Canada’s Employers Improve Employee Lifestyles with Wellness Initiatives

May 9, 2012

Brenda Hofmann
(262) 373-7756

Promoting a Healthier Workforce


Canada’s Employers Improve Employee Lifestyles with Wellness Initiatives


Brookfield, Wisconsin—Nearly two-thirds of Canadian employers offer wellness initiatives to help workers enjoy better overall physical health. The most popular initiatives include employee assistance programs, flu shots and smoking cessation programs according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ recent survey Wellness Programs and Value-Based Health Care.


The study measured responses from the International Foundation’s wide-ranging membership representing single-employers/corporations, multi-employer trust funds and public/governmental employers.


While wellness programs have existed for decades, their prevalence has grown significantly over the past ten years. Even the recent economic downturn has not slowed their growth, with more than 40 percent of Canadian employers implementing new wellness programs since 2008; 23.6 percent have started offering them since 2010. Additionally, nearly half of organizations increased their wellness budgets in the last five years.

“Without question employers are beginning to understand the direct connection between wellness initiatives and overall improvement to employee health and the improved health of their families,” said Michael Wilson, Foundation CEO.


According to the survey, the most prevalent reasons that organizations provide wellness initiatives are:

  • To help workers enjoy better overall physical health (58.8 percent)
  • Boost productivity/morale (17.6 percent)
  • Control health care costs (13.2 percent)


Screening and treatment programs including employee assistance programs (91.2 percent), flu shots (64.7 percent) and smoking cessation programs (48.5 percent) are some of the most popular wellness initiatives offered. Employers also make available fitness and nutrition programs such as walking/fitness challenges (41.2 percent), nutrition counseling (32.4 percent), weight loss/management programs (26.5 percent) and on-site fitness centers/equipment (26.5 percent).


“One measure of success for a wellness program is the participation rate,” said senior information/research specialist Julie Stich. “Organizations will not realize benefits unless there is sufficient participation.”


The survey found that the wellness initiatives with the highest participation rates are:

  • Flu shot programs (48.4 percent)
  • Health risk assessments (40.6 percent)
  • Health screenings (39.5 percent)


Almost 60 percent of the organizations surveyed provide incentives to increase participation in their programs. The incentives that are most often tied to wellness programs include:

  • Fitness center discounts (29.4 percent)
  • Gift cards and gift certificates (26.5 percent)
  • Non-cash incentives – e.g. prizes and raffles (26.5 percent)


Employers are often assisted in developing or managing their workplace wellness programs; more than 72 percent of the survey participants use an outside vendor such as an employee assistance provider or wellness consultant to implement or assist with the program.

About Wellness Programs and Value-Based Health Care
Survey responses were received from 646 individuals from Canada and the U.S., including benefits and human resources professionals, general and financial managers, and other professionals. Respondents represented a variety of sizes, regions and industries or jurisdictions. Of the 646 members who responded, 107 were from organizations in Canada with representation from single-employers/corporations (42 percent), multi-employer trust funds (36 percent) and public/government employers (22 percent).

Wellness Programs and Value Based Health Care, Third Edition can be purchased by calling (888) 334-3327, option 4 or visiting


The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is a member-driven organization with five decades of experience as a leading objective source of employee benefits, compensation and financial literacy education and information within the Canadian and American workplace. The Foundation’s expertise is industry wide; and it offers resources that include Foundation staff, training, conferences and research on topics critical to assisting its 35,000 multiemployer, corporate and public sector members respond to trends affecting the well-being of more than 25 million lives in North America. For additional information, visit