July 23, 2020

An attractive, comprehensive benefit plan is crucial to employee health and morale, workplace productivity, and recruitment and retention of top talent. But as today’s workforce is more diverse than ever, employers and unions are more frequently finding that traditional benefit plans fall short of many employees’ needs. While workplace parties may agree on revising or renegotiating an existing benefit plan, they often encounter challenges in deciding how best to proceed, including insufficient data, disparate needs within the workforce, rising costs, and barriers to inclusion of diverse employees. In this session, experts will explore practical strategies for addressing these challenges and designing benefit plans that are fair, cost-effective, and responsive to the needs of a diverse workforce.

  • Why might traditional benefit plans fail to meet the needs of diverse employees? What prominent trends have emerged in workforce demographics and the nature of work, and what are the implications of these trends for designing benefit plans?
  • What information do workplace parties need to develop benefit plans that meet employees’ needs? What strategies are effective for assessing needs, identifying gaps, and determining which benefits are most highly valued?
  • How can workplace parties effectively address needs that differ widely between employees, especially as a result of generational diversity?
  • How have adjudicators applied the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal’s Talos decision, which held that legislative provisions permitting age-based distinctions in pension, benefit, and insurance plans for employees aged 65 and over are unconstitutional?
  • How can workplace parties design their benefit plans to ensure equal access and promote a culture of diversity and inclusion?
  • How can employers ensure that their benefit plans remain competitive and responsive to employees’ needs over time? What factors should employers monitor in considering whether their benefit plans require adjustments?
  • What approaches to designing benefit plans allow for employee choice? What are the advantages and disadvantages of offering voluntary benefits or flexible benefit plans?
  • In what areas are benefit costs rising? Is increased workforce diversity contributing to this upward trend?
  • What general strategies can workplace parties use to control benefit costs? What measures are employers and unions negotiating to improve benefits while reducing costs?
  • Can wellness programs and other proactive approaches to health management help reduce benefit costs? How can workplace parties ensure that wellness programs do not have discriminatory effects?
  • What are the key elements of an effective benefit plan communication strategy? What are some best practices for communicating with diverse employees and enhancing engagement? How should unions and employers explain benefit plan changes and negotiated cost-containment measures to employees?