Employee benefits are an important part of compensation plans, some group insurance plans are mandated by law and others are offered voluntarily by the employer. Voluntary employment benefit plans are designed to attract and retain talented and highly qualified employees. Companies evaluating employee benefits should be aware of all legislated benefits, know how to treat taxable benefits and brush up on the best practices of successful companies offering such benefits.
All employers must provide certain legislated employment benefits which means they are mandatory. In Quebec, such mandatory benefits include parental and employment insurance as well as participation in the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).
Voluntary employment benefits are highly attractive and often help retain skilled employees. A competitive set of benefits promotes employees’ performance and increases their individual security, assuring them health and stability—thanks to their employer.
There are many options when considering competitive work benefits and companies must be careful to analyze the total expenses of both initial and maintenance costs of such plans.
Coverage for prescriptions, upgraded hospital care or recovery services such as physiotherapy may be considered desirable benefits for employees.
Dental and Vision Insurance
Employer coverage of dental and vision health is often considered standard in most workforces. These are hallmarks of employee benefits since they may otherwise be unaffordable or unappealing when subscribed to individually.
Life insurance is primordial to employees with families relying on their income for support. People want to know that their loved ones would be taken care of if something should happen to them. Employers can offer supplemental life insurance for the employee, spouse and other dependents, or ‘’accidental death and dismemberment plans’’ (AD&D). These are commonly seen in benefit plans.
Short- and long-term disability income protection is another valuable competitive benefit that employers can offer to provide reassurances of income protection if temporarily or permanently disabled. This is complementary to government plans which are often seen as insufficient to cover expected lifestyles in disability to employees of most industries.
NOTE: It is advisable to speak with an experienced benefits consultant to investigate the disability coverage provided under QPP and the Canadian Pension Plan and any employment insurance to determine if any additional coverage is necessary. As these benefits are taxable when paid for by the employer, it is standard for employees to pay for long-term disability insurance premiums not to be taxed on any benefits they may receive once in disability.
Coverage for employees that experience a critical illness such as cancer or a heart attack could help them with additional costs over and above what health insurance covers. It often ensures the employee will be taken care of properly and if needed, covering private care costs for a timely quality treatment. Most insurers cover over 20 of the most common debilitating conditions.
Supporting Healthy Lifestyles
Employers can help to keep a happy and healthy workforce which benefits both employers and employees by offering gym memberships and assistance with healthy nutrition.
Retirement plan benefits are becoming increasingly important to the younger generation. In Quebec, a Voluntary Retirement Savings Plan (VRSP) is a simple option where employees are automatically enrolled, and employers are not required to contribute to. Otherwise, a group Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) can be more appealing than an individual RRSP, being administered by an employer on a group basis, allowing pre-tax payroll deductions, sharing lower management costs, and paying out immediately. This may be particularly attractive to each individual employee.
Paid Time Off
Additional vacation days or paid sick leave above the requirements of the Employment Standards Act can be significant to many employees. Supplementing mandatory requirements often holds sway in an employee’s desire to enroll in a firm or to remain within it, offering a competitive edge in your industry.
Funding education with tuition reimbursement is a great way to reward employees for increasing their work skills. Some companies have stipulations of reimbursement after completion of a course with a passing grade or reimbursement for courses only related to their job. We often consider this benefit to promote a good work ethic and to attract a desirable workforce willing to further develop their abilities.
Flexible Work Schedules
Flexibility with work schedules or alternative work arrangements are popular for employees who tend to children’s activities or doctor visits. There are many options available to employers considering ‘’flextime’’ (look it up!) and a clear understanding between management and employees regarding mutual expectations to establish and maintain a successful program.
Some larger companies offer daycare for employees which is very convenient for both the employer and the employee. Employees can go straight to work and not travel out of their way for daycare, children remain close to their parents in case of emergencies and the daycare onsite should always be open according to the company’s schedule.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
These plans offer confidential services to employees seeking many supportive services such as counselling to address a variety of issues related to personal or professional life. Employees benefit from having a safe environment to discuss sensitive issues and access to additional resources for assistance. With a growing acceptance of mental health needs, this type of benefit has become popular and affordable.
Automobile or Cell Phone Assistance
Employers offering to pay for automobile use or cell phone plans is another popular benefit. We advise you to brush up on your knowledge of fiscal requirements relating to such supplemental benefits.
Be sure to consider your corporate culture when designing a benefits plan. Group benefits should be aligned with the goal you set for your organization to obtain the desired results. Successful company benefit plans look beyond health coverage for perks their employees desire such as flextime, additional paid or unpaid time off, and practical benefits such as transit passes.
Some examples of unconventional employee benefits are seen at Cameco, who decided to offer a lounge and nap room for employees who needed a space to recharge. Molson Coors of Canada has beer tasting programs and in-house brewing, while companies like Rise offer paid time off for birthdays, fitness programs, and transit passes which are enjoyed by many of their employees.
With so many options available, employee benefit plans are becoming increasingly complex. Make sure to speak with a professional benefits consultant prior to implementing voluntary employee benefits. Compliance with all fiscal and legal regulations is key to the process. Employers may be caught unaware with steep costs and growing liabilities having implemented benefits without knowledgeable counsel. Professional consultants can provide expert guidance to get the most from your group benefit plans and provide the proper risk management services needed before implementing additional work benefits.
SCORE Financial Offers Employee Benefits Consulting Services
SCORE Financial is an experienced benefits consulting firm, offering assistance to employers in analyzing employee benefit plans and the costs associated with start up as well as ongoing expenses and liabilities. We help companies to evaluate and implement employee benefits that fit with budget and human resource objectives. Contact SCORE Financial today to learn more about our comprehensive assistance to companies regarding their employee benefits plans.
SCORE Financial is an independent broker offering professional assistance to companies in evaluating and implementing group benefit plans. We adapt our services to the individual and unique needs of each client. Contact us today to learn more about our group employee benefits consulting services.