Most young and old employees lack workplace health coverage when they need it

Oct 28, 2013, 09:20 ET from Conference Board of Canada

Gaps also exist in workplace programs for employees struggling with mental health issues and with chronic health conditions

TORONTO, Oct. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - Young workers and seniors are the most impacted when they need time off work due to an illness or disability - because less than half are covered by employer sick leave and disability leave plans.

Gaps in employer programs to address mental health issues and chronic disease are also identified in a new Conference Board of Canada report, issued today at Disability Management and Benefits 2013: Driving Productivity with Effective Workplace Practices.


     Young workers and seniors are at the most at risk of not having sick leave and disability coverage.
     Coverage is also lacking for employees in certain sectors such as construction, retail and the services sector.
     More Canadian organizations offer programs and supports for employees with physical health issues than for mental health issues.

"As a country, we need to be conscious of the importance of sick leave and disability management programs on vulnerable groups of employees," said Karla Thorpe, Director Leadership and Human Resources Research.

"Both young people and seniors are more likely to have casual, contract or part-time jobs that can be less secure and offer fewer benefits.  As we enter a period of tight labour markets, employers will need to think about how to best engage these two segments of workers to ensure they remain healthy and productive at work."

Certain demographic groups are more at risk than others. Only a third of 18-24 year olds in the workforce (34 per cent) have any paid sick days or short-term disability coverage.  Only a quarter (26 per cent) have coverage in the event of a long-term disability. Less than half of individuals in the workforce over the age of 65 have paid sick days or short-term disability leave, and only 41 per cent have long-term disability coverage.

Employees with mental health issues are also somewhat more vulnerable than those with physical health issues. More organization offer supportive programs and services for physical health issues (61 per cent) than mental health issues (53 per cent). Slightly over half of employees surveyed said that programs and services that support their physical health are helpful (52 per cent); but fewer (40 per cent) agreed that the mental health supports provided by their employer are useful.

This publication, Disability Management: Opportunities for Employer Action, provides advice and guidance for organizations to more effectively manage absenteeism. In 2011-12, absenteeism cost Canadian organizations an average of 2.4 per cent of gross payroll. This may seem like an insignificant amount at first, but it adds up to an overall loss of more than $16.6 billion to the Canadian economy. On average, employees were absent 9.3 days in 2011.

This publication is third of a three-part series. The first publication, Missing in Action—Absenteeism Trends in Canadian Organizations, was released in September. The second publication, Creating an Effective Workplace Disability Management Program, was published earlier this month.

The Conference Board, in partnership with Sun Life Financial, Cira Medical Services, and Acclaim Ability Management Inc., will be launching a series of workshops to highlight effective strategies and best practices for employers in the areas of disability management, accommodation, and return to work.

This research was funded by Morneau Shepell, Sun Life Financial, Centric Health, Banyan Work Health Solutions, Sanofi Canada, and The Conference Board of Canada's Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC).

The Conference Board is also hosting its 2nd Summit on Sustainable Health and Health Care on October 30 and 31 in Toronto.

SOURCE Conference Board of Canada