Category: Articles

How to optimize your group benefits plan for employee mental health.

A healthy business relies on healthy employees, but it’s all too easy to forget that “health” is more than physical. According to the Canada Safety Council, mental health issues are the fourth most common reason people file a disability claim, and they account for an estimated 30 to 40 per cent of all insurance and employment claims in the country.

“Mental health has long been stigmatized and invisible, but that’s changing now,” Says John Giannopoulos, Advisor for Purves Redmond Limited. John is a 13-year veteran of the insurance industry, and with both a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) and Group Benefits Associate (GBA) designation, many employers turn to him for expertise on promoting workplace wellness.

We spoke with John to get his thoughts on how companies can adapt to the mental-health needs of today’s workforce.

Why should business owners invest in employee mental health?

It’s difficult to measure ROI on mental health, but it does impact your business. Some of us take a sick day if we’re feeling down, but for others, stress, depression or anxiety may extend into a leave of absence, requiring a salary continuance or long-term disability. If your group benefits plan includes mental-health coverage, and your employees understand how to use it, you can prevent these types of situations before they happen, boosting productivity, morale and retention.

As more millennials enter the workforce, wellness is seemingly becoming a bigger issue. Why?

In Canadians 35 and under, 60 per cent of all disability claims are related to mental health. This may seem like a growing trend, but it has always been there. Thanks to stigma around psychological issues, no one used to talk about it – but now, we have better awareness and understanding, and companies need to address it proactively.

What are the first steps employers should take to support employee mental health?

Start with your group benefits: a comprehensive plan covers options for both psychologist and social worker visits (since they have different fees and specialties). Standard coverage allocates at least $500 towards these, but if you can increase that to $1,000 or more, it’s a better level of care.

The next thing to implement is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP); it offers free assessments for anyone dealing with work, family, financial or other personal issues. They’re confidential, so employees don’t need to worry about information getting back to their employer.

Virtual care is also worth adding. Employees can speak to a registered psychologist online; if they need follow-up sessions, they can continue digitally or be referred to a local specialist. These services are often offered via app, video or text chat, so they’re highly accessible.

Some employers already offer mental-health benefits, but find staff aren’t using them. What can they do?

Hold a seminar to let your employees know that this is something you take seriously. Even if some feel they don’t “need” these types of services, they should understand what they can access, if and when they’re ready. You can also send an email blast, hold an employee engagement workshop with your benefits advisor or invite an independent mental-health expert to help highlight available resources.

How can employers generate a culture shift towards wellness?

Develop a sense of community. Ongoing communication and an open-door policy will do wonders for a positive working environment. Perks such as flex-time and work-from-home options also go a long way – it shows staff that you understand they have a life outside of the office. When you combine these with a strong benefits package, it’s a big morale-booster.

Speaking of working-from-home: due to the COVID-19 outbreak, people all over the world are now suddenly working remotely, perhaps isolated and under stress. Do you have any advice for employers hoping support employee well-being from a distance?

I think companies all over the world are suddenly grappling with that right now, but ultimately, your team just needs to know that your open-door policy still applies. Thanks to technology, we have more ways than ever to communicate; encourage them to use those methods, schedule group chats to maintain a sense of community, and be vigilant for signs of burnout. At the end of the day, we all just want to feel like the people in our lives – at work or otherwise – really care.


John and the rest of his team at PRL have extensive experience developing group benefits across industries. Regardless of your company’s size, they can offer deep insights and custom solutions to support your employees while ensuring claims and premiums are on par with industry standards.
For more information, contact:

John Giannopoulos
Advisor, 647.259.3563, jgiannopoulos@purvesredmond.com