Study: Canadian workplace health benefits critical for employee retention

The Conference Board of Canada, together with TELUS Health, release results of new study highlighting importance of preventative health support as risk of disengagement and turnover increases

TORONTO, Nov. 16, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A survey conducted by The Conference Board of Canada together with TELUS Health found an up to 83 per cent gap between the health benefits Canadian employees report they have and what they want when it comes to extended health and wellbeing support from their employers. The survey, conducted amidst a global pandemic, suggests that this gap is significant enough to create employee disengagement and has the potential to cause significant organizational turnover at a time when hiring and retaining employees is increasingly challenging: nearly seven in 10 employers globally are struggling to find workers for specific positions, marking a 15-year high.

The data suggests that Canadian employers need to consider more personalized and flexible workplace health benefits plans that offer more preventive health services and allow for more choice and ways to stay healthy. One way to achieve more flexibility is through virtual healthcare and telemedicine which may help in attracting and retaining top talent.

“The survey was designed to gain a deeper understanding of the current and evolving needs of Canada’s workforce amidst a global pandemic when it comes to their health needs and we found that between 33 and 59 per cent of respondents said that health and wellness support offered by their employers does not reflect their current needs,” said Lauren Florko, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board of Canada. “What’s more, the same number of respondents reported that they may in fact seek out new job opportunities in pursuit of improved or more holistic health and wellness support plans.”

Key Findings: 

  • Forty per cent of respondents reported using virtual healthcare for either physical or mental health services indicating that virtual healthcare is key to allowing Canadians and organizations to thrive as we move to a more digital age.
  • Of the employees surveyed who have a personal health spending account (HSA), 42 per cent do, or would, spend funds to top up on basic dental and vision care, and prescription drugs expenses rather than paramedical services like mental health-related consults.
  • The top five health benefits reported as most important according to those surveyed are: basic dental services 81.9 per cent, eye exams 81.8 per cent, glasses/contacts 80.4 per cent, and both pension and retirement savings plans at 73 per cent.
  • Flexwork and telework appear to have increased in importance as an ancillary benefit with most respondents rating them as essential (65 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively). As expected, as more organizations facilitate this way of working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are recognizing the broader benefit to their overall quality of life.

In today’s competitive and changing labour market, organizations need to offer more than just competitive salaries to recruit, attract, and retain employees. Benefits are the second-most important factor when employees consider different job offers, beyond salary and health benefits have more weight than they used to -- most employees believe it is a fundamental right. In fact, many employees (60-77 per cent) have said they would leave their current organization for one that would offer them better support for their wellbeing (even with a lower salary).

“As the corporate world evolves, adapting to the post-pandemic period, employers must remain firmly focused on ensuring their employees are supported, particularly when it comes to their overall health and wellbeing,” said Sonya Lockyer, Vice President,TELUS Health. “Personalized healthcare options need to be more accessible for employees, enabling them to take the lead in proactively managing their physical and mental health. Virtual care and timely mental health interventions will allow employees more choice, more control, and more ways to stay healthy.”

Employees view the overall health benefits package as a gesture of how an employer is going to treat them. This suggests it is critical for employers to adapt health and wellness programs, not only to attract employees, but also to retain them and keep them productive. By optimizing the value of their health and wellbeing supports, employers can reduce absenteeism, increase engagement and productivity, and foster a culture of wellness embraced by a new generation of employees.

To better align with employees’ reported needs, recommendations for Canadian employers include:   

  1. Offering health benefits to all employees, including part-time workers; 
  2. Considering the demographics of a company’s unique workforce such as age, employee level, family status, genders, etc.; 
  3. Increasing communications to ensure all employees are familiar with all aspects of their health benefits program, especially mental health offerings;
  4. Communicating regularly with employees about benefits plans, including whether virtual health services are covered, how to access them, and the benefits to using these services to improve an employees’ health and wellbeing (e.g., less commuting, better work-life balance, on-demand access to resources and support); and
  5. Allowing employees to prioritize their mental and physical health needs by providing flexible work arrangements, including working from home, and access to high quality, preventative and compassionate healthcare. 

To read all of the findings, visit the link to Seeking Support: The Future of Employee Health here.

Survey methodology:
The Future of Health Benefits report summarizes the results of the Conference Board of Canada and TELUS Health employee benefits survey. Data was collected in September 2021. A total of 1,502 individuals employed in Canadian organizations participated.

About TELUS Health
TELUS Health is a leader in digital health technology, providing virtual care, home health monitoring, electronic medical and health records, benefits and pharmacy management, and personal emergency response services. By leveraging the power of technology to deliver connected solutions and services, TELUS Health is improving access to care and revolutionizing the flow of information while facilitating collaboration, efficiency, and productivity for physicians, pharmacists, health authorities, allied healthcare professionals, insurers, employers, and citizens, to progress its vision of transforming healthcare and empowering people to live healthier lives.

Through the TELUS Health Care Centres, teams of renowned and passionate healthcare professionals deliver best-in-class patient-centric care to thousands of Canadian employers, professionals, and families in next generation medical clinics located across the country.

For more information please visit:

About The Conference Board of Canada
The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Our mission is to empower and inspire leaders to build a stronger future for all Canadians through our trusted research and unparalleled connections. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact:

Jill Yetman
TELUS Public Relations

Conference Board of Canada
613-526-3090 ext. 224