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Do Employee Benefits Cover Mental Health?

SUMMARY

Mental health issues are widespread, impact millions of individuals, and cost the economy billions annually. Understanding if employee benefits cover mental health is crucial for both employers and employees in Canada. Employers are responsible for supporting employees’ mental well-being, as it can result in enhanced engagement and productivity within the workplace.

IN THIS ARTICLE

In an ideal workplace today, mental health support is becoming increasingly important for employees. It’s a lifeline for moments when deadlines loom large and stress levels soar. But what does this support really include? It includes assistance programs, access to medical professionals, rehabilitation, disability support, etc.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of how employee benefits cover mental health and why it is important.

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The impact of poor mental health in a workplace

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), every week, around 500,000 Canadians can’t work because of poor mental health and 38% have taken time off work in the last five years because of mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression.

It’s not just individuals who suffer; the Canadian economy loses billions every year, employers feel the pinch, and youngsters are often hit the hardest, with most feeling burned out. This is when offering mental health support as an employee benefit becomes more crucial than ever.

So, whether it’s providing support for remote workers feeling isolated or helping employees resume work, employers need to take action to create a healthier workplace for everyone.

How do employers in Canada offer their employees mental health support?

So, what does mental health support look like in employee benefits packages? Here are some of the benefits that employers in Canada offer to their employees:

1 Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)

This program offers confidential services to help employees manage various personal issues, including mental health challenges, relationship issues, and drug abuse. It provides access to counseling and referrals, making it easier for employees to seek help. This is usually offered by a third-party provider.

2 Access to consistent care and paramedical assistance

Let’s say an employee is already seeking therapy or has frequent anxiety/panic attacks. Employers can help such an employee by offering benefits like:

  • Access to mental health professionals (counselors, therapists, psychiatrists)
  • Pre-recorded or live digital sessions (Internet-enabled Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT), text or video therapy
  • Evidence-based drug coverage
  • Medication adherence support
  • Physical therapy sessions (massage therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture)

3 Wellness benefits

Many insurers offer wellness benefits such as stress management workshops, mindfulness training, resilience-building activities, personalized fitness training, such as LifeWorks LIFT, and subsidized gym memberships in a group health plan.

Several employers also opt for a wellness spending account for their employees that they can choose to spend on any activity they like, such as meditation workshops, movement therapy, yoga, gym memberships, sports, etc. 

4 Disability support

Several insurers also include disability support benefits like:

  • Access to early psychiatric intervention
  • Active case management
  • Return to work accommodation and inclusion 

5 Maternity and paternity leaves

Employees have the option to request a maternity or paternity leave under their Employment Insurance. This financially assists an employee who is pregnant, has recently given birth, or needs time off to care for their infant. Under Canadian law, employees could receive 55% of their earnings, up to $668 a week, for up to 15 weeks, helping them enjoy parenthood before returning to work.

6 Paid time off

While Canadian federal legislation requires employers to provide a minimum of two weeks of paid vacation per year for employees who have completed a year of employment and 3 weeks after 5 consecutive years, many employers also opt for a longer duration and offer this as a part of their employee benefits plan.

7 Rehabilitation/De-addiction benefits

The Canadian Medical Association considers addiction a chronic, but treatable brain disease. As a result, several insurers offer substance abuse treatment/rehab in an employee benefits plan.

What can you, as an employee do to assess if you’re getting adequate mental health support at your workplace?

It’s alright to feel confused when you’re faced with endless pages of a policy that you don’t understand too well. However, you can always check if the mental health benefits offered at your workplace are sufficient for your needs. 

Take a good look at your existing benefits to see what you have and don’t. Does your policy include therapy sessions? Are there any apps that help with stress management or offer well-being support? Do you have access to any pre-recorded therapy sessions that you can resort to if you don’t have a therapist on call?

If not, consider requesting your employer through the human resources department to offer you these benefits.

How much does it cost to include mental health benefits in a group plan?

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, the median coverage offered by Canadian employers for mental health support is around $750 annually. This sum usually covers approximately 3 to 5 therapy sessions. 

However, if an employee is diagnosed with severe depression and/or anxiety, they would typically require between 8 and 20 sessions annually for adequate treatment and support. These additional sessions can cost employees anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000 annually. 

For instance, Sarah, a marketing analyst at a mid-sized company in Toronto had been feeling increasingly anxious, struggling to work and maintain a healthy work-life balance. After consulting with a mental health professional, she was diagnosed with severe anxiety.

Her employer’s benefits package includes mental health support, offering a median coverage of $750 annually. However, as her treatment progressed, Sarah realized that she needs more sessions than her benefits offer.

Now, if Sarah opts for 8 therapy sessions annually, she would face an additional out-of-pocket expense of $450 per year. If she chooses 20 sessions annually, her out-of-pocket expense would increase to $2,250 per year. While Sarah’s employee benefits plan won’t eliminate these expenses, it will significantly reduce the financial burden on her.

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Want to choose the best group health plan with mental health benefits? Speak to our experts!

At PolicyAdvisor, our licensed experts will give you honest, unbiased advice that puts your needs first. So, if you’re looking for an insurer that will prioritize your employees’ mental health and give you a sustainable group health plan, speak to us today! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What steps should be taken if an employee requests mental health support through the benefit plan?

If an employee requests mental health support through a benefits plan, handling the situation with care and sensitivity is crucial. Firstly, ensure the employee knows they have support available through employee assistance programs (EAPs) or mental health benefits provided by the company. Encourage open communication and offer accommodations if needed, such as flexible work arrangements or access to counseling services. 

What are the most common workplace mental health issues?

In Canada, common workplace mental health issues include stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and mood disorders. Employers play a vital role in identifying and addressing these concerns through proactive measures and supportive interventions.

Can I sue my employer for emotional distress in Canada?

In Canada, employees may be able to sue their employer for emotional distress in certain circumstances, such as cases of workplace harassment, discrimination, or negligence related to mental health support. However, the legal landscape surrounding emotional distress claims can be complex, and it’s advisable to seek legal advice to understand the options and requirements specific to each situation.

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Mental health issues affect about 500,000 Canadians each week, leading to significant economic losses.
  • Employers can support mental health through benefits packages, including Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) and wellness benefits.
  • Employers can take proactive steps to create a healthier workplace environment, benefiting both employees and the company.

By Jiten Puri
CEO & Founder, Insurance Advisor, LLQP
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