It is human nature to avoid taking action when there is fear or uncertainty about a potential outcome or response from another person. This inaction is not uncommon when dealing with the leader-employee relationship during a disability leave.
When leaders aren't trained or have answers to questions specific to their role and accountability for people leadership during the employee's absence due to a disability, they may decide not to stay connected in order to avoid doing something wrong or in conflict with the employer's duty to accommodate.
According to CLHIA's 2016 insurer facts, 12 million Canadians are covered by insurers and $8.8 billion in premiums are paid for disability insurance. Additionally, disability coverage accounts for 21% of health benefits paid out in Canada in 2015. The cost of disability and the growing frequency of claims warrants specific attention and training for front line leaders tasked with carrying out their people leadership duties including any employees off work due to a disability claim.
There are common questions that leaders might not know the answers to. These include, but are not limited to:
During an employee's absence, the employer is part of an important partnership that exists with the employee, the insurer and the primary health care provider. Given the nature of the working relationship with the employee's leader, it is natural for them to have the most frequent contact. Providing leaders with a tip sheet or toolkit with answers to commonly asked questions helps them navigate the disability claim world that they may have little to no experience with. These tools should provide answers such as:
When an employee experiences an illness or injury, there are specific actions his leader can take to support the employee during their absence both pre-return and early stages of a return to work. The more equipped the leader feels, the more confident and prepared he will be to facilitate successful outcomes for the employee and the company.
Additional resources available to support the employer and the front line leader include:
The National Institute of Disability Management and Research (NIDMAR) - videos, presentation material and online training programs.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission - template for developing a workplace accommodation plan.
The employer's goal should be to help the employee feel connected to the workplace during their absence and to facilitate a successful return to work when they are deemed ready. The front-line leader is integral to these goals and ensuring (s)he has the resources and training to take action in appropriate ways is a responsibility not to be overlooked. We invite you to contact us with questions about your disability program or training for your leaders. We have the experience, tools and knowledge to ensure you have the right plan at the right time for the right people. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
There was a time not that long ago when diversity centered primarily around recognizing gender bias in the workplace including pay equity imbalances and a lack of female representation at senior leadership and board levels. While this issue hasn't been fully resolved and continues to garner attention, diversity and inclusivity (D&I) issues have expanded to include far more broad-reaching topics.
What does diversity and inclusivity cover?
Today diversity considers culture, nationality, gender, race, sexuality, education, socio-economic background and geographic background.
As the workforce faces more global pressures and competitive influences, the benefits of supporting diversity and inclusivity become more compelling. Employers who seek to support D&I understand that it also makes good business sense. Respecting different cultures, backgrounds and life experiences promotes open-minds, creative thinking, and new ideas that may lead to better business outcomes.
On June 19, 2017, the Canadian federal government amended the Canada Human Rights Act to expressly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of "gender identity and expression." This law applies to every Canadian province and territory except Yukon and Nunavut. Even in areas where it isn't the law, the courts reference it.
How can employers support D&I in practical ways?
1) Update or implement diversity policies.
Employer policies to review and update should include:
- dress code;
- gender diversity policy (outline transition guidelines for transgender employees)
- privacy and confidentiality;
- restroom use;
- hiring and recruitment procedures;
- harassment and anti-discrimination policies;
- employee orientation; and
- employee engagement survey questions.
2) Monitor the company culture and positively acknowledge employees that support diversity and inclusivity in the organization.
Supporting D&I requires both a top down and bottom up approach. It warrants ongoing communication efforts that don't simply pay lip service to supporting a diverse and inclusive workplace. Employees bring valuable insights from their cultural background as well as life experiences. These differences add value to an organization.
3) Educate and inform employees.
Education and information includes applying the platinum rule rather than the golden rule. Where the golden rule states that we should treat others how you want to be treated, the platinum rules states that we should treat others how they want to be treated. This means that we may inadvertently cause offence by not knowing personal or cultural boundaries. This could include how a handshake is perceived or how maintaining eye contact may be interpreted. Employees should be encouraged to ask if they are uncertain and apologize if an accidental offence occurs.
4) Provide a safe and confidential resource. Help employees understand how diversity impacts their role and what they can do to support the company's obligation and inclusive culture. Have a mechanism for employees who might have discomfort around some issues related to diversity -- an HR contact or EAP to speak with. Not everyone will embrace diversity in the same way and at the same time; however, compliance with employer's legal obligations must be adhered to as well as the policies that are in place to treat all employees equitably.
4) Benefits program plan design. Consider your company's benefits philosophy and what, if anything, needs to be changed.
Supporting D&I isn't about checking a box. It is about education, training and an appreciation for the equitable treatment of all. Tolerance takes time and policies should be revisited and updated as an organization continues its efforts to support diversity.
More resources on the topic as well as case studies continue to be make available. For example, the Ontario Human Rights Commission offers a Best Practices Checklist for employers to address practical ways to support gender diversity in the workplace. As this important topic continues to emerge and grow in significance, we invite you to contact us to discuss ways to ensure your benefits program meets your D&I criteria and legal obligations. We are well positioned to support you with our HR Global resources and decades of industry knowledge. As ever, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Along with ushering in fall and a new school year, September is an ideal month to revisit your company's benefits philosophy. Better yet, if you don't already have one, it is the perfect time to prepare a benefits philosophy.
What is a benefits philosophy?
It is your company's approach to how you make decisions about specific details related to benefits coverage. It outlines how a business chooses and provides benefits to employees.
So much is changing in the workforce and with greater speed than ever before. It has become increasingly challenging to keep up with the latest benefit trends, workforce demands, and recruiting efforts to attract and keep top talent. Ensuring that you are able to offer a competitive benefits package that meets your organization's goals is more important than ever.
Many employers have a documented vision and mission statement and some have taken further steps to identify a purpose statement. These statements guide the organization's goals, beliefs and desired behaviours. Employees are reminded of these statements as a way of fostering the company's sought after culture and conduct traits. It helps them understand why the company exists and the direction they're headed.
A benefits philosophy should align with the vision and mission statement. More specifically, it should ladder up to the company's compensation philosophy. A benefits philosophy is a formalized way of creating a vision and mission statement about benefits coverage.
Do you offer pet insurance? How much is too much coverage? Are you going to continue with or grandfather retiree benefits? What is your company's position on fertility drugs or the request to offer a group RRSP? All these questions and more should be easier to answer when a benefits philosophy is in place.
Why should you have a benefits philosophy?
No matter the size of your business, having the guiding principles outlined in a documented benefits philosophy helps with the myriad of decisions you may think you'll never need to consider. It also makes it easier to address plan design and cost considerations. When a benefits philosophy is firmly in place, it helps a company avoid reactive decisions that might seem self serving and generate negative employee perception and/or public opinion.
10 Questions to Consider
This list of questions is by no means complete, but should provide a basis for many of the questions a benefits philosophy may wish to address.
1) Who pays for coverage? Do employees pay for a portion or all of specific types of coverage?
2) Is our coverage out of step with key competitors?
3) Does our coverage meet the needs and wants of our employee population?
4) Should we offer the same coverage for all or create separate classes based on differentiation that matters to our workforce?
5) Do we offer benefits to care for the well-being of the employee and his/her eligible dependents? Does this include Long-term disability or critical illness benefits?
6) What is is our position on retiree benefits?
7) Do we offer a wellness program? EAP? Fitness subsidy? Employee discount program?
8) Are we concerned about the employee's financial health? Do we offer a company savings program?
9) How much should the benefits program influence productivity and employee engagement?
10) Does our benefits plan help to keep costs down? Do we offer a health care spending account or some form of employee cost-sharing?
Your benefits philosophy should help you answer key questions related to your benefits strategy and it needs to support your company's goals and values. Knowing the benefits coverage that makes your employee happier and keeps them productive and engaged can be influenced by what an employer chooses to offer. This offering should be guided by your benefits philosophy.
There are many questions to consider that really depend on your goals. With three decades of industry experience, our team is well positioned to help you create or revisit a benefits philosophy that is exactly right for you. We invite you to contact us because no matter the size of your company or type of industry you are in, 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.