Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recession Not The Time To Trim Health Benefits

“While it may be tempting for employers to cut health benefit spending in these uncertain economic times, companies must balance current pressures with the short and longer-term need for organizational performance and employee productivity if they are to weather the storm. These findings and others are drawn from the 12th edition of The sanofi-aventis Healthcare Survey released today. The national survey of 2,090 health benefit plan members is the most comprehensive research to examine the attitudes and preferences of Canadians as they relate to their employer-sponsored health benefit plan. The survey also explores employee perceptions regarding the role of the public healthcare system and the workplace. The survey highlights the return the investment in health and wellness programs can generate for employers. Companies that offer health promotion programs are significantly more likely to have their health benefit plans rated as excellent or very good (65% vs 54%), have employees who are more satisfied with their jobs (82% vs 77%) and have employees who feel an obligation to help control benefit costs (66% vs 57%). And while employees must participate in wellness programs to benefit, many do not. In fact, only 35% of those with access to workplace wellness programs say they use the programs, either definitely (11%) or kind of (24%). Plan members said they would be more likely to change their health behaviour if their employer subsidized a gym membership (62%), provide small incentives (61%), offered healthy food choices (56%) or more flexible hours (55%), time at lunch or breaks for fitness activity (51%). ‘The take away here is that employers need to realize that just offering the wellness program is only a small part of the equation. They must be very strategic about ensuring program elements are relevant to and of interest to employees, and offering incentives to employees to engage in these healthier behaviours is critical - especially during challenging economic times,’ says Bonnett.”

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