Manulife has taken a major step when it comes to mental health support – and one that other companies should adopt as well.
In fact, it’s completely overdue.
Under Manulife’s redesigned benefits plan, the company’s employees will now receive a mental health support benefit of up to $10,000 per person per year, including family members.
These ever-important benefits – which became available on January 1 – are fully paid by Manulife.
The move is pretty big deal, as it represents among the highest mental health benefits offered by Canadian employers. Under Manulife’s previous benefit plan, employees could claim up to $1,000 per year depending on the level of benefits they chose for any combination of professional services, including mental health.
But anyone who’s ever sought mental health help knows that those dollars don’t even make a dent in things like therapy bills.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, an estimated one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. By this point, of course, most of us don’t need to be reminded of this statistic. We’ve all known someone who has suffered from a mental illness – from an eating disorder and depression, to addiction.
Some mental health issues can be crippling, resulting in potentially major consequences when it comes to the workplace.
According to a company press release, mental health claims represent 35 per cent of all short-term disability claims, and 44 per cent of all long-term disability claims for Manulife employees.
“By enhancing benefits that support the health and wealth of our employees and their families, we are investing in our greatest resource – our people,” said Stephani Kingsmill, Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Manulife. “We now know that early detection of mental health issues and minimizing the impact through treatment can make a big difference in a person’s life.”
That’s why Manulife decided to increase the mental health benefits by 10 times the previous amount.
The necessity to do so was the result of a comprehensive review of its employee benefits program using competitive benchmarking, a best practice analysis, and employee focus groups.
The review made is glaringly obvious that it was important to Manulife employees to receive increased mental health support.
“The costs of seeing a mental health professional can prevent people from seeking support,” said Kingsmill. “With these enhanced benefits, we’ve removed the financial barrier for our employees to access long-term mental health support when and how they need it.”
How did they do it? Employers, you may want to take note.
In order to meet the need for mental health support, Manulife separated the benefit for mental health practitioners from other practitioners like physiotherapists. This was designed to offer greater flexibility for the employee benefit plan, offering employees more options and choices.
“Addressing mental health in the workplace is vital, because most Canadian adults spend more time at work than they do anywhere else,” said Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
“Manulife has taken important, progressive action that demonstrates clear leadership when it comes to prioritizing employees’ health and wellness. I would encourage all employers to aspire to this kind of forward-thinking.”
If you need more convincing (really?), according to the press release, in 2012, 122,900 finance, insurance and real estate professionals required mental health care in Canada. Of them, nearly 18 per cent of them had unmet mental health needs.
Not only will Manulife’s move likely result in happier, more productive employees, if more companies jump on board, the access of improved treatment of mental health could boost the Canadian economy.
According to estimates by The Conference Board of Canada, improved treatment of depression among employed Canadians could potentially boost Canada’s economy by up to $32.3 billion a year.
Furthermore, improved treatment of anxiety could boost the economy by up to $17.3 billion a year.
Manulife’s progressive mental health strategy hasn’t gone unnoticed; in 2016, the company received silver certifications for Mental Health in the Workplace and Healthy Workplace from Excellence Canada.