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For years, Canadian employees and employers have been discussing the nature of employee benefits. What do employees actually want in their benefits packages? What can employers afford to offer?

One thing that was becoming clearer is that the traditional model of group benefits isn’t working for every generation of employees anymore. Employees want more flexible programs, while employers have been looking to tame the costs associated with traditional health benefits programs.

Given current circumstances, it’s likely that discussions about group benefits, including how to make it more affordable for employers and more accessible for more employees, will intensify. What does the future look like? Here are a few predictions for what you might see.

Climbing Health Insurance Costs

In the US, experts are predicting that health insurance costs will likely jump. The insurance industry was not prepared for the pandemic, which is expected to cost the country billions of dollars.

In Canada, the situation might look a little different, if only because there are public healthcare systems. Nonetheless, insurance premiums for private employee benefits will likely climb upward. That may be the result of more people making use of benefits like private hospital stays.

It’s possible that governments in Canada will also look to employers to help them collect health premiums from their residents. In Ontario, the government levies an additional healthcare premium on incomes over a certain amount. Until recently, BC allowed employers to collect and remit healthcare premiums on behalf of British Columbians.

If provinces feel the need to increase health premiums in order to alleviate higher costs in the near term, then employers might be asked to help in one way other another.

Expanding Employee Benefits

Another hot topic has been compensation of frontline workers, particularly those in what’s commonly called “low-skill” work. Grocery store clerks, janitors and cleaning staff, and delivery drivers have been deemed “essential” to keeping society running.

Yet, these positions often pay minimum wage. Many are part-time positions that don’t offer any benefits. While Canadian workers can be assured they won’t be refused treatment if they do happen to fall ill, more people will be asking why such “essential” workers don’t have access to health benefits.

In light of this, it’s likely that there will be continued calls to improve access to benefits for all employees. Equity of access and more robust benefits, such as paid sick days and short-term disability, may also be considered. Access to prescription medications, mental health supports, and more could become front and centre for employers moving forward.

New Ideas to Control Costs

One of the barriers to offering expanded benefits to every employee has been the cost of those benefits. With costs creeping higher and bottom lines impacted by the current environment and a likely recession, employers have to ask how they can provide the employee benefits they want to offer.

Several new models of group benefits were on the rise prior to the events of 2020, and it’s likely that employers will be more open to exploring them as they move forward. They will seek options like health savings accounts, flexible programs, and more to strike a balance between costs and more flexible benefits programs.

Increased employee involvement may also be seen here, as employers might work with employees to determine the benefits they most want and need. Technology will also play a role, helping employers administer benefits in a more streamlined manner.

The world of employee benefits was already changing, but it’s likely this shift will accelerate in the near term. Employers may find it difficult to provide all the benefits they want to, but some creative thinking and willingness to experiment could help them deliver better benefits to everyone on the team.

To learn more about flexible benefits, and how to bridge the gap between traditional and more modern style benefits, connect with one of our JungoHR certified advisors today, and learn about the JungoHR Hub benefits programs.



Tanya Dawber

Tanya Dawber has spent the past 25+ years working in HR related roles. Her love of employee benefits led her to switch to insurance, getting her life license and specializing in employee group benefit plans. In her spare time, Tanya enjoys travelling with her husband, playing golf and fishing.

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