This year, a greater number of people in Saskatchewan are needing support for mental health because of COVID-19. As such, employers need to be more mindful of the mental health impact of the pandemic and how it is affecting their employees.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental health costs Canadian businesses billions of dollars in sick days and absenteeism, “presenteeism” (being present at work, but unable to work well), lost productivity, disability, and other benefits. Mental illness can affect relationships with coworkers and supervisors. It can be difficult to concentrate and make decisions for someone who is suffering from a mental disorder.
In the 2020-2021 budget, the province of Saskatchewan is providing $435 million for mental health and addictions services, an increase of $33 million. Even with this boost, community based programs continue to be underfunded according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Furthermore, Leader-Post describes the state of mental health access in Saskatchewan as “inconsistent and spotty.” Data tells us that only a third of Saskatchewan’s population has access to counselling through workplace benefits. For employers of all sizes, one of the best ways to offer mental health resources for your employees is through an Employee and Family Assistance Program.
How to get started with an Employee and Family Assistance Program
Many benefit plans today include an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). Some carriers automatically include an EFAP with their extended health benefits line. This type of an embedded EFAP is an excellent starting point for any company, and it is cost-effective.
If the client would like to purchase more coverage, they usually would have that option as well.
What mental health resources does a typical EFAP include for your employees?
The goal of an EFAP is to proactively support your employees’ emotional and physical well-being. Here are some of the services and resources that might be available to your employees as part of the program:
- Counselling available via various modalities including in person, telephone, online chat, video conferencing, or text messaging.
- Coverage typically goes beyond just counselling. It can encompass additional resources for employees and their families including online libraries, support with life’s milestones, financial advice, legal advice, fitness programs and a virtual personal trainer!
- Coaching for managers and leaders. For example, managers could get assistance on how to deal with a difficult employee situation.
- Depending on your group size, usage reports can be available to show how the program is being utilized on an aggregate basis.
How does EFAP impact benefit costs?
The good news is that for small to mid-sized companies, most EFAP programs are “pooled”. This means that program usage will not directly impact your renewal premiums. Your employee benefits advisor can help you choose the right EFAP option for your business.
What else can employers do to support mental health?
A successful EFAP is only one of the initiatives that supports your employees. Stay tuned for Part II of this blog where we will share more information for Saskatchewan employers on mental health.
Have questions about your EFAP or looking to implement a mental health program for your employees? Get in touch with us, we would be happy to help!