Health benefits

Employers should double mental health benefits in workplace plans: social workers

OASW says anxiety has escalated around returning to the office, the need is immediate

TORONTO, April 11, 2022 /CNW/ – As Hundreds of Thousands Return to the Office, the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) Calls on Employers to Introduce Stand-Alone Mental Health Coverage to Their Benefit Plans with a minimum value of $1,500 per employee.

Ontario Association of Social Workers logo (CNW Group/Ontario Association of Social Workers)

Workplace mental health benefits are a crucial tool in combating a mental health “echo pandemic” that has seen a sharp rise in anxiety, stress, substance use and loneliness.

More than half, or 52%, of respondents to a recent survey conducted for OASW by Leger said cost was the biggest barrier to seeking help for their mental health issues.

“Employers have a vital role to play in our shared recovery. We need them to step up and provide stronger mental health supports in their workplace benefits,” said OASW CEO Dr. Deepy Sur. “Now is the time to do it. For both workers and their employers, there has never been more need for these benefits.

Mental illness costs Canadian employers more than $6 billion annually in lost productivity and accounts for 70 percent of all workplace disability costs. The benefits for additional mental health care organizations are increased productivity, increased employee engagement and ultimately increased profitability.

Despite strong arguments for strong benefits, the current median coverage of mental health counseling through benefits is $750, according to Benefits Canada, an amount that can be used in a few visits. “People who are lucky enough to have these mental health benefits find out very quickly that they fall short,” Sur said.

“We are saying to Canadian business leaders: double your workplace mental health benefits to a minimum of $1,500. If you don’t have them, present them. Ensure access to mental health support, including social workers, as part of your plan. And do it now. Your entire organization, including its most important asset – your people – will benefit.”

OASW, which represents more than 8,000 social workers, says attention to benefits should be part of a return-to-work plan and must be accompanied by additional communications with employees.

“Leaders in all fields should empathize and double down on communication with their employees,” Sur says. “That means letting them know what help is available, where and how to get it, what is expected of them and what they can expect from you.”

Social workers are the largest group of mental health care providers in the Ontario. They are one of six regulated professions legally authorized to practice psychotherapy and use the title psychotherapist.

When dealing with mental health and addictions issues, social workers take a broader approach, focusing on various parts of a person’s environment that impact their well-being. This includes considering factors such as social and financial pressures.

Despite the growing demand for help, only one in three (or 36%) respondents to the ATTSO/Léger survey said they had access to a benefits plan that included mental health coverage. The online survey sampled 1,000 respondents in February 2022.

For more detailed information on mental health in the workplace, please visit oasw.org.

About OASW
The Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) is the voice of social work in Ontario. It is a voluntary non-profit provincial association representing over 8,000 members. All members hold a university degree in social work at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral level. OASW works to speak actively on behalf of social workers on issues of concern to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs that directly affect social work practice and the client groups served.

SOURCE Ontario Association of Social Workers

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