Navigating the Organizational Impact of Legalization

In April of 2017 the Canadian Federal government proposed new legislation that will establish a legal framework for the production, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana/cannabis. Marijuana use will become legal for adults, with provinces left to determine the appropriate means for sale (likely through a regulated retailer). While there is much work to be done, the effective date of the legislation is expected to be Summer 2018.

As this groundbreaking legislation unfolds, employers need to consider the impact on the workplace. While employers should continue to expect that employees perform work duties unimpaired, they need to proactively review drug and alcohol related policies to be prepared. Given the increased complexity of this issue around legal responsibility to accommodate disabilities, organizations should consider legal consultation to ensure they are on the right side of employment and human rights legislations where there is prescribed medical use of cannabis for treatment purposes. 

Organizations will need to re-examine how they provide support for employees with drug and alcohol addiction. The consequences of legalization on addiction is not well understood but fairly debated, however at HumanaCare we are seeing a significant increase in addiction within our employer health services cases.  Through the first 5 months of 2017, there was a 40% increase in addiction related Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) cases compared with 2016. Of particular concern is the increased incidence of addiction cases for employees located in more remote and isolated communities. Many cases involving mental health have a cause and effect relationship, where substance abuse will exacerbate a situation, adding more complexity and severity (calls related to suicide increased 165% over the same period, with many having co-morbid addictions). Employers need to empower managers, supervisors and health and safety staff with knowledge and resources to effectively deal with employees that are impaired on the job and to address absenteeism due to addiction related issues. 

Employers need to take action now to review their health benefits and people strategies to identify any gaps/opportunities to ensure best-in-class support for managers and employees. Additionally, employers should look to organizational policy and procedure best practices to mitigate risk where workplace safety is a critical element to the organization.  

EFAP, Disability Support Services and education play an important role in an organization’s response to productivity, safety and employee health matters. These valuable services formulate a strategic response, allowing companies to proactively manage through challenging circumstances. Organizations must seek a partner who provides strategic guidance to lift the veil on areas of concern and build a value-driven roadmap to success.


About HumanaCare

HumanaCare is an integrated mental and physical wellness service provider because a compassionate, holistic, employee centered care model is a prerequisite to more improved, long lasting outcomes. Employees are subsequently less absent, more engaged and productive at work, generating a significant return on investment for their company. For our clients, we deliver improved outcomes through our Employee and Family Assistance Programs, Disability Support Services, Medical Second Opinion Services, Chronic Disease Management and Eldercare Support programs. HumanaCare has more than 38 years of Canadian healthcare experience.


Mental health in the workplace: The struggles employers face – and what can be done

YourNurse recently was recognized in the US publication HR Dive.


Read the full story here: Mental health in the workplace: The struggles employers face – and what can be done

YourNurse featured in Benefits Canada

YourNurse was recently mentioned in Benefits Canada:

First Health Care launches single-contact benefits service


Jennifer Paterson | January 20, 2016


First Health Care has launched YourNurse, a service that provides a single point of contact to help employees navigate their health benefits.

Employees can access all services through a single toll-free telephone number and through a nurse, who will ensure the individual gets the emotional, physical and/or social support to address their concerns.

“Employees shouldn’t have to struggle to get the help they need and employers shouldn’t be left in the dark about how the benefits programs they’ve purchased are being used,” said Jamie Marcellus, president of First Health Care.

“Employees face physical, psychological and emotional challenges that impact their health, well-being and engagement at work. We provide YourNurse as a fully-integrated service because we want to make it as uncomplicated and seamless as possible for employees to get the help they need and remain productive in their jobs.”

YourNurse also provides reporting to employers, showing clear outcomes to help organizations understand their employee population.

Innovation or Common Sense?

For Immediate Distribution

YourNurse - Innovation or common sense?

New service provides integrated physical and mental health services for employees with easy single-point access and transparency for employers

MARKHAM, Ont. (January 19, 2016) – Replacing programs such as Employee Assistance Plans, Medical Second Opinion, Disability Support, Caregiving/Healthcare Navigation and Chronic Disease Management Services, YourNurse provides a single point of contact to help employees navigate their health benefits with experienced nurses as their guides.

Employee health services have focused on either a physical or mental health concern, but employees’ challenges are often more complicated. At the same time employers and plan sponsors deal with ambiguous reporting and unclear organizational value.

But a newly launched service — YourNurse — is bringing clarity to the marketplace and giving employees and employers the excellent service they deserve.

“Employees shouldn’t have to struggle to get the help they need and employers shouldn’t be left in the dark about how the benefit programs they’ve purchased are being used,” said Jamie Marcellus, President of First Health Care and a Registered Nurse himself.

Employees access all services through a single toll-free telephone number and through a nurse ensuring the employee gets the right emotional, physical and/or social support needed to address theirs concerns holistically.

“Employees face physical, psychological and emotional challenges that impact their health, well-being and engagement at work. We provide YourNurse as a fully integrated service because we want to make it as uncomplicated and seamless as possible for employees to get the help they need and remain productive in their jobs,” Marcellus said.

At the same time, YourNurse understands that information is critical to businesses. YourNurse provides clear reporting, showing every interaction as well as clear outcomes to help organizations understand their employee population. This enables employers to monitor trends and to customize services to meet the needs of their employees.

“We take the guesswork out of what counts as utilization,” Marcellus said. “Under our model, organizations are able to understand and unlock value, as well as have the option of usage-based pricing.”

About YourNurse:

YourNurse, a service of First Health Care, builds upon 20 years of Canadian Healthcare experience delivering millions of hours of care and providing assessment, consultation and case management services to Canadians through employer and retiree programs. First Health Care is accredited by Accreditation Canada, the highest standards for care and quality in the industry.

For more details, please visit

The workplace consequences of family caregiving

Increasingly, Canadians are taking on more care responsibilities for family members and friends with a long-term health illness, disability or issue related to aging. As expected, with the increased responsibility, employees are facing a number of health and related issues that impact the workplace.

In September 2013, Statistics Canada released its latest study Family Caregiving: What are the consequences? Some of the findings are confirmative, based on other similar demographic type studies, while some findings provide new insight.

Instead of looking at only Canadians age 45 years and older, as is often the case with most studies, the study looked at all potential caregivers age 15 years and older. The researchers found that eight million Canadians provided care for a family member with an illness, disability or aging-related issue. This represents approximately 28% of this group of the population. This number corresponds with previously reported numbers. (See Caregiving’s impact on the workplace.)

Of those providing care, 39% cared for a mother or father, 8% cared for a spouse, and 48% provided care to other family members (in the last 5%, care was provided to a child). Among those providing care primarily to their parents, 30% was related to aging or frailty, followed by cardiovascular disease (12%), cancer (11%) and Alzheimer’s/dementia (11%). For those caring for a spouse, cancer was the most common health problem requiring care (17%), followed by cardiovascular disease (11%) and neurological diseases (9%). And finally, aging/frailty was the most cited reason those providing care to a grandparent (56%).

Also of interest, most of the family caregivers believed they had no option but to be the caregiver. In spousal cases, 69% believed there was no other option. Of those caring for a parent, 49% believed the same.

We would expect that caregiving would have an impact emotionally, mentally and physically. What’s interesting is the degree in which these proved to be the case. Psychological distress existed in 72% of the individuals responsible for care for a spouse. This was also the case in a large portion of individuals caring for a parent (56%). With respect to impact on health, 38% of those providing care for a spouse reported that their overall health suffered, while 33% of individuals caring for a parent found the responsibilities associated with the care to be physically strenuous.

Awareness of these consequences is key to providing support to affected employees. Through open dialogue, managers can identify employees who have added responsibilities for a loved one.

By being as proactive and supportive as possible, employers can assist with stress reduction and emotional support, as well as directing the employee to resources that may be available to them. Some examples include back-up care programs, care management and advocacy programs, employee assistance programs, educational opportunities and paid leave.

Organizations can address this challenge with a well-rounded approach that includes several of the strategies and programs mentioned.

Caregiving’s impact on the workplace

As our population ages, it’s inevitable that some employees will need to take on a caregiving role in addition to their full-time jobs.

In 2007, Worklife Canada estimated that this phenomenon is costing Canadian employers $2 billion annually in productivity (approximately $1 billion in absenteeism costs and another $1 billion to $2 billion in indirect costs).  As with all estimates, we should exercise caution in accepting numbers in blind faith, however, in this case, there are indications that the 2012 costs could be substantially higher.

High-performing organizations are beginning to understand the implications of these costs and utilize a variety of programs and strategies to address the issue.

A 2006 study by MetLife in the U.S. pegged the total cost of a caregiving employee at $2,110 per employee per year.  And, according to the 2009 study Balancing Paid Work and Caregiving Responsibilities: A Closer Look at Family Caregivers in Canada , approximately 27% of workers provide care to a loved one in any given year .Based on this data,  organizational costs could be as high as $550,000 per year per one thousand employees.

A University of Toronto analysis of labour market work and homecare’s unpaid caregivers showed that caregiving employees were likely to be out of the labour force, work fewer hours in the labour market, or to adjust work schedules to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities, and this is especially true for women and older caregivers. While the costs of these transitions and reductions in work statuses are difficult to quantify because training, recruiting and the productivity impact vary widely from organization to organization, it is safe to assume that the impact is not insignificant.

Some employers have begun to tackle the issue of caregiving in the workplace with effective strategies and programs that not only mitigate the impact on productivity, absenteeism and employee loss, but also provide much needed supports to enable employees to better cope with their caregiving situations. In some cases, employers are beginning to use this as a differentiator from a recruitment and retention perspective.

And often, employers are utilizing several of the following approaches to help solve the problem.

Education – Human resource professionals and front-line managers are being educated about the issues related to caregiving, including some of the tools that are at their fingertips such as compassionate care leaves of absences and benefits through provincial and federal employment insurance programs.


Care management and advocacy – These programs provide the employee with access to an expert case manager who can provide guidance, navigational support, case management and access to resources and services (such as homecare/back-up care and emergency monitoring services) to assist with the caregiving challenge. Typically these are inexpensive programs that are added to the employers benefit plan.


Paid leaves – Some employers have begun to provide short-term paid leaves of absence that can be used for a number of different reasons, including a caregiving situation. Most often, these programs offer three to five days that can be used on short notice throughout the year.

Back-up care services – Leading back-up care providers have services to address both childcare and eldercare needs. Care can be arranged on an emergency basis across the country as needed. In some cases, employers provide direct funding that can be used to pay for the care. These employer benefits plan add-ons can vary in cost depending on the amount of back-up care offered.  One top employer offers up to one hundred hours of back-up care to each employee annually as needed.

Employee assistance programs – Most employee assistance programs have expanded their offerings to include access to resources to help employees with caregiving challenges. These programs provide basic information about caregiving resources, which employees can then contact to arrange services.

Employers should begin to understand their employee population demographics and needs through analysis and dialogue as well as drill down on absenteeism and productivity reporting to get a better understanding on the impact of caregiving on their workplace.  This will enable the employer to demonstrate costs, expected return on investment and other important measures as they develop a needs based approach.

Employers can then discuss their options with their benefits advisor/provider as well as explore the options that are available in the market. High-performing organizations are addressing this challenge with a well-rounded approach that often includes several of the above strategies and programs.|/news/2016/1/29/family-caregiver-leave-options-and-new-legislation

e your caregiving employees?

With the aging boomer population and increased longevity, many employees have to worry not only about childcare but also about eldercare for aging parents and loved ones.

But the demographics of these working caregivers may not be what you expect, according to a recent U.S. study.

In June 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics within the U.S. Department of Labor issued the results of its 2011 American Time Use Survey. For the first time, the study released data and information pertaining to caregiving and eldercare within the working population. While Statistics Canada has released similar information in the past (and is expected to release 2011 information in September), the U.S. study sheds some interesting light on the issue.

The findings in the study are U.S.-focused; however, our geographical proximity, similarity in workforce and similarities from a statistical perspective make the information also applicable to the Canadian employee population.

The survey asked respondents how they spend their time in various activities throughout the day. One area of focus was on eldercare, which was defined as “providing unpaid care or assistance to an individual who needed help because of a condition related to aging.” The individuals were asked about providing eldercare to someone, more than once, within the past three to four months.

Traditionally, the focus has been placed solely on so-called “sandwiched” female workers—those workers who deal with both childcare and adult/senior care issues. However, one of the more profound findings of the study was that 44% of eldercare providers were men.

The study also found that across all age groups, almost two in 10 workers have faced eldercare challenges in the past three to four months. Similar studies in Canada have shown that as high as 27% of workers provide care to a loved one in any given year (Balancing Paid Work and Caregiving Responsibilities: A Closer Look at Family Caregivers in Canada, January 2009). The productivity and absenteeism impacts of this, while not often measured, are likely significant for the workplace. Employers need strategies for assisting those employees dealing with eldercare challenges that are equally accessible by both male and female worker populations.

Another important finding was that the younger working population is also being called on to assist with caring for the elderly. Employees ages 15 to 34 providing eldercare represented 23% of survey respondents. It has commonly been assumed that the aging workforce (those age 40 and over) will be called upon to provide eldercare to a loved one, but this study suggests that the challenges are much more widespread. While the number of older workers supporting a loved one through caregiving will likely accelerate, attention also needs to be paid to younger workers facing the same difficulties.

Lastly, the study shows an interesting breakdown of the population that is receiving the caregiving. Typically, organizations believe that employees faced with an eldercare challenge are providing care to a parent (often at the same time as a child). Indeed, the study found that this group is the largest, at just over 42%.

Remarkably, though, 20% of employees provided care for grandparents. Those caring for “another related person” (such as an aunt, uncle, sister or brother) also made up 20% of caregiving employees. Spouses providing care for another spouse was a small percentage, at 4%. The implication for organizations is that traditional discussions about caregiving have tended to focus on parents but need to broaden to ensure that all caregiving employees, regardless of who they are providing care to, are suitably supported with resources and access to programs that the organization may have in place.

It is widely understood that the population is aging at a more rapid pace. Increasingly, individuals are facing the challenge of balancing employment responsibilities as well as providing care to a loved one. As studies such as the one referenced here are released, data are improving for employers to better understand the impact of caregiving on their organizations.

With clearer understanding, employers can add resources and tools to their benefits and HR practices to improve organizational performance and provide support to the members of their workforce facing these challenges.

Benefits for the aging workforce

The recent release of the 2011 census shows a significant increase in the number of Canadians over the age of 65.

Over a five-year period, the senior population grew 14.1%, more than double the increase of the Canadian population as a whole. In addition, 42.4% of the working-age population was between ages 45 and 64—a record number.

This has a significant bearing for insurers and plan sponsors, but for different reasons than are most often discussed.

Much of the recent discussion in the benefits and insurance sector has focused on cost implications such as prescription usage and chronic diseases. While there is no doubt that these issues indeed require focus, effort and innovation, plan members’ needs and wants are sometimes overlooked.

The recently released 2012 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey found that 51% of employees surveyedexpect access to benefits after retirement. However, only one-quarter of retirees actually receive benefits, and there are indications that further reduction of retiree benefits is being considered by employers as a cost containment measure. A likely reason for this is that retiree benefits are perceived as an expensive and unnecessary cost, given that retirees would no longer be contributing to the productivity of the organization.

However, there appears to be willingness from retirees to pay for benefits (their desire is more around access and better group-based pricing). Also, the focus on productivity perhaps needs to shift to a focus on access to retiree benefits as a recruitment and retention strategy of highly skilled “boomer generation” workers. With an aging workforce, and as the boomer population moves toward retirement, effective recruitment and retention strategies should look to address the desire for retiree benefits. Plan sponsors providing options for these benefits have the potential to stand out as leaders.

Another implication of the aging workforce is the desire for benefits or benefits enhancements that are rarely, if ever, offered in the marketplace. Long-term care insurance (insurance that pays for home care and/or nursing home expenses), for example, seems to be an increasingly attractive product for plan members, according to the Sanofi study. This is not surprising, given the aging of the workforce, and that 27% of employed Canadians are caring for a loved one, according to the January 2009 studyBalancing Paid Work and Caregiving Responsibilities: A Closer Look at Family Caregivers in Canada. And that number is expected to grow over the near term, with a boom in the over-65 senior population.

However, at present, long-term care insurance is rarely made available to Canadian benefits plans. Recent indications suggest that Canada significantly lags its U.S. counterparts in this regard, with 34% of U.S.-based employers offering long-term care insurance, according to the 2012 National Study of Employers. The obvious challenge for insurers and plan sponsors looking to address this demand is to make plans attractive from a benefits and cost perspective. Since these types of products are typically employee-paid (sometimes there may be cost-sharing from sponsors), the plans need to be mindful of costs to increase their attractiveness. This could be accomplished through some group rating and/or pooling, similar to group critical illness plans.

Additionally, there is a need to make long-term care insurance useful and interesting for employees over the short term, since most claims cannot be made until two or more activities of daily living are affected (i.e., you are no longer able to bathe and clothe yourself). By introducing useful services that the insured can access as needed—such as case management and advocacy services to assist with present-day caregiving of an elderly parent or loved one—the long-term care insurance product can become more attractive to a younger population. In doing so, employers also gain, not only as innovators by offering unique benefits, but through productivity gains by helping to address employees’ caregiving challenges.

With population shifts and the significant increase of both senior and boomer Canadians, organizations need to look at innovative ways to engage plan members, in addition to looking at cost-containment measures. Plan sponsors and insurers can improve the value of their benefits packages through the introduction of unique benefits such as long-term care insurance (with improved enhancements in some cases). Also, plan sponsors need to increase access to retiree benefits, as employees will seek out those leading employers that offer options to their employees and future retirees. These strategies can be part of an effective recruitment and retention strategy for highly skilled workers.