Employer-Sharing Discussion: Global Benefits - August 10, 2022

Business Group on Health held the latest of a series of monthly calls for employer members to network on the most pressing issues impacting their workforces around the world. Employers spoke and shared best practices about a number of topics, including leave, well-being in Canada, global consistency, family-forming benefits and more.


August 17, 2022

Global Leave

  • One employer participating in the conversation is looking into expanding its unlimited PTO policy, already solidified in the U.S., on a global scale. Other companies with global unlimited PTO highlighted the challenges of meeting statutory time off and carryover requirements around the world. One solution is to apply a rule where PTO comes through statutory requirements first, and when those leaves are exhausted, all additional time rolls into unlimited.
  • Another company is hoping to extend its maternity and paternity leave but is struggling with how to define the bonus policy, since taking extended leave can often impact bonuses. Several other employers piped in, stating that for global parental leave, the employee’s bonus is kept 100% intact.


Benefit Challenges

  • Multiple employers noted the challenges of balancing both the federal and provincial requirements within Canada, especially when it comes to administering benefits.
  • One employer is moving to a vendor to manage its leave of absence administration in Canada, while another has experienced new challenges as a result of moving from a local vendor to a U.S.-based one. As a result of integration with U.S. benefit administration, employees in Canada are able to compare what they have to what is available to U.S. employees, which is often quite different.
  • Additionally, it can be a challenge to educate international assignments or permanent moves to Canada for employees who only have experience with health care in the U.S.

Long-term and Short-term Disability

  • For employees on long-term disability, it is not usually possible to withdraw money from their retirement plan unless they are not classified as current employees.
    • One company’s plan only allows regular contributions to be withdrawn for home buyers plans or to pursue more education, while voluntary contributions can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Another employer is looking to potentially offer short-term disability leave to its largely part-time retail population in Canada. While other employers on the line do not have the same part-time retail population in Canada, they utilize vendors to help with short-term disability leave in order to be consistent across all North American operations.


Well-being Platforms and Providers

  • A poll found that while 53% of employers do not currently use a global well-being platform, several are considering changing their global well-being providers so that they can offer one.
  • Some employers have found that current offerings related to well-being platforms are more traditional than they would like. Therefore, they plan to reallocate their budget to other well-being programs , including mental and financial well-being.
  • Tracking engagement and determining ROI is another major challenge facing employers currently using a well-being provider. While some analytics are available, it continues to be difficult to tie engagement into overall lowered health care spend.
  • Based on the discussion, it is clear that one global well-being vendor may no longer be enough for employers looking to provide the most holistic, globally consistent experience to employees worldwide while also facing the challenge of justifying the ROI.
  • Employers appreciated being able to integrate point solutions into their global well-being platform.
  • Well-being platform vendors that were mentioned in the discussion were Virgin Pulse and Vitality. Other solution vendors mentioned include Ginger and Nudge, a European financial well-being platform.

Global Consistency

  • Some employers have been able to tackle the challenge of inconsistent global well-being platforms by utilizing and expanding their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). One member completed an inventory of its well-being offerings in each country as part of its global consistency strategy. The results found that some countries’ definitions of EAPs include all pillars of well-being, including financial, legal, mental and social.
  • Several companies have been able to expand their overall global well-being offerings through partnerships with their EAP programs. For example, one company’s EAP provider partners with another vendor specifically for financial well-being.
  • EAP vendors that were mentioned in the discussion include Aetna, Beach Health, Cigna, ComPsych Guidance Resources, CuraLinc, Humanacare, ICAS, Lifeworks, Optum, Vital Worklife and Workplace Options.

Fertility and Family-forming Benefits

  • While most employers participating in the conversation are not currently using a global fertility benefit vendor, this is a growing area of focus as part of an overall emphasis on women’s health and family-forming benefits.
  • One employer that uses Maven was able to expand globally to all its locations with the help of added language supports. Right now, the program is set up to support all stages of the parenting journey, from planning to pregnancy to pediatric and parenting support up to age 10. The plan in the future is to expand to menopause support.
  • One employer highlighted the global challenge of equity vs. equality, as the cost of care varies significantly around the world. The current global allowance is based on the United States dollar. The equality approach would allocate the same benefits to all employees regardless of location, while the equity approach would take into account local norms, expectations and statutory requirements.
  • Some employers are looking at improving their family-friendly benefits by viewing them through a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) lens. Ways to accomplish this include changing the name of the worksite lactation space from “Mother’s Room” to something more gender inclusive and opening the room to allow pregnant employees to rest during the day.
  • Global fertility vendors that were mentioned in the discussion include Carrot, Maven, Ovia and Progyny.

Other Topics

Travel Reimbursement post Dobbs in the U.S.

  • Several employers are offering travel and lodging reimbursement for employees who need to travel out of state for medical services, including abortion. Some are offering this reimbursement through the medical plan while others have added another travel benefit on top of existing benefits.

Coverage for Family Members of Expats

  • For expats with dependent family members in their home country, there are several approaches.
  • One company covers its expats under a fully insured medical plan that accommodates the expat as well as any family members that may remain in the home country.
  • Another company utilizes its U.S. vendor to set up a global Medical Savings Account (MSA) for which each necessary additional country can be added, since each country has its own provisions.

Global Benevolent Funds

  • One company is planning a global expansion for its U.S-based fund for employees facing serious issues who need financial support. Some peer employers have utilized their global Emergency Assistance funds in these circumstances.

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