Employee Benefits: All You Need to Know

Employee Benefits: All You Need to Know

Attracting and retaining top talent

Hiring the best talent is an excellent way to propel your company forward, but how do you make sure that you can recruit and keep that talent? While a good salary is a start, research shows that paying your employees more offers diminishing returns. Instead, consider offering a robust employee benefits package.

Many business owners are concerned about the high cost of benefits, which can quickly cut into profits. However, instead of viewing this as a loss, it’s better to consider your employee benefits plan as an investment.

Good employees know their worth, and offering them the right benefits will show them that you value their contributions. Providing a comprehensive and appealing set of benefits can make the difference in snagging an employee that would otherwise go with a competing, higher-paying offer.

By investing in employee benefits, you can reap the long-term rewards and prosperity of a specialized, loyal workforce. A quality benefits package will also ensure that you secure the best talent to help your business grow and thrive, especially during the vital formative years.

Legislated Benefits

Under Canadian law, you don’t have to provide a comprehensive employee benefits package that offers health and dental insurance, or group life insurance. However, there are some mandatory benefits that you have a legal obligation to provide:

  • Employee and employer contributions to the Canada Pension Plan
  • Employee and employer contributions to employment insurance
  • Workplace insurance coverage, which will vary depending on your province, industry and work environment
  • A minimum of two weeks’ paid vacation per year
  • Premium pay for public holidays

Employees also have the right to take maternity, parental, and compassionate care leave. The various provinces have different leave length requirements, which you need to take into account.

Pregnant employees are entitled to 55% of their average earnings to a maximum of $537 per week. They are also entitled to 17 weeks’ unpaid leave, and in Quebec, fathers can receive five consecutive weeks of paternity leave. Finally, both parents can take a parental leave of absence of 35 to 52 weeks each, as long as they’ve met the length of service requirement.

Compassionate care leave works similarly in that employees are entitled to eight weeks (16 in Quebec and Saskatchewan) unpaid leave if a close family member is at significant risk of death. Different provinces have different requirements and statutes for shorter leaves of absence. Be sure to go over your relevant Employment or Labour Standards Act to determine what the laws are in your province.

Canada has a complex set of tax rules and employment standards regulations that make keeping track of employee benefits tricky, especially since some are taxable and added to employee income while others aren’t.

It’s your responsibility as an employer to identify taxable employee benefits, determine their value, and make the appropriate payroll deductions. It’s a good idea to have a thorough read through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Employer’s Guide, which lays out taxable benefits and allowances for employees.

Top Benefits that Employees Want

According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Payroll Association in 2016, the five most common employee benefits offered in Canada were:

  • Health and dental insurance
  • Group life insurance
  • Training expenses
  • Vehicle allowances
  • Gifts and awards

How does this square up with what employees want in their benefits package? According to a recent Glassdoor survey, many employees would prefer increased benefits over a pay rise. The benefits they valued the highest include:

  • Healthcare insurance
  • Vacation and paid time off
  • Performance bonuses
  • Flexible schedules
  • Office perks such as nap rooms and free coffee

However, it’s important to note that demographic changes can influence the most attractive benefits. Canada’s population is ageing, and so is the workforce. As the workforce ages, age-related benefits will become more appealing while company cars and training expenses will drop on the list.

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Employee Benefits Best Practices

Benefits aren’t cheap, and the costs can quickly ramp up to a third or more of your employees’ base pay. It’s vital to get the most out of these benefits, which includes developing a benefits package right for your workplace and avoiding common pitfalls that add to your expenses.

Avoid Costly Mistakes

Drawing up an employee benefits package is tricky, both legally and from an organizational perspective. Making a mistake can be costly, not only in financial terms but also in dealing with irate insurers or employees. By taking the time to plan your employee benefits package correctly, you can streamline your package and get the best possible value out of it.

Don’t absorb the entire cost yourself

If you choose to offer healthcare, dental, or group life insurance benefits, you don’t have to foot the bill entirely by yourself. Companies are increasingly choosing to split the bill in a co-payment plan with their employees.

Having a co-payment plan comes with two main advantages. The first is that you save money, and most employees don’t mind paying in a few dollars per pay period if they feel your contribution is adequate.

The second advantage is that you can screen for employees that don’t need particular coverage. Some employees may have healthcare or life insurance plans under the spouse’s name, and the idea of switching and co-paying for your insurance may be enough of a reason to skip the benefit.

Don’t cover non-employees

If you’re a business owner, it may be incredibly tempting to save on coverage by buying group-rate coverage with your family or friends. However, if you’re not up-front about the fact that you’re covering non-employees with your insurer, you may find any claim you make disallowed. In extreme circumstances, you may even lose the whole policy.

Keep your paperwork up to date

Many small business owners wear multiple hats, which means that paperwork commonly falls by the wayside. Unless you have a dedicated employee managing employee benefits, you may find important paperwork slipping through the cracks.

One of the most common mistakes we see is forgetting to enroll new employees on time. Most plans have a fixed deadline for new employees, after which they need additional documentation. Missing the open enrollment window can lead to high costs and even litigation in some cases.

Don’t hide the value of employee benefits

Employees can quickly start taking their benefits for granted, which may lead to them wonder if they’re underpaid and start looking for another job. Consider sending out an annual benefits statement that outlines what benefits you provide and how much they’re worth. It’s a powerful motivator that shows your employees exactly how much you’ve invested in them over their tenure.

Avoid unwanted benefits

It’s essential to tailor your employee benefits package to the needs of your workplace. Different demographics can have different priorities, which you need to keep in mind. Young 20-somethings are less likely to care about life insurance, while older employees may find training benefits useless.

While some benefits are always popular, it’s a good idea to conduct a survey to find out what your employees want the most and focus on those.

Developing your Benefits Package

Developing your employee benefits package requires a lot of care and attention. By listening to your employees, you can come up with a cost-effective and powerfully motivating solution to everyone in the business.

Consider your budget

The two most important aspects you need to keep in mind are what your employees want and your budget. There are several cost-containment methods you can use to keep costs low, but, ultimately, you want your employee benefits package to enhance your business and pay for itself.

If you have an older workforce, you also might find that health-related benefits are significantly more expensive than if you had a workforce of younger employees. This higher expense may limit your ability to provide additional benefits as healthcare insurance usage starts to increase.

Get feedback from your employees

Before you start, send out a survey to find out which benefits represent the most value to your employees. Doing so will prevent you from spending money on a benefit that nobody appreciates. It will also help identify areas of dissatisfaction that you can focus on and address.

Common benefits to include in your survey could consist of:

  • Health Insurance
  • Vision and Dental
  • Life Insurance
  • Additional vacation time and paid sick days
  • Short-term and long-term disability insurance
  • Group pensions plans on top of the Canada Pension Plan
  • Flexible work hours/work from home arrangements
  • Training and development

Your employee benefits program must fit with your business culture and vision. While nap rooms and gaming areas are standard in Silicon Valley, they won’t go over as well in a more formal workplace. Ultimately, a benefits plan that doesn’t sync with your culture isn’t worth the investment.

Find the right insurer

Once you know what your employees want, shop around. There are plenty of insurers with plans for both small and large businesses, and it’s vital to do necessary research to find the right plan for your company. Keep an eye out for useful amenities like filing claims online or pay-direct cards, which can save you money and resources in the long run.

Include wellness programs

If you offer any healthcare benefits, consider offering a wellness program and preventative care coverage as well. Not only do wellness programs help raise employee morale, but they can encourage employees to take care of their health.  Healthy employees are less likely to use their healthcare benefits, which can lower usage and costs in the long-term.

Affordable employee benefits

While most employee benefits are costly, there are also non-monetary perks that can raise morale and show your employees that you care. These include benefits like:

  • Flexible work hours: Wherever possible, let your employees set their hours and give them the ability to work from home. Research consistently shows that employees that have control over their work hours are more productive and profitable.
  • Personalized rewards: Many companies offer awards as a benefit, but often that’s not enough. By personalizing the award to the person, you show that you care and notice their performance. It’s a small gesture that can go a long way, especially in a larger work environment.
  • Training and development: Most ambitious employees want to develop and evolve during their careers. Offering in-house development doesn’t have to be expensive, but can still foster a culture of learning in your business. Learning sessions allow employees to share their skills with teammates or coworkers without much monetary outlay.

Contain costs

While employee benefits are expensive, there are several methods that you can consider to lower costs, especially in the longer term. These primarily deal with insurance-type benefits, such as healthcare, vision, and dental.

The simplest way is to split the costs of the premiums, which will reduce costs and weed out people who already have coverage. You can also build deductibles into the coverage, or cap coverage over certain, reasonable, limits.

Once you know what your employees want, shop around. There are plenty of insurers with plans for both small and large businesses, and it’s vital to do necessary research to find the right plan for your company.

Implementing a Benefits Package

If you’ve announced that you’re restructuring your employee benefits, you may find that many employees feel uncertain and worried. With many companies focused on cost-cutting, it’s reasonable for employees to assume the worst and that their benefits will be limited.

That’s why it’s vital to communicate with your employees during the development or redesign process. Let your employees know, via multiple channels, what benefits they qualify for and how they can claim them. The simpler the process, the easier the implementation and transition will be.

Get Professional Help with Group Enroll

Working out employee benefits can be extremely intimidating and time-consuming. As more insurers offer more flexibility, it’s easy to get lost in the complexity of choice and make the wrong decision.

As a business owner, you might not have the time or resources to work out an employee benefits package, deal with the legalities and legislation, and shop around for the best deal once you’ve settled on a list of benefits. You may also find that it’s incredibly difficult to assess the value of a particular plan, due to the sheer variety of options.

Instead of doing this on your own, consider working with a benefits broker. At Group Enroll, we offer a streamlined process that allows you to compare your options quickly. You can request a quote online for the group insurance benefits you want to provide. We’ll take a few minutes of your time to get an idea of your goals, after which we’ll get a quote from as many providers as possible.

Once we’ve received proposals from top Canadian providers, we’ll evaluate them to find the one that best meets your needs. You don’t have to sift through confusing sets of different deductibles and plans—we do all the hard work for you.

At Group Enroll, our service doesn’t end once we’ve helped you find the perfect employee benefits plan. We have a dedicated team that will help you with renewals, claims, and customer service queries. Instead of having to manage your benefits by yourself, you’ll always have a helping hand.

Whether you’re looking to offer group disability insurance, extended healthcare coverage, or a group retirement savings plan, we can find you the perfect solution. Fill out our free no-obligation form today and find out how easy it can be to manage your employee benefits.

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