Why are employees not accessing their benefits plans?

98% of organizations plan to change up their perks post-COVID

Why are employees not accessing their benefits plans?

There’s no point in having a top-notch benefits plan if your employees don’t know how to access it.

Speaking with Melissa Alvares, SVP marketing and growth at CloudMD, she tells HRD that while a lot of organizations have comprehensive packages, the employee utilization rate can be pretty low.

“We conducted in-depth research looking at why employees were so slow in the uptake,” she explains. “Employers are spending millions of dollars on these plans, with some spending as much as $10,000 per worker, but many employees are not taking up the offer.”

A study from Attridge found that in 2022, 79% of Canadian employers offered an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – but how many workers actually took them up on it? With all of these resources at employees’ disposal, are people just unwilling, or unable, to access them?

“Just look at how many people are struggling right now,” says Alvares. “There’s heightened levels of anxiety, depression, overwork and burnout – so you’d normally expect the benefits utilization rate to start increasing. But it’s not.

“What we’re expecting to see from the survey results are issues around awareness, accessibility, and that notion that the benefits on the table aren’t the ones employees really need or want. From here, we’ll be able to figure out how employers can bridge that gap and see people accessing the benefits that can make a real difference in the quality of their lives.”

What employers can be sure of is that employee expectations around benefits have changed post-pandemic. A recent survey from Care.com found that 98% of organizations plan to change up their perks since COVID, adding that the most popular new benefits were “care-led” – such as flexible work and mental health support.

“There’s an expectation from workers that employers will step up their wellness benefits,” adds Alvares. “The pandemic put wellbeing into the limelight – the idea that if you’re not healthy, then you can’t be productive. Leaders are really listening to that — that in order to take care of employees, you need to think about them holistically.”

The implementation of additional sick leave and mental health days has taken precedence in Canadian organizations, led in part by the government’s recent commitment to additional days off. Alvares believes it’s a sign that employers are looking at more preventative, rather than curative measures – taking the stigma away from mental health and offering employees support before they burn out.

“We're noticing employers are looking for programs with a wide variety of services based on the entire care continuum, from prevention to struggling to actual treatment for chronic mental health conditions,” she tells HRD. “A robust Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a good place to start, but in order to really tackle issues like absenteeism and disability, you need to layer on more specialized mental health care. Also, we know that mental and physical health are so interconnected, so offering a program that has integrated telemedicine will ensure that an employee’s holistic health is addressed. 

Looking ahead to what the future holds for benefits in Canada, it’s clear that employers need to start communicating their plans to people more effectively. If leaders want a happy, healthy workforce, Alvares advises giving employees the time, space, and training to take advantage of the perks you offer.

CloudMD is HRD’s official event partner for our upcoming Wellbeing Summit, being held at Old Mill in Toronto, Ontario, on March 1st. During the conference she will be sharing the results from their 2023 Perceptions of Workplace Wellness Programs Survey. Register to hear more from industry leaders on emerging trends in 2023.

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