Your employee health benefits may need a refresh – here’s why

Find out what to look for when renewing your health benefits plan with tips from a leading insurance provider

Your employee health benefits may need a refresh – here’s why

This article was produced in partnership with the Canadian Chiropractic Association.

When was the last time you reviewed your team’s group health benefits? We know that many HR leaders revisited their plans over the pandemic but that should serve as a reminder that the circumstances of your teams are constantly changing and will benefit from annual realignment.

According to leaders in the insurance sector, there’s an increased focus on spine, muscle, and nervous system conditions (musculoskeletal health), including disorders like arthritis, back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome, all of which are commonly seen in the workplace.

“When we think of holistic health, it’s very important to pay attention to musculoskeletal health,” says Marie-Chantal Côté, senior vice-president, Group Benefits, Sun Life. “MSK issues can have far-reaching impacts on the mental, physical and emotional wellness of employees and their families, and they have the potential to become quite debilitating.”

Research from the Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness and Performance at Conestoga College reveals 50 per cent of workers report experiencing an increase in MSK pain as they adjust to “new normal” lifestyle changes like reduced commutes and working from home. According to the Canadian Pain Society 73 per cent of chronic pain sufferers say their pain interferes with their work.

Additional data from Sun Life finds that one in five long-term disability claims are tied to MSK issues. Forty-three per cent of these claims are for debilitating neck and lower back pain. Workplace strategies that promote MSK health are more important than ever.

“If an MSK condition worsens and becomes a long-term disability claim, the journey is very complex and can represent a significant cost to the employer,” Côté says. “The data clearly shows the more you focus on prevention, the better the outcome on long-term disability.”

“It makes financial sense for an employer to invest in things like chiropractic care because it prevents absenteeism, presenteeism, and can potentially avoid disability claims.”

The backbone of employee wellness

Employers benefit from prioritizing and promoting good health; preventive and supportive strategies go hand-in-hand.

“There are several reasons why supporting employee MSK health through paramedical coverage is vital,” says Côté. “First, there’s the financial aspect. It makes financial sense for an employer to invest in things like chiropractic care because it prevents absenteeism, presenteeism, and can potentially avoid disability claims. Second, early intervention for MSK conditions maintains employee well-being and engagement. Finally, today’s employees expect their employer to support their health.”

When it comes to putting an effective plan together, Côté says HR leaders must fully understand the needs of their workplace. Every organization is different, and every employee health journey is different.

Your teams are evolving

Despite the statistics, many companies have maintained the same paramedical benefit maximums for decades, an approach that not only falls behind today’s rate of inflation but also offers less coverage than what was provided to their parents’ generation.

“We can’t take for granted that what was effective a few years ago will be effective now,” says Côté. “Populations evolve, work environments change, and health priorities shift, particularly in a post-pandemic world.”

According to a study by the Conference Board of Canada, MSK conditions are now the second leading driver of short term and long-term disability claims in Canada. Furthermore, one-third of all lost time is a result of back pain. When it comes time for organizations to renew their benefits plans it is important for HR teams to keep these needs in mind and continue to monitor workplace trends.

“We feel very strongly on the need to have fulsome paramedical benefits,” Côté says. “A few years ago, Sun Life conducted a study that asked employers why they offered benefits plans. The number one reason was that they want healthier employees. We know and so do employers, that access to paramedical care helps make people healthier.”

Comprehensive paramedical coverage is central to workplace health; however, the advantages don’t stop there. Companies that offer superior paramedical coverage are also considered a preferred employer.

“We’re hearing loud and clear from organizations that in order to attract and retain the calibre of talent they need, it’s important their benefits plans measure up,” says Côté. “Employees are looking for employers who will support their physical and mental health. In fact, one-third of employees will look for another job if the coverage they need is not offered by their company.”

MSK health – flexibility matters

To help employers deliver the appropriate paramedical care for their staff, Sun Life keeps close tabs on shifting trends and allows for customized plans.

“We saw during the pandemic an increased need for virtual chiropractic care. It was a key demand from our plan members who reported feeling completely lost without it,” says Côté. “During lockdown, Sun Life was the first insurer to cover chiropractic care virtually, and we saw very positive outcomes from that coverage.”

Good back health is not only critical to staying healthy in the workplace, but it also supports physical and mental fitness and reduces the risk of other related health problems. Early intervention and customized treatment plans that can be carried out as directed therefore result in strong positive outcomes company wide. Paramedical benefits offer this protection. At their core, they help Canadian employers help their employees achieve healthier lives.

“It can’t be overstated,” says Côté. “Engaging and empowering employees to manage their health and wellbeing has never been more important. At Sun Life, we are committed to helping employers provide these supports with custom-tailored coverage that, how shall we say it… has your back.” 

Latest stories