Printer icon Print Page

Benefits Benchmarking 2019 Identifies New Trends

Reimbursement up for mental health and wellness service fees for employees

Nearly half of surveyed organizations considering covering medical cannabis costs in the future

Ottawa, March 11, 2019—Canadian employers are increasingly focusing their employee benefits plans on flexibility, mental health and virtual health care. While traditional health care plans remain the most common, nearly two-thirds of Canadian employers are now offering more innovative health care spending accounts (HCSAs) to employees—according to the Conference Board of Canada’s newly released Benefits Benchmarking 2019 report.

“As Canadian employers look to appeal to a multi-generational workforce, flexibility and choice are the key watchwords for health and wellness benefits,” said Monica Haberl, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board of Canada. “Supplementing fixed benefits plans with health care spending accounts provides flexibility and choice to employees while keeping business costs predictable.”

As Canada’s baby boomer population continues to age, sustained pressure on the nation’s health care system is expected. Over the last several decades, the average age of retirement has increased slowly but steadily for Canadians, meaning older workers are remaining in the workforce longer.

Employers are also focusing more on preventative health measures and medicines, as well as investment in benefits technologies such as tele or virtual healthcare and counselling, pharmacogenetics and fitness and wellness apps to encourage wellness and try to prevent illness before it occurs.

Benefits Benchmarking 2019 surveyed 217 organizations with more than 1.2 million employees across Canada. Trending employee benefits identified in the report include:

  • Approximately two-thirds of all responding organizations report enhancement or introduction of strategies to help employees with their mental health and wellness.
    • Psychological services are one of the most commonly offered benefits and have an average annual maximum coverage of $800 (up from $694 in 2015).
    • 16 per cent of surveyed organizations increased their psychological health benefits since 2015—the last time this survey was conducted.
  • Health Care Spending Accounts (HCSAs) on the rise.
    • Nearly two-thirds (66 per cent) of Canadian organizations now offer HCSAs to employees at all levels—more than ever before.
    • While only six per cent of organizations currently cover medical cannabis, mostly through HCSAs, close to half (48 per cent) of respondents report that they are considering covering medical cannabis in the future.

Benefits costs remain relatively steady at 10 per cent of payroll or an average of $9,011 per full-time equivalent. That said, cost containment remains the key priority for organizations. More than one-third (34 per cent) of organizations ranked cost containment as the top priority for their benefits strategy.

The Benefits Benchmarking 2019 report provides data to help mid- to large-sized Canadian employers benchmark themselves against other similar organizations.

For more information contact

Corporate Communications

Monthly Newsletter

Get updates about Conference Board research and events by signing up for our monthly newsletter.

RSS Feed

RSS Feed  Subscribe to the Conference Board’s News Release RSS Feed

Access our research

Access to the Conference Board’s reports is free of charge to professional journalists upon request.

Access our experts

Our experts are available to share research insights. Contact us.

Connect with us