For Immediate Release

July 16, 2020


Employers Increase Telehealth and Mental Health Benefits During COVID-19

New Report Examines How COVID Has Impacted Pensions and Benefits


Brookfield, Wisconsin—The COVID-19 pandemic has had dramatic implications for workplaces across Canada. A new report, Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada, examines the myriad effects of the pandemic on employers and their workers.

"Employers across Canada have made changes to their plans to adapt to the new reality," said Julie Stich, CEBS, Vice President of Content at the International Foundation. "We're seeing employers make decisions to ensure not only the health and well-being of their workforce but also the financial stability and long-term success of their organization."

Key Findings From the Report

  1. One in Five Organizations Has Added Virtual Health Care
    While one-third of the organizations surveyed had already offered telehealth or telemedicine services prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 19% have implemented telehealth due to the pandemic, and another 17% are considering doing so. In response to COVID-19, 9% of employers have reduced or eliminated cost sharing for these services, and another 9% are considering it. It seems that telehealth services may be here to stay, as more than three in five of the organizations that have added telehealth did so without a fixed end date.
  2. The Majority of Employers Are Making or Considering Enhancements to Their Mental Health Benefits
    More than one-half of responding organizations have either added (28%) or are considering adding (24%) components to their existing mental health benefits. Due to COVID-19, 10% of organizations have added telepsychiatry or telemental health benefits, and 15% of organizations are considering it. A smaller number of employers have relaxed/removed eligibility requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic (4%) or reduced or eliminated cost sharing for mental health benefits (4%).
  3. Many Employers Are Reducing Barriers to Prescription Drug Access
    One in four employers has temporarily waived prescription drug premiums for plan members, while 17% have extended the time allowed under prior authorization periods. Smaller numbers of employers have waived prior authorization requirements (8%) or mandated/promoted the use of mail-order programs for maintenance drugs (4%) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Defined Contribution (DC) Retirement Plan Contribution Rates Remain Relatively Stable
    Just 9% of employers are noticing a greater number of participants making changes to their contribution or deferral levels compared with pre-COVID-19 levels, while 8% are noticing a smaller share making changes. Most employers (64%) have not seen a change in the number of DC plan withdrawals—In fact, only 8% of plans reported an increase in withdrawals, with one in four organizations reporting that it was too early to tell.

  5. Staffing Levels at Many Organizations Have Been Greatly Affected by COVID-19
    The COVID-19 pandemic has had substantial ramifications on operations, forcing many employers to make difficult decisions regarding workplace staffing levels. About two in five organizations (38%) have implemented a temporary hiring freeze, with an additional 6% considering doing so in the future. In addition, 28% have laid off workers/reduced their workforce, with 3% considering doing so in the future. Twenty percent of employers have reduced workers' hours, and 17% of employers have required workers to take temporary unpaid leave.

To view the full report, Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada, visit Learn more about the impact of the coronavirus on the workplace at


The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is the premier educational organization dedicated to providing the diverse employee benefits community with objective, solution-oriented education, research and information to ensure the health and financial security of plan beneficiaries worldwide. The Foundation has more than 31,500 multiemployer, corporate and public sector members representing over 25 million lives. For additional information, visit