Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has had dramatic implications for workplaces around the world. These implications extend into the realm of pensions and benefits, where employers and their workers must make difficult decisions regarding their retirement, health care and diversity benefits. Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada, June 2020, addresses these topics as well as staffing changes, training and professional development, and more.

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 an 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 has 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 (5%) 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.


Download the Report


The Impact of COVID-19 on Pensions and Benefits in Canada survey report is exclusively available to members of the International Foundation. Learn more about all the benefits of membership here.

Members of the media can request a copy of the report from 


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