Back in the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin coined the term "There are no gains without pains." Over the years, this term has been better known as "no pain, no gain,"
With our industry a buzz in discussions about pension reform and what will be best for our nation, this phrase of Ben Franklin's comes frequently to mind.
Experts question whether CPP enhancements will soften the job market for an already weak Canadian economy. They wonder if the CPP expansion is more of a tax hike likely costing families more instead of facilitating an accelerated ability to save.
Will jobs be eliminated because of rising premiums? The increase to 5.95% from each of employers and employees over a 5 year period beginning on January 1, 2019 may seem like more of a calculated gamble. It is one that the Federal government believes is worth taking especially when it is estimated that 1.1 million Canadian families are reportedly not saving enough for retirement.
The goal is to eventually provide future retirees with one third of their average incomes (up from one quarter) through the CPP, This reform also provides a tax deduction instead of a tax credit on the increased contributions, which will reduce government revenues.
Small business owners share mixed feelings on the subject and worry that CPP premium increases will damage our struggling economy and force them to eliminate jobs.
The Finance Department's projections indicate that CPP reform will create an economic lift to help future generations of retirees. It is a longer term strategic approach that may, in the short term, create a softening in the job market. The plan appears akin to Ben's belief -- there are no gains without pains. The looming question may well be, "Are Canadians ready to accept short term pains with the belief that CPP reform will generate longer term gains?"
Regardless of what side of the CPP reform fence you may be on, it is a topic that concerns Canadians particularly as the Baby Boomer generation continues its rapid trek toward retirement. As per Statistics Canada, we have more people over the age of 65 than under 15 and this greying generation makes up 27% of the population -- double what it was in 1971.
It isn't a simple situation, but it is one that our team is well positioned to address. We have the experience and expertise to discuss ways to help you manage risk and develop sustainable cost management strategies. We invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Employees spend an average of 40 hours per week working for their employer. If you do the math, that equates to approximately 80,000 hours at work per year minus at least 2 weeks paid vacation. This means that employees spend much of their waking hours at work in an environment that can be a hub for increased sources of pressure, stress, and health inhibitors.
Increasingly, there are articles and reports that highlight the harmful effects of prolonged sitting, lack of hydration, poor nutrition, regular exercise and sleep deprivation -- all habits that can be perpetuated in a work environment.
Research conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported that 59% of working adults feel their job has an impact on their stress level. As seen in this video by asapSCIENCE, stress has an impact on mental health, mood, weight, aging, chronic disease and sleep.
The Conference Board of Canada recently released a report highlighting that 27% of Canadians reported feeling tired most days or every day during the work week. From a blog I wrote in 2015 on productivity costs associated with employee sleep deprivation, we learned that sleep deprivation costs employers close to three-quarters of a billion dollars in lost work hours. Due to the importance of employee and its direct links to productivity, benefit costs, employee engagement and customer experience, I've written on related topics with a specific focus on workplace stress as well as sleep deprivation. I invite you to read these posts if you haven't done so already.
How is sleep deprivation affecting workplace productivity?
Tips and resources to address sleep deprivation in the workplace.
Stress in the workplace.
While workplace wellness programs continue to grow in prominence, the emphasis and initiatives associated with these programs vary significantly. Wellness efforts aimed at keeping employees healthy would benefit from a continued focus on prevention awareness tips and resources. These include, but are not limited to:
1) Policies regarding vacation entitlement and encouraging employees to take their full vacation each year. The National Public Radio report indicated that while 75% of respondents aid their workplace offers the paid vacation days, 31% used only some of it and 17% used none of their paid vacation days in the past 12 months.
2) Promote the opportunity for flexible work schedules if this is available with management taking an active part in leading by example.
3) Create regular reminders with realistic examples of how and when employees may wish to use the confidential employee assistance program.
4) Promote the use of health risk assessments and free online resources that help employees self identify any potential health concerns.
5) Dial up the link between health and overall well-being beyond nutrition and exercise directly to the importance of sleep in order better manage their emotions, reactivity and judgement.
Given the amount of time spend at work, employers have the ability to considerably influence the choices their employees make and the resources readily available to help them embrace a healthier and more stress-free lifestyle.
By providing regular reminders in a way that makes sense for them and are tailored to their preferences and behaviour patterns, employers can limit their exposure to high claims costs and the avalanche of poor health conditions that have the potential to negatively impact their group benefit plan experience.
With over two decades of industry experience, we've built up trusted relationships with service providers and clients alike. We understand the triggers that affect health outcomes and influence plan costs. We invite you to contact us to discuss additional ways to bring health awareness to your employees. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
I've written on a few occasions over the last few years on the topic of absenteeism in the workplace.
What is absenteeism costing you?
What is absenteeism costing you - Part 2?
HR Lens - Presenteeism in the workplace
Why? Because it is an issue that continues to plague employers as they search to find ways to improve productivity and reduce the number absences they continue to see surfacing year over year.
Many employers have tried varying methods to address the reasons workers are absent. For a long period of time, the emphasis on addressing absenteeism involved tracking lost time and enforcing requirements for doctor's notes along with reprimands by supervisors for too frequent requests for unscheduled time off. While most employers have introduced some form of absence tracking or elaborate attendance management systems, their results with haven't proven that tracking alone triggers a reduction in missed time.
With absence tracking, employers have been able to capture trends when higher percentages of absences occur. This can provide helpful when looking to staff up and manage customer service or project scheduling. According to CareerBuilder, January to March saw 34% absenteeism with July through September coming in a 30%. The lowest percentage applied to the months of April to June at 13% and October to December at 23%.
Employees are notifying their employers of their absence via a phone call ( 84%), email (24%) and text messages (11%). Some of the most frequent reasons for absences include excess work pressure leading to stress, personal problems (marital or involving childcare), serious illness or accident, lack of engagement in work (not happy with current job role), workplace conflict, issues with managers, and commuting challenges.
Several reasons employees give for their absence are quite diverse. CareerBuilder.com shared results of their recent survey highlighting some of the most unusual excuses for missing work:
1) Employee’s 12-year-old daughter stole his car and he had no other way to work. Employee didn’t want to report it to the police.
2) Employee said bats got in her hair.
3) Employee said a refrigerator fell on him.
4) Employee was in line at a coffee shop when a truck carrying flour backed up and dumped the flour into her convertible.
5) Employee said a deer bit him during hunting season.
6) Employee ate too much at a party.
7) Employee fell out of bed and broke his nose.
8) Employee got a cold from a puppy.
9) Employee’s child stuck a mint up his nose and had to go to the ER to remove it.
10) Employee hurt his back chasing a beaver.
11) Employee got his toe caught in a vent cover.
12) Employee had a headache after going to too many garage sales.
13) Employee’s brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.
14) Employee drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.
15) Employee was at a bowling alley and a bucket filled with water crashed through the ceiling and hit her on the head.
Regardless of the reason for the absence, many research and wellness providers believe that absences boil down to work-related stress. That hypothesis makes sense from many perspectives. When work is going well, everything seems easier to manage, but when there are challenges; be it workplace culture, manager or colleague conflict, task-related pressure, commuting or a dislike of the role itself, it all generates additional stress. Stress is what leads to physical illness accordingly to Stanford School of Medicine's Center on Stress and Health. Chronic stress wears down the immune system and that can trigger an avalanche of illness leading to chronic disease.
While attendance tracking helps to monitor trends and workflow scheduling, it doesn't address the individual root causes of absenteeism or get at the heart of workplace culture and the influence of employee engagement on missed work time. (Read my blog on top employee engagement tips). Many studies show that when employees are truly engaged in their work, they miss fewer work days.
Along with an existing war on talent, employers are looking for more ways to improve the absence management results and drive better outcomes for group benefits extended health claims costs. Contact us today. We are your well equipped resource ready to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Service providers, third party administrators and insurers continue to look for ways to help employers ease plan costs, predict claims patterns and provide better ways to promote health.
With greater frequency, health promotion is finding new ways to establish a greater and more convenient presence by way of wearable health monitors, health advise mobile apps, nutrition and physical activity trackers, medication reminders and video consults with medical professionals.
As such, the benefits industry finds itself considering the impact of digital health innovations who continue to create uncharted paths for substantive change. Digital innovations within health care will continue to influence plan members, sponsors, advisors and service providers proving that the benefits industry is not immune to the rapid pace of change. How much will digital solutions integrate into every day life is yet to be determined. Benefits consultants and service providers are paying closer attention to the trends in digital health with an emphasis on its potential for prevention and predictive modelling.
Much of what we’re beginning to see and experience has yet to be fully actualized. Akin to technologies invented for the 1960s Sci-Fi TV series, Star Trek, what doesn’t seem plausible now, may become a well-established health resource in the not-so-distant future. Like the StarFleet Tricorder that Dr. McCoy used to monitor vital signs on the Starship Enterprise, or his hypospray -- a needle-less medication injector -- we no longer are light years away from seeing emerging technology being introduced to health consumers in growing numbers. Even the Canadian government has seen the importance of digital technology with Canada Health Infoway’s development of a secure, patient directed electronic end-to-end e-prescribing solution called PrescribeIT.
The invention of wearable technology to identify or prevent illness or even manage a long-term condition promises the potential for greater understanding of health conditions chronic disease prevention. Canadians in general are using the internet to source health matters. The gap between consumer readiness, what’s available now and what’s on the digital horizon is quickly closing.
What does this mean for changes to benefits plans? Our team continues to monitor the potential for digital innovations as it applies to the clients we serve. We see the use of digital technology for clinical metrics and how that applies to customizable treatment plans. Big data also holds immense possibilities by way of data analytics in health care and monitoring trends in more intelligent ways. Our group benefits ecosystem will be changed by evidence-based digital health data allowing us, in the industry, to better help our clients make more informed decisions regarding plan design and health promotion. It is an exciting emerging space and we invite you to contact us to explore the potential to meet your needs. We’re here to help so you can continue to 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.