of Canada.

The survey, which polled 750 owners of SMEs, found nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) currently place a high priority on supporting employees’ mental health. These measures include flexible work schedules (55 per cent), additional time off (50 per cent) and remote/hybrid working arrangements (33 per cent).

The vast majority (90 per cent) of business owners said they’re open to seeking their own support for a mental-health issue, up from just 16 per cent in 2019. And among leaders open to seeking mental-health support, the main sources of stress were fears of a cash shortfall (62 per cent), a recession (51 per cent) and work-life balance (48 per cent).

When it comes to mental-health coping strategies, 59 per cent of employers said they find quiet time to relax, followed by doing physical activity (53 per cent) and taking time off or taking vacation (43 per cent).

“The biggest source of stress for the business owners surveyed is finances, which is no surprise given the current economic climate,” said Annie Marsolais, chief marketing officer and mental-health ambassador at the BDC, in a press release. “However, behind these concerns lies a particular consideration for their well-being and that of their staff.

“The solutions that these business owners are prioritizing reflect a transformation in the work environment: flexible schedules, additional time off, remote and hybrid work and team-building activities.” 

Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of U.S. employers say they offer hybrid work arrangements, according to a new survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

The survey, which polled more than 500 employers, found 55 per cent said they offer fully remote working arrangements while 57 per cent offer flexible work hours. In addition, 55 per cent said they offer paid floating holidays and 38 per cent offer paid leave to vote. About a fifth of respondents said they offer flexibility to accommodate religious observances (20 per cent), compressed workweeks (19 per cent) and summer hours (17 per cent).

Fewer employers offered in-office benefits and perks compared to 2020, including flu shot programs (63 per cent compared to 72 per cent), coffee service (54 per cent compared to 64 per cent), service award programs (51 per cent compared to 60 per cent), health risk assessments/screenings (48 per cent compared to 55 per cent), weight management programs (32 per cent compared to 37 per cent) and walking/exercise programs (27 per cent compared to 34 per cent).

More than two-fifths (43 per cent) of employers said they offer paid maternity leave above and beyond legal requirements, while 34 per cent said they offer paid adoption leave (34 per cent) and just 15 per cent said they offer paid leave related to a miscarriage.

The survey also found several benefits offerings are increasing in popularity, including: identity theft insurance (34 per cent), vaccination programs (18 per cent), estate planning services (17 per cent), reimbursement for fitness app subscriptions (13 per cent) and reimbursement for mental-health app subscriptions (seven per cent). Just three per cent of employers said they offer lifestyle spending accounts and only one per cent said they offer travel/vacation stipends.

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of employers said they spend between 21 per cent and 40 per cent of payroll on employee benefits costs.

At Crossgrove & Company, we review each of our clients’ benefit structure every year in order to identify and communicate trends, areas of improvement and optimization, and cost savings; allowing them to attract and retain quality employees with a group benefits plan that offers each of them the most value possible.

Reference: Daily Hive, Benefits Canada