February 01, 2017

Seventy-seven per cent of Canadians feel entitled to workplace health benefits

Canadian employees want flexibility from their employer-sponsored health benefits

TORONTO, Feb. 1, 2017 /CNW/ - Entitled is not a word typically used to describe Canadians, but when it comes to workplace health benefits, some believe these plans are a right. According to the most recent Sun Life Canadian Health Index, 77 per cent of Canadians surveyed feel all employees are entitled to receive a health benefits plan sponsored by their employer. Forty-nine per cent strongly agree and 27 per cent somewhat agree with this statement. 

"Workplace health benefits play an essential part in our health care system because they help Canadians pay for medical expenses that aren't typically covered by their provincial plan, covering nearly $30 billion per year1 in health care expenditures," said Brigitte Parent, Senior Vice-President, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial Canada. "Canadians and their families have come to depend on these health benefits as they provide tremendous support towards their physical, mental and financial well-being."

According to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, 24 million Canadians have supplemental health insurance through their employer or their spouse/partner's employer.

When it comes to employer health benefits, a little more than half of working Canadians recognize the health and wellness support their employers are providing them. The latest Canadian Health Index survey found that:

  • 64 per cent said their employer supports their physical health;
  • 58 per cent said the same about their mental health; and
  • 26 per cent said their employer offers programs or initiatives that promote health and wellness.


What do Canadians expect from their workplace health benefits?

Sun Life's recent Generations survey looked at what Canadians want from their benefits plan across generations. Only 37 per cent of Canadians with benefits surveyed said their plan fully met their needs.

Some key themes from the Generations survey include:

  • A strong desire for flexibility. This desire spread across all generations. When given the option to choose flexibility or increased coverage, survey respondents indicated a need for both, at 45 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively.
  • Need for mental health initiatives. Gen Z* (78 per cent), and Millennials** (76 per cent), were most likely to acknowledge mental health as central to their overall health. This demonstrates that younger employees would be more receptive to use mental health resources offered by employers, whereas older employees could benefit from awareness and anti-stigma programming.
  • Financial health support. Seventy per cent of the survey respondents believe that employers have a responsibility in supporting their financial health. Personal financial planning should be a key feature to make benefits plans more robust for employees.


"Although employees are at different stages of their life, what they want, need and value from a group benefits plan is in many cases quite similar," explains Parent. "With growing diversity in the workplace and increasing expectations of personalization, flexibility and customization are key to ensuring employees are getting what they want and need from their benefits package."

For more key findings and results on the 2016 Sun Life Canadian Health Index, visit www.sunlife.ca/CanadianHealthIndex. For more information on healthy living and financial planning, visit Learn and Plan.

* Gen Z respondents were ages 24 years and under.
** Millennial respondents were ages 25-35 years.

About the Sun Life Canadian Health Index survey

The Sun Life Canadian Health Index measures the attitudes of Canadians towards healthy lifestyles and reports these in the form of an index.

The seventh annual Sun Life Canadian Health Index is based on the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between September 19 and September 30, 2016. A sample of 2,402 Canadians from 18 to 80 years of age was drawn from the Ipsos I-Say online panel.

Ipsos employed weighting to balance demographics and ensure the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe.

The precision of Ipsos online surveys is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the survey is accurate to within +/-2.0% at 95% confidence level had all Canadian adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to methodological change, coverage error and measurement error.

For more key findings and results on the 2016 Sun Life Canadian Health Index, visit www.sunlife.ca/CanadianHealthIndex.

About the Generations survey

In mid-2016, Sun Life engaged TNS Canada to conduct research into the insights of generations in the workforce and their attitude to health and wellness across the health spectrum (mental, physical, and financial) – as well as their attitudes to group benefits in general.

The goal of the research was to see if there were key differences among the generations, with an assumed focus on what we would learn about Gen Z and Millennials – the two youngest groups in the workforce, but also the largest cohort at 40 per cent of the workplace population.

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Sun Life Financial has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda. As of September 30, 2016, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of $908 billion. For more information please visit www.sunlife.com.

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.

Group Benefits are offered by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, a member of the Sun Life Financial group of companies.

Note to Editors: All figures in Canadian dollars.

For further information

Kim Armstrong                                                
Sun Life Financial  

Yasna Criscione
Sun Life Financial

1 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975 to 2016. Ottawa, ON: CIHI; 2016.

SOURCE Sun Life Financial Canada


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