How mental health services became the hot new workplace benefit for young Canadians

Julie Gaudry, head of benefits at RBC Insurance, says Canadians are increasingly placing importance on employer-sponsored benefit plans in a tight labor market.Handout

Chris has been working in a restaurant in Toronto for 10 months. Each week, she pays $65 for a one-hour virtual session with a psychotherapist because her workplace does not provide mental health benefits through its employee assistance program.

Chris is currently looking for another job and says these benefits will be one of the boxes she ticks when considering any offers.

“I think everyone should have such benefits because the pandemic has made everything worse,” she said. “Any worker would perform better if he had some kind of psychological support.”

A recent RBC Insurance national survey revealed that young Canadians are very likely to quit their jobs for a better mental health benefit plan. Seventy-three percent of employees aged 18 to 34 and 69 percent of employees aged 35 to 44 said they would take the plunge.

And the benefit most sought by respondents was mental health support (88%), well ahead of a health spending account (80%) and the ability to add additional coverage (79%).

Julie Gaudry, head of benefits at RBC Insurance, said amid a tight labor market, Canadians are placing increasing importance on employer-provided benefit plans.

“Market trends today show the need for better benefits for employers, because if employers are looking to attract and retain talent, they have to meet their expectations, and one of the things on which the Today’s workforce focuses is mental health support and competitive benefits. she says.

In the wake of the disruptions caused by the pandemic and the lingering effects on work environments, mental health awareness is on the rise and worker support programs are more common. Workers in almost every industry are increasingly demanding better mental health benefits.

Ms Gaudry said each employer’s package may be unique, with different levels of prescription drug and dental coverage, but mental health support is an important part of any benefits plan.

Precious Myers, a mental health expert, said employers are simply not providing enough mental health benefits. She said a one-hour session at her old workplace cost $150 to $200, and most benefits didn’t cover such expensive services.

“Workers who need mental health services and need to see a therapist will often have no choice but to spend their own money,” she said, adding that employers should provide between 2 000 and 5000 dollars for individual benefits.

Research conducted by Benefits Canada indicates that the median coverage for mental health counseling provided by an employer is $750 per year. Its own survey showed that 21 percent of employers in the sample provide between $1,001 and $5,000, while 7 percent provide a maximum of $5,000.

For most of the past year, Emily (the Globe and Mail identifies some people in this story by their first names only so they can speak candidly about their benefits and health issues), who works for a insurance company in Toronto, spent about $300 a month to see a psychotherapist because she has no mental health benefits. She said she would quit her job if she received an offer with better benefits.

“There’s a mental health crisis in the world, and it’s only getting worse,” Ms Myers said. “Frontline workers and people who work in stressful environments need sufficient mental health support. Mental health contributes to all the other health issues in your body, but some workplaces place less emphasis on it.

RBC’s survey, which had more than 1,000 respondents, recommends that companies prioritize the mental health and well-being of their employees, increase awareness of what their benefit plans cover and ensure that their plans meet the needs of their workforce.

Alexandra Petrisano, national workplace mental health trainer at the Canadian Mental Health Association, said protecting the mental well-being of workers is not just the right thing to do, but a smart business decision. .

“Workers are motivated to continue when they are psychologically healthy and feel well supported in the workplace,” she said.

Ms Gaudry said employers can provide mental health coverage in a variety of ways, including virtual care and online support.

She added that employers need to understand what their employees really want.

“We know that those who have regular access to benefits will rate their job satisfaction and general level of well-being and mental health higher than their counterparts who do not have access to these benefits,” she said. declared.

Ms. Gaudry and Ms. Petrisano agree that it is important to publicize the benefits offered to employees.

“A lot of employees don’t even know what they have access to in their group benefits plan,” said Ms. Gaudry. “A big step is to increase awareness of what they already have access to and how they can use the support available to them.”

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About Evelyn C. Heim

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