3 Ways to Adjust your Benefits Plan to the New Normal
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Canadian businesses. When the virus first began spreading earlier this year, many businesses temporarily closed or reduced their operations, and business owners and leaders worked hard to figure out how to safely operate. Fortunately, now there is a lot more information available about the virus and how to prevent its spread. A “new normal” is coming into view.
But what does this mean for you, as a business owner, and your employee benefits plan?
The New Normal
Health authorities around the world agree that hand washing paired with physical distancing is critical to limiting the spread of Covid-19. In Canada, the recommendation is to physically distance from others by 2 metres. For many business owners, this has meant substantial changes to the layout and operation of their business.
These measures have had a cascading effect: to maintain physical distancing some businesses have had to allow fewer customers to physically visit; this, in turn, can require changes to hours of operation; and ultimately it can affect revenues.
Many business owners are finding creative ways of moving business online, but it has still been a challenge. This new normal may continue for a lot longer than we may have initially thought or hoped. As some have put it, “this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
So how do you adjust your employee benefits plan to this new normal?
Step 1: Respond
When a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic occurs, the most important thing to do is respond to the needs of your employees. Your employees may feel anxiety and fear over their job security, their health and the health of their families. From an employee benefits perspective, one way to respond to this is to ensure employees have resources to support their mental health. A great option is by providing employees with an EFAP (employee and family assistance plan). EFAPs include 24/7 access to support, and short-term counselling to help with life’s challenges.
At GroupHEALTH, we embed access to an employee and family assistance plan into most plans because we believe that providing EFAP resources to employees is the right thing to do. It’s better for your employees, and better for your business.
Step 2: Rebuild
As this “new normal” becomes more comfortable for your business, things will start to stabilize. Although you know this situation won’t last forever, it may be a while before your business returns to pre-pandemic operations. For many businesses who are struggling, now is the time to evaluate expenses.
When it comes to employee benefits, you’ll want to evaluate the short and long-term cost sustainability of your plan. Can you continue to sponsor the employee benefits plan without any changes? Do you have cost containment mechanisms in place?
A good employee benefits advisor will not only help you evaluate your plan but will also ensure cost containment features are in place. For example, GroupHEALTH offers Smart Rx Solutions that target prescription drug costs. Using Central Dispensing Pharmacies and tiered formularies, Smart Rx Solutions can lower and contain prescription drug costs.
Another example of a cost-containment mechanism is disability management services. Professional management of non-work-related injury or illness can help get employees back to work as soon as they’re able. This is good for the long-term health of the employee, and for your disability claim costs.
As part of the rebuild, it may also be a time to consider a different type of plan, such as GroupHEALTH’s Smart Plan for Small Business. A more templated plan that includes quality benefits that cover the most common needs of workers, it’s both flexible and affordable. It also includes non-traditional benefits like virtual healthcare (through Akira) and short-term counselling.
Together with your employee benefits advisor, you’ll want to start on a rebuild that can support the long-term sustainability of your plan. Be cautious of providers who offer deep discounts: in many cases, a discount on the front end translates into a hefty increase on the back end.
Step 3: Recover
If you’ve been able to successfully adapt your business model to facilitate changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve won half the battle. If your business has stabilized to the new normal and you’re back to being profitable, now may be the time to carefully review your employee benefits plan. In this recovery phase, you can look at the plan without the added pressure of a fluctuating or evolving situation for your business. Are the benefits still the right fit for your employees and their families? Have their needs changed?
You may also want to consider offering popular benefits such as virtual healthcare and tax-free health spending accounts. After all, you’ll need to attract and retain the right employees to take you through this new normal and beyond.
Good Advice is Key
Adjusting your employee benefits plan to the new normal around the COVID-19 pandemic is a reality. With the right employee benefits advisor, you can make smart choices aimed at long term sustainability. Review your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone, or contact us for a comparison quote.
GroupHEALTH’s unique solutions are one of the reasons that we continued to grow, even during the pandemic: Canadian businesses need better support and more options during challenging times.