Whether you have been isolated in a remote workspace or exhausted on the front-line, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant stress for the Canadian workforce. A shocking 50% of Canadians have reported higher anxiety and depression due to Covid-19. The CAHM estimates “the economic burden of mental illness in Canada to be approximately $51 billion each year, with $6.3 billion resulting from lost productivity. By 2041, the cumulative cost of poor mental health to the Canadian economy will exceed close to $2.5 trillion.” Clearly, there is much need for better mental health benefits post-pandemic.
Increasing anxiety and depression have been linked to lower productivity and higher absenteeism throughout various industries. Supporting the mental health of employees has required a big step up from Canadian businesses in 2021. CloudAdvisors (CA), Canada’s Employee Benefits Marketplace, has observed a recent rise in mental health coverage for employees and their families. The platform connects to over fifty insurance and benefit providers. Many providers now offer solutions which cater directly to the effects of Covid-19. Providers have shifted their solutions to accommodate the mental health crisis with additional packages for:
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
- Virtual Healthcare
- Increased Psychologist Maximums
- Pharmacogenetic Testing
- Mental Health Programs
- Healthcare Navigation
- Healthcare Spending Accounts (HCSA), and
- Wellness Programs
What are the perks of mental health benefits for employees and their families?
Supports employees and their families with specialized counselling in person or virtually. In addition, EAPs often come without a limited number of sessions. They can also aid in childcare, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, financial services, and eldercare needs.
Virtual Health / Telemedicine:
Since many medical facilities have limited in-person patients, phone and video appointments have increased rapidly in Canada. Virtual Health connects employees to a General Practitioner or nurse twenty-four hours a day. What’s more, it can be used for mental health related issues, including referrals to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or paramedical.
Psychologists, Clinical Counsellors and Masters of Social Work are paramedical practitioners often included in an employee benefits plan. While the majority of plans include $500 or less per year in coverage, the reality is this is often insufficient for treatment. Recently, employers have reviewed these amounts and now consider them separate from practitioners such as chiropractors and massage. This in turn has pushed the benchmark to $1000-$5000 for psychologists.
Pharmacogenetics is a way of testing an individual’s DNA to determine their expected reaction to a medication before prescribing it. Doctors have traditionally prescribed drugs based on standard approvals and therapeutic indications. However, with Pharmacogenetic Testing the physician can identify the patient’s individual profile to optimize care. In addition, testing can also help prevent patients from testing medications for extended periods in an effort to ‘find what’s working’. Furthermore, testing can help patients with Mental Health conditions predict the likely effectiveness and response of a suggested drug.
Mental Health Programs:
Similar to EAP and Virtual Health, most Mental Health Programs are delivered digitally through an app. Typically, they include self-guided assessments, access to resources, programs including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (iCBT), health coaching, and specific well-being support for teens.
Health Care Navigation:
These programs are sometimes related to second opinion services. In essence, they aid employees who have received a broad diagnosis connect with specialized nurses that provide guidance. First, employees are supported through initial assessment, followed by physician consultations, referrals, and psychiatric services. Navigation also supplies education and coaching for self management strategies.
Healthcare Spending Accounts:
HCSAs allocate corporate dollars to pay for personal medical expenses such as prescription drugs, medical cannabis, naturopathic visits, and therapy. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) determines the eligible expenses in accordance with the Income Tax Act (Canada). As well as other employee benefit programs, an HCSA is a tax-deductible benefit, and the benefits are received tax-free.
There are many standard Wellness items which encompasses personalized health such as:
- Gym memberships
- Personal training
- Smoking cessation
- Ergonomic office equipment, and
- Meditation classes
While most of Canada’s largest employers have adopted mental health benefits, small businesses are now also investing in mental health. Before Covid-19, CloudAdvisors reported only 10-15% of small employers in common industries included an EAP. Today, that number is over 25%, a large increase in adoption of these benefits. However, with 98% of Canada’s employers being under 100 employees, many small businesses still have opportunity to improve.
Find mental health benefits for your workplace
Workplace mental health is the most important issue organizations are facing today. Establishing a mentally healthy workplace for isolated and overworked employees should be an ongoing priority for business leaders. Employers and their Advisors can now leverage technology like CloudAdvisors to monitor their plan in the marketplace and identify trends or gaps in coverage. Fortunately, an increase in support for working Canadians is meeting the downfall in mental health. But this begs the question: where does your company stack up?