With positive changes in the labour market continuing since the major economic downturn in 2008, we continue to see more attractive benefit offerings that are outside of the traditional line-up of enhanced life, disability, and dental coverage. More employers are offering an array of voluntary benefits and according to the 2013 Towers Watson survey, 48 percent of employers expect voluntary benefits to increase in importance over the next five years. The reported reasons for this increase in demand include providing customized benefits that fit employees' needs at 83 percent and to enrich their total rewards offering at 74 percent.
Employers entertaining the introduction of new voluntary benefits include critical illness, identify theft, and financial counselling. The selling feature for these voluntary benefits is designed to reduce employee out-of-pocket costs while providing tangible employee value.
Popular across the board is pet insurance. According to Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), one in three Fortune 500 companies offers its workers pet insurance. Companies who have jumped on the pet insurance bandwagon include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Deloitte, Delta Air Lines, T-Mobile and Zynga Inc. Ceridian Canada adopted this approach too and reports world-class engagement levels in their company. They offer an unbelievable suite of benefits that are designed to accommodate every employee and age group. Ceridian found that employees who had pets with health issues and resulting high veterinary costs were dealing with increasing levels of stress. Ceridian partnered with Petsecure to buy pet insurance discounts up to 10 percent off premium costs.
Red Frog Events offers unlimited vacation days, 100 percent medical insurance coverage and 100 percent match of up to 10 percent of their contribution into the US retirement plan as well as a fully paid month-long sabbatical of the employee's choice to various countries in the world every five years. Their benefits package was designed to keep employees happy and healthy and to act as an incredible recruiting tool.
As we continue to experience changes in the demographic workforce dynamic, added pressure will be placed on recruiting the best and brightest talent from an ever-shrinking human resource pool. Taking note of Canada's Top 100 Employers in recent years reflects the trend toward workplaces offering non-traditional voluntary benefits. A few examples include SaskTel offering an academic scholarship program of up to $3000 per child for employees' children who pursue post-secondary education and Telus Corporation offering an annual $500 "life balance account" that employees can use for anything they feel helps maintain their personal health.
While some of these voluntary benefits may seem out of reach, they are increasingly surfacing on employee engagement and benefit surveys in the form of employee requests. If you're not sure what may be feasible to consider in the way of possible voluntary benefits for your workplace, please reach out to us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Last August I wrote about the Ontario Registered Pension Plan (ORPP) in order to describe its intended purpose and proposed plan design. Since the Ontario Liberals first introduced legislation to create this mandatory government pension plan modelled after the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), there have been many articles and blogs listing the pros and cons of the ORPP.
Those on the pros side, such as Finance Minister Charles Sousa, claim the growing retirement savings gap will be addressed. An argument exists that there are pools of resources beyond government programs where Ontarians garner savings such as TFSAs, homes, stocks, investments and inheritances.
Those not in favour of the ORPP also point out that its introduction will result in an additional 3.8 percent payroll tax on Ontario's earning up to $90,000, which is close to double the current contribution maximum of $52,500 under CPP. Another perceived negative is that Ontario will lose some flexibility due to ORPP forced savings. Registered Retirement Saving Plans (RRSPs) can be used for buying a home, obtaining skills training, withdraws in the case of a terminal illness and the transfer of assets to a beneficiary upon death. Those on the pro side of ORPP claim that RRSPs aren't sufficient and are currently underused.
The Ontario government also uses the argument that Ontarians are living longer and need more savings. Those who would offer a rebuttal say that older Canadians choose to work longer or return to the workforce after retirement.
To add fuel to the ORPP debate, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released the results of a survey on February 19, 2015 called "Could the Ontario Registered Pension Plan Hurt the Province's Economy?" This submission to the Ontario government was co-signed by leaders from nearly 50 chambers of commerce and boards of trade all expressing their collective concern. The results of the survey reveal that only 26 percent of businesses in the province believe they can handle the financial burden associated with the ORPP. Another 44 percent of surveyed businesses said they would reduce their current payroll or hire fewer employees in the future as a result of the introduction of the ORPP. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce sent a clear message to the Government of Ontario outlining their assessment and highlighting that the majority of Canadians are on track to maintain their standard of living in retirement. Chamber leaders voiced their collective concern that the ORPP will punish Ontario employers and employees who already contribute to their retirement through viable means.
The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) conducted a survey through Environs Research which found that 78 percent of companies are likely to reduce contributions to their workplace retirement plan with the introduction of the ORPP. Both the Chamber and the CLHIA survey indicate that the Ontario government's ORPP plan has negative implications for the Ontario workforce.
Both sides of the equation have valid arguments and while the ideal way forward may not be agreed upon by all stakeholders, one thing is certain, we'll be here to help you navigate the process. Contact us at any time. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
When you think of someone with a drug addiction, you may conjure up an image of someone who used to have a good job and a loving family, but his addiction cost him everything and he is now living on the streets looking for ways to feed his habit. Certainly, this is a scenario that plays out for some drug addicts, but for many people addicted to drugs in North America, they still hold down good paying jobs and continue living with their families -- all while dealing with their addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 75% of adults who use illicit drugs are employed while hiding their serious problem.
As the title of this blog indicates, the implications of such a scenario impact more than the employee with the drug addiction. It also effects everyone around him or her. The more you know about the implications of drug addiction in the workplace, the better equipped you'll be to address it effectively.
Drug abuse includes more than illicit substances such as heroin and cocaine; it also includes prescription medications if used for recreational purposes instead of how it was initially prescribed. When an employee deals with a drug addiction, their judgement is impaired and although they may have never wanted to harm a colleague or a superior, their addiction may result in terrible decisions that generate a negative ripple effect throughout the organization.
According to the US Department of Labor, 31.2 percent of full-time workers aged 18-49 who used drugs reported having three or more employers in the previous year whereas the percentage dropped to 17.9 percent for those in the same age cohort who didn't use drugs. The retention, training and productivity cost becomes significant for an employer. This same report indicated that absenteeism was at 12.1 percent for those using drugs as opposed to 6.1 percent who didn't.
Colleagues who work with addicts may be asked to take on extra assignments or work longer hours. Anger and resentment can build thereby impacting employee engagement. Whether it is the overworked colleague or the employee using drugs, an increase in on-the-job accidents may prevail as accuracy and quick reflexes are compromised.
As it pertains to the benefits plan, there is the direct cost to life insurance as a result of premature death and to the sick leave and disability plan as absenteeism rates spike. According to The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), other costs that impact the benefits plan include additional rehabilitation services through a disability program as well as higher usage of employee assistance programs.
Within any organization there is likely to be some form of drug addiction at play and employers are encouraged to ensure they have a policy in place to address the acceptable code of behaviour. Establishing and promoting the use of an Employee Assistance Program where professional help can be easily and quickly engaged is helpful. Employers will serve their frontline managers and supervisors well by ensuring they are trained to recognize and deal with substance abuse issues in a consistent manner that aligns with company policy.
It is important to know what to do when drug addiction in the workplace becomes apparent. Drug addiction in the workplace is a complex issue. There are ways to look at these issues in order to plan ahead and minimize the longer term risks associated with it. Please contact us if you have any questions on the subject. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.