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Shandex Group and Indaco Manufacturing discuss the value of evolving employee benefits plans

Alison Wehrle admits that Indaco Manufacturing had effectively decided to cancel its employee benefits plan.

"It was on the chopping block," says the vice-president of sales at the Pickering-based company, which makes biodegradable products such as bags for green bins. Indaco was proud of the comprehensive benefits package it had assembled, but the cost was just too steep.

She was right. The plan had to change to reflect business realities.

The Callery Group was able to guide Indaco in decisions which made a lasting difference to the costs. The drug plan was reduced to 80% with an $8 cap on dispensing fees; the dental plan was reduced to 80% of costs with a $1,000 cap; employees began to pay for Long Term Disability coverage. And while premiums dropped, employees were still protected.

"In hindsight, wow, am I ever glad that I was able to change it," Wehrle says.

Not too long after making the changes, one employee had a family member who became seriously ill. The need to cover all the prescription costs out of pocket would have been devastating.

The plan continues to evolve, too. "Our workforce is aging, so it's something that will need to change," she says.

After all, evolving benefits plans support everything from productivity to recruiting efforts.

"I can't believe there are companies out there that don't have benefits," says Rob Staite, president of the Shandex Group of Companies, referring to the way that workplace benefits can help to reduce the time lost because of illness. "It's something that instills a good working relationship with your employees ... And I think it's the right thing to do."

The Pickering-based sales and distribution company offers its employees a broad portfolio of benefits including a drug plan, dental, Long Term Disability insurance, supplementary medical costs, life insurance, optical coverage, and paramedical services such as visits to a chiropractor and podiatrist.

The support has made a lasting difference in several ways. One employee who required an organ transplant needed medication that cost $1,200 per day. "For him to do that without a drug plan would have been very difficult," Staite says. Others have been supported with Long Term Disability payments. "This is not just for my employees. It's for their families." When another employee died, the life insurance helped to protect a surviving spouse from unexpected financial pressure in her time of grief.

Still, he knows that the plans need to evolve to remain sustainable.

"There's a cost on the employer side that we're always trying to minimize," Staite says. It's where ongoing support from the Callery Group has made a difference. Ongoing education programs encourage employees to treat every health-related cost as if it was coming directly out of pocket, and they inform employees about cost-saving options such as generic drugs.

Shandex remains committed to promoting health and wellness, too. An Employee Assistance Program is well utilized. And when new offices are built, that will be reflected in a new gym, shower, and other equipment.

After all, there are business benefits to plans like these.

Top Tips:

  • Look at options to restructure benefits plans before making wholesale cuts. A lack of benefits can leave employees and their families exposed.
  • "It was on the chopping block. We just couldn't afford it," Alison Wehrle says of her company's first benefits plan. "In hindsight, wow, am I ever glad that I was able to change it."
  • "I can't believe there are companies out there that don't have benefits," says Rob Staite of Shandex. "I think it's the right thing to do."

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The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Workplace mandatory posting and training requirements: CFIB

Changes to out-of-country medical insurance: smallbizadvisor

Durham Medical Extreme Home Reno Reveal: Snapd Whitby

Employers and employees not on the same benefits page: Benefits Canada

Big Life Health Calculators for life expectancy and future hospital use: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Workforce management Achieving business objectives through absence management: Shepell FGI

Community Ethics, Big City Expertise

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