Here are 5 things you need to know about benefits before accepting a job, according to an expert

Nov 29 2022, 10:12 pm

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re among the nearly three-quarters of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 who would leave their current job for one with better benefits. Sounds about right?

This is according to findings from a recent survey by RBC Insurance, which also showed an increase in how Canadians with employer-provided benefits ranked their job satisfaction, level of well-being, physical health, mental health, and financial health compared to those without benefits.

To help us gain more perspective on the subject, we talked to the Head of Group Benefits at RBC Insurance, Julie Gaudry, about recent trends that RBC is seeing in group benefits, what to look out for in a package when applying for a job, and how employers can better meet the needs of employees.

Basics of benefits

Head of Group Insurance at RBC InsuranceJulie Gaudry's head shot

Julie Gaudry (RBC Insurance)

If you’re not familiar, a group benefits plan is something many employers provide to support their employee’s health and financial well-being.

A typical package will include coverage for medical expenses that are not paid for by your provincial healthcare plan, such as dental, prescription drugs, and mental or physical therapy. Employees may also have access to other coverage such as life or disability insurance and, increasingly, additional services that are designed to encourage employees to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Job applications will often list that they have a “competitive” benefits package, but Gaudry notes that what is considered “competitive” can vary.

“Since benefits aren’t ‘one size fits all,’ it’s important employers know the workforce they’re looking to attract and retain to ensure that they’re truly offering a package that meets their needs,” Gaudry tells Daily Hive.

Gaudry points to the RBC Insurance survey, which showed that young Canadians are looking for more mental health support, along with flexibility in their coverage, to meet their personal needs.

The realities of what’s offered

While there’s still some work to be done with what employers are offering, Gaudry says that there has been a shift in employers’ benefits packages.

“One of the changes we’re seeing, which is great progress, is an increased desire to offer health and wellness spending accounts,” says Gaudry. “There’s also greater investment in mental health support, whether that’s higher levels of coverage for a psychologist or social worker, or adding new benefits and services that help employees self-serve mental health support or navigate a complex health care system when they need it.”

Gaudry notes that while these changes have been happening over the last decade, progress has accelerated in recent years. She attributes this to pandemic-related concerns and a tighter labour market which, according to RBC Economics, has roughly 60% more job postings and 7% fewer available workers compared to pre-pandemic levels in Canada.

This has created a “buyers market” in the workforce, meaning employers have had to adapt by offering more competitive packages.

What to ask during the interview process

When looking at future job opportunities, Gaudry says it’s important to center questions around your particular needs when you get to the final stages of your interview process.

“You can ask specific questions about the benefits package around the same time as you’d ask questions about other aspects of the total rewards or the compensation package,” says Gaudry.

While getting into specifics should generally be done at a later stage, Gaudry notes that asking general questions earlier in the process can give you an indication of prospective employers’ attitudes about their benefits. How they frame their benefits is a great indicator of the culture of a company, rather than simply looking at the details of what they offer.

“There’s a big difference between offering something that’s more of a ‘tick-in-the-box’ versus actually encouraging its use,” says Gaudry. “Those general questions about company values and culture could really elicit some insightful information as you’re considering where to work.”

During those early stages, ask for examples of workplace policies or programs they have in place to support employee well-being, and their company values — and take note of how they discuss them. Then, as you’re entering the offer stage, you can get into those specific questions about benefits.

You got the job… What’s next?

Once you’ve got an offer and are heading into your first day, you’ll most likely be given information about your benefits package and other HR policies. This is where you’ll want to consider your personal health needs and ask specific questions if you’re unsure what benefits or services are available that matter to you.

“It’s not just about what you think you’re going to use now, but what you want to have coverage for should something arise in the future for you or your family,” says Gaudry. “What matters will vary from person to person, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you start getting into some of those questions.”

Gaudry tells us mental health coverage, health and wellness spending accounts, and online wellness services often go underutilized as many employees aren’t aware of what they have access to.

“Group benefits are there to support you in managing or recovering from a medical issue, but there are certain components that can be used more preventatively to help you lead a healthier lifestyle,” she says.

A clearer picture of group benefits

Given the current labour market, workers are more easily able to compare employment opportunities to arrive at the best fit for their needs. Young Canadians are scrutinizing group benefits packages more closely than in previous generations, and employers are needing to adapt to attract top talent.

“We’re seeing people reporting lower levels of overall well-being or mental health,” says Gaudry. “Employees should look out for an offer from an employer that has policies, programs, and coverage in place that tells you they care about your health and well-being. Ones which are going to help you lead a healthier and more productive lifestyle.”

For employers looking into how they can adapt to this change in the job market, now is the time to gather data on what your prospective pool of employees is looking for in their benefits. Upping your mental health and wellness support, offering flexibility, and being transparent and encouraging of what you offer are all areas that are seeing change for the better.

“What we consistently saw in our research, when it comes to job satisfaction and overall well-being, was that those with benefits rated these factors higher than those without,” says Gaudry. “There is real value in making a competitive benefits package available to your employees in terms of retention, satisfaction, and improving their health and well-being. For employees looking for that, if you’re fortunate to have access to a job that provides benefits, it will have a meaningful impact on many aspects of your life.”

To learn more about health and wellness, or for employers interested in learning more about insurance, visit RBC Insurance’s Discover & Learn page.

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