Insurer, MGAs give employees more time off during pandemic – featuring Stephen Stewart

The pandemic has spurred MGAs and one insurer to offer additional paid time off and be more generous with their vacation policies.

AXA Group announced Sept. 7 that it was giving its 153,000 employees worldwide two additional paid days off to be taken before the end of Q1 2022.

“We appreciate that everybody has been through a lot over the past 18 months and has demonstrated a lot of resilience in tough times,” said Renato Rodrigues, country manager for Canada with Connecticut-based AXA XL. “A lot of people are dealing with COVID — if not themselves, then their families and friends. It’s been a very stressful situation for all of us. The main goal is to give those days for people to disconnect and work on their well-being.”

One of the days is company-wide: Monday, Nov. 29. “It’s an opportunity for all employees around the globe to take that day and have a long weekend,” Rodrigues said. “If people can’t take that day for any reason, they can take a paid day at another time.” The second day can be taken at any time until March 31, 2022.

AXA XL also gave its 133 Canadian employees an extra-long weekend in July. Canada Day fell on a Thursday this year and the company added July 2 as a paid holiday, calling it Employee Appreciation Day.

Smaller MGAs have also made policy changes.

Toronto-based Trinity Underwriting, which has just under 20 employees, has always closed its office on Fridays at 2 p.m. for long weekends. This year, the company also added July 2 as a paid holiday “to thank everyone for their efforts during a difficult time,” said Samantha Cooper, national business development manager. The MGA closed at 2 p.m. the day before Canada Day.

In any given year, Trinity staff members are able to roll over their vacation allotment to the following year until the end of March. In 2020, however, that time was extended to September.

Stewart Specialty Risk Underwriting Ltd., which has 18 employees, didn’t have to adjust its vacation policies. Though it has a 4,000-square-foot office in downtown Toronto, SSRU has always been an “anywhere, anytime organization.”

“Our employees have flexibility to arrange their work schedules around personal commitments if they need to,” said Stephen Stewart, president and CEO. “We have pretty advanced systems, so people can work from anywhere to get the job done. Your personal life comes first.”

The MGA has unlimited sick days, without restriction. “We monitor for abuse, but there has been no issue so far,” Stewart said.

Staff members’ vacation allotments vary by employee but are generally “more generous than the industry average,” Stewart said. “We want employees to step away from their roles to refresh and spend time with their families.”

Earlier this month, Toronto-based MGA TruStar Underwriting launched a program that gives employees money to fund their vacations.