May 31 is World No Tobacco Day and is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) designed 3 posters to be used by countries for promoting plain, standardized packaging of tobacco products. These images are graphic and can be downloaded here.
While campaigns to promote anti-smoking and smoking cessation programs in the workplace have been around for several years, there are many reasons to continue to promote awareness and provide employees who still smoke with positive messages to help them pursue quitting beyond this one day of the year.
The good news is that employers don't have to spend a lot to keep the flame of anti-smoking campaigns burning brightly. The government, along with other charitable organizations, provide workshops and resources to support people looking to quit smoking.
From an employer's perspective, the reasons to invest in anti-smoking awareness have primarily involved the potential for substantial cost-savings as well as sizeable productivity gains. Statistics from a 2013 Ohio State University study reveal that smokers cost their employers $5,800 a year and this amount can rise to $10,125 annually. Smoke breaks, and higher rates of absenteeism negatively impact worker productivity while higher health care expenses are seen for smokers.
Encouraging employees to "butt out" work best when there is a link to the immediate and positive health changes that result from the decision to quit.
Communication Ideas to share with employees are::
By-products of quitting smoking:
Other messages to share relate to improving one's self esteem and confidence when breaking an unhealthy habit. In addition, quitting smoking is better for the employee financially in that the cost of not buying a pack of cigarettes per day will result in savings of $5,000 or more annually.
Quitting smoking also benefits others as second-hand smoke has been proven to increase the risk of lung cancer and hearth disease in non-smokers.
Life Insurance and Benefit Costs:
From an insurance perspective, non-smokers have better life insurance rates and when it comes to benefit costs, better oral health is linked to fewer dental claims. Statistics have shown that smoking leads to heart and lung disease, stroke, osteoporosis, cataracts, cancer and other chronic life-threatening diseases, and that leads to higher benefit claims. Creating a practical cost benefit analysis related to morbidity and claims costs draws a direct line comparison particularly when there is employee cost-sharing for benefit costs.
Employees gain from learning about the type and degree of support provided in the workplace and community. Work with your advisor to get information about what insurance carriers offer as well as information about coverage for smoking cessation products in addition to their customer service centre toll-free numbers.
Employees should also include a Q&A or information about how employees get a claim paid for a smoking cessation product and what items are covered. For example, the definition of a Natural Health Product (NPN) as well and listing types of NPNs such as the Nicotine patch, gum, lozenge and inhaler are helpful.
It is also vital to provide instructions about claims submission, what receipts are required, what needs to be included on the claim form and how to access claim forms.
In addition, employees benefit from being provided information about additional free support such as:
You can quit smoking. We can help.
Smokers Helpline: 1 877 513-5333
For more information about other free resources, or methods for positively impacting your group benefits plan, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on wha you do best.
On April 14, 2016, Bill 186 - Ontario Registered Pension Plan (ORPP) was introduced and although there are some questions that remain unanswered, there are many aspects of the bill that are known and have been written about. Some would argue that people should have the right to choose how and if they wish to save for retirement while others also worry about the long term impact to Defined Contribution plans. What we know is that the government intends the ORPP to provide Ontarians with a predictable source of retirement income for life. This tenure will depend on how many years the member contributed to the plan and his/her salary throughout those years. The ORPP plans to provide plan members a 15% income replacement rate after 40 years of contributing to the plan. Benefits start at age 65, but could commence as early as age 60 or as late as age 70 (with actuarial adjustments). The first ORPP would begin paying benefits in 2022.
Now with the ORPP bill likely to be passed before the end of this June, there is more certainty about the provincial government's focus on their goals to grow the Ontario economy and create jobs of the future. And based on the Conference Board of Canada's cost benefit analysis conducted by Environics, they see the ORPP as a viable solution given the findings that show over the long term, the ORPP is believed to add billions to the Ontario economy.
We know that the ORPP is not a tax and that funds collected will be used specifically for the contributing members. The ORPP is mandatory for employers WITHOUT a comparable workplace pension plan. Employers will be enrolling in waves starting with the largest employers in 2017 as a first phase. Comparable workplace pension plans that don't meet the minimum benefit and contribution threshold are required to enrol by 2020.
Employer size will be based on the number of T4s that were issues to Ontario employees in 2015.
Both employees and employers will contribute an equal amount, which is capped at 1.9% each on an employee's annual earnings -- more than $3,500 to a maximum of $90,000. An employee is defined as a person employed in Ontario if they report to work, full or part-time, at an employer's establishment in Ontario. This applies to a worker whose salary or hourly wages are paid from an Ontario-based employer, but who is not required to work at an employer's place of business. Every eligible worker aged 18 to 70 in Ontario would be part of the ORPP or a comparable workplace plan.
There is much to know about the ORPP and pension legislation in general. Our goal is to provide our clients and readers with relevant and timely resources. My blogs about the ORPP are no exception. As information became available and the ORPP bill worked its way toward being solidified, I wrote on the topic at several different occasions. For details of these ORPP-related posts, please click on the respective titles:
For additional specifics, please reference:
Details of Proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Legislation
Ontario Retirement Pension Plan,
or contact us. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
For 65 years, Mental Health Week has been championed by the Canadian Mental Health Association and this year, the week of May 2-8 will see events all over the country focused on raising awareness of mental health issues Canadian's face.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is supported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and this year's social media campaign uses the hashtag "Get involved and #GETLOUD" with a special emphasis on seniors who represent the fastest growing demographic in Canada. This important week encourages Canadians to lend their voice to the national conversation and help stop the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health problems and illnesses.
The facts are that approximately 7 million or 20 percent of our population live with mental illness and many don't seek treatment because of the stigma and fear of discrimination associated with mental health issues. According to CAMH statistics, "In any given week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems and the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year."
The facts reveal the need for continued efforts to address mental illness and while mental health issues extend beyond workplace triggers, there are many reasons why employers are paying closer attention and in many cases, offering more training for leaders and employees. The more employers and their leaders can focus on acknowledging and accommodating employees who experience mental health hurdles, the more engaged the workplace will be and that will also positively affect group benefit claims cost with a specific emphasis on prescription medication, short and long term disability. Mental health problems are the number one cause of disability claims in Canada and 30.4% of all disability claims are attributable to mental health problems (source: Mental Health Works)
There are many ways employers can help raise awareness and educate people leaders about the importance of mental health and wellness within their companies. While many employers have implemented Employee and Family Assistance Programs, more can be done when leaders are educated and trained to see mental illness warning signs and how to appropriately talk to employees about available resources and support through the workplace and in the community.
A national, charitable organization called Partners for Mental Health works with over 140 organizations to participate in its "Not Myself Today" Workplace initiatives. Partners for Mental Health provides HR leaders with workplace tool kits and support to help facilitate conversations around mental health and destigmatize mental illness in the workplace.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has several resources on its website to support employers looking to promote mental health from accommodating an employee with mental health issues to hiring and retaining people with mental illnesses.
Morneau Shepell, in collaboration with Queen's University, offers The Workplace Mental Health Leadership™ certificate program designed for people leaders and consists of an all-day in-class workshop, three e-learning modules, and three online exams. Bell Canada has put more than 4,000 of their leaders through this program initially called Mental Health@Work Training Program. In this program, managers learn to recognize any possible signs of mental illness and provide initial help by directing employees to available resources as they monitor the situation.
For less involved initiatives, employers can continue to support the use of EAP programs, or find easy ways through bulletins, fact sheets and posters to help promote better mental health as well as information to connect directly with one-on-one confidential counselling. Mental Health Works also provides mental health workshops for employers and employees.
Mental Health Week is an ideal time to dial up employer efforts, but it doesn't have to start or end with this one week. Efforts to educate leaders and encourage employees to seek support and address mental health challenges builds a bridge of understanding, accommodation and engagement that fosters productivity and increases in overall workplace well-being.
For more information about Mental Health Week or ways to drive positive results within your benefits program, please contact us. We're here to help so 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.