April is oral health month in Canada and we have good reason to celebrate. According to the Canadian Dental Association, Canada is among the world leaders for overall oral health of its citizens. We have extensive choice and availability for dental service providers with at least one dentist per 1,600 Canadians. Additionally, we can boast -- not that we would -- that 3 out of every 4 Canadians visit a dental professional at least once a year. Additionally, 84 per cent of us believe we have good oral health.
Dental services are treated somewhat separately from other health provisions in Canada with approximately 60 per cent of all private dental care expenditures coming from private insurance and the remaining 40 per cent coming directly out of pocket. The total spend for dental services per Canadian annually is $378.60 compared to $959 for prescription drugs and $946 for physician services. (source: Canadian Dental Association).
These statistics reveal that private insurance plays a key role in providing dental services in Canada. Private dental plans are often divided into 3 levels of coverage such as basic, major and orthodontic services. The basic coverage includes regular check-ups, cleaning and scaling. The major coverage includes the basic provisions as well as services such as crowns and bridges. The orthodontic coverage level may be limited to dependent children or include adults with a set lifetime limit.
Reporting on the trends and important areas of focus for employee education in this area of oral health awareness includes the following:
1) Canadians are keeping their natural teeth, but there is a rise in the risk of enamel erosion, which is irreversible. While less than 7 per cent of adults have lost all their teeth (this is down from 23.6 per cent 20 years ago), dentists are noticing an increase in damage to the hard outer surface of the tooth. As a result, patients are experiencing more tooth sensitivity and tooth decay.
Education and awareness for employees should focus on reducing the acidic drinks like sugary pop as well as the consumption of alcohol. Another tip that might not be well known is to wait 20 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing teeth in order to let saliva time to neutralize the mouth's acids.
Teeth grinding and sleep issues are often triggered by too much stress. Seeing a dental professional in order to be fitted for a mouth guard and ways to prevent additional enamel erosion is a helpful way to avoid more costly dental intervention.
2) Dental professionals also report the connection between oral health and the health of the rest of the body. Specifically, those with gum disease are more likely to have an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Education and awareness regarding proper nutrition and tips for making healthy lifestyle choices are beneficial for promoting both oral health and a healthy body. The results of these efforts should be positive health outcomes as well as lower dental claims experience.
3) Technology in dental offices. Just as we experience the rapid evolution of the effects of technology in other aspects of our life, there is no reason it shouldn't occur with dental services. Dental offices are increasingly introducing digital impressions and 3-D printers as well as smart sterilizers. Change will continue to happen and the predominant generation of Millennials in the workforce will expect more from their dental providers as a result. The latest software and intra-oral scanners have the potential to support earlier diagnosis and prevent costly dental procedures,
Keeping employer-sponsored dental costs in check and helping the growing number of "selfie" photo takers continue to value the importance of practicing proper oral hygiene are just two of the reasons to promote oral health month in Canada. If you are looking for ways to build awareness and effectively control your dental claims experience, we invite you to contact us. We have over 2 decades of industry knowledge to bring to work for you. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
There was a time not that long ago when parental leave in Canada was no more than 6 months in duration. Fast-forward from 2003 to March 2017 and we are looking at changes that allow parents to choose to receive employment insurance parental benefits over an extended period of up to 18 months.
Options for parents.
The good news for parents -- they have choices. With the proposed changes in the 2017 Federal budget, parents can elect to take no more than a period of 12 months in order to receive parental benefits at the existing rate of 55 per cent of average weekly earnings or extend the parental leave to 18 months at a rate of 33 per cent of the weekly average wage.
Longer window to secure childcare arrangements.
This extension of parental leave over a longer period of time was a federal election promise made repeatedly throughout the Liberal campaign. With expecting and new parents struggling to secure suitable childcare arrangements, it is promising position especially for parents finding it challenging to secure suitable childcare arrangements.
Keeping parents in the workforce.
The extension also provides a buffer for the parent who was on leave to return to workplace hopefully with less stress and with a greater sense of ease through the transition from primary caregiver to working parent. In the past, it wasn't uncommon for a parent to decide not to return to the workforce or attempt a return on a part-time basis and the extension will hopefully allow parents to embrace a full-time return to work instead.
What does this change means for employers?
1) To top up or not to top up? For larger employers where parental leave top up provisions were part of the employee benefits package, an important decision is necessary. Employers may decide to either top up in alignment with the new parental leave extension or to take no additional action. In reality, there are a number of combinations of a top up scenario that could implemented.
2) Policy Statement review? If employer top up provisions during the parental leave are going to be changed, wording in HR policies will need to follow suit. In addition, vacation accruals, which generally are allocated annually, will need to be reviewed for the parental leave extension.
3) Productivity and filling parental leave vacancies. There are different ways to consider the parental leave extension.
A) It might be easier to secure a top-talent contract replacement when the extended leave duration affords a longer contract position;
B) The extended leave might help ensure that the employee on leave feels ready mentally and physically to return to work on a full-time basis.
C) On the flip side, an extended absence may make it more challenging to reintegrate a worker after an 18-month leave. The employer may find it more work to keep the absent employee updated on changes in the workplace and to ensure they remain engaged and committed to returning.
D) Should the employee's position not be backfilled during the leave, employees might feel the pressure and strain of the work they might be responsible for covering during their colleague's extended absence. A consistent focus on employee engagement initiatives and keeping a pulse on productivity, goals and outcomes will be more important than ever.
If you're looking to make changes to your benefit program as a result of the Federal Budget announcement regarding the proposed extended parental leave or otherwise, we have the experience to recommend and navigate effective solutions to meet your needs. We invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Monday, April 3, 2017 is National Employee Benefits Day. It is a day that was introduced by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans eight years ago. Over time, employers, administrators, trustees, and service providers throughout North America began embracing the idea of celebrating a day for employee benefits recognition. After all, isn't increasing awareness and appreciation of employee benefits an ongoing goal for anyone working in the benefits industry?
Communication is the Word.
This year's theme is "Benefits Communication". For everyone's ease of reference, the IFEBP aggregated all of their content related to employee benefits communication into one website.
On April 3, the IFEBP will be offering a free webcast: Making the Connection: How to Make Your Benefits Communications Work. This webcast is open to members and non-members alike. They've also created checklists and sample communication materials to support the work being done to ensure the health and financial security of workforces in Canada and the US.
Over the years, we've shared a lot of information, tips and resources to support employee engagement, productivity and benefits appreciation. Guided by over a quarter century of experience in employee benefits, we know that communicating effective can help effectively reduce the cost of group benefits by as much as 20 percent (source: McKinsey& Company)
Is a rebranding of the benefits message necessary?
Communicating well about a benefit program also helps with employee attraction and retention efforts. If, and when, there are engagement issues, simply throwing more dollars at the benefit program might not be the solution. First, look at how the messages about the benefits offering are communicated and consider if more of a marketing or rebranding exercise is warranted. Perhaps there are other communication methods better suited to a particular workforce or a specific demographic within it.
Benefits are only good if they are valued.
Benefits, as good as the design was intended to be, are truly only great if they are understood, valued, and meet employee needs. Really knowing your workforce demographics and asking the tough questions to determine if you are properly and effectively reaching your audience is helpful.
Ask yourself or your communication team:
Many employees continue to generate employee survey results revealing that poor communication acts as a barrier to employee engagement and unfortunately, the trend for success in this area isn't where employers or employees need it to head.
We work with our clients on benefit program design and communication efforts that everyone can be proud of. We understand that clear and simple messages help tell outcome-based success stories and also speak to the motivating influencers that happen during an employee's life journey. The right message at the right time for the right audience builds employee benefit program awareness, understanding and value.
It is an ongoing exercise in strategic thinking, consistency and transparency, but one that is worth the effort in the short and long run. We invite you to contact us for ways to celebrate Employee Benefits Day. 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.