TSX/NYSE/PSE: MFC SEHK:945WATERLOO, ON, July 17, 2013 /CNW/ - A new benefits product introduced by Manulife Financial this week will help make workplace health benefits programs more accessible and manageable for the country's smallest employers. Manulife Financial's LaunchPlan ™ was created to meet the specific needs, priorities, and concerns of small business owners - those with two to nine employees. The new plan complements a growing small business-focused product shelf from Manulife Financial. LaunchPlan ™ is designed to protect small employers from the unpredictability of health benefit costs, keeping the coverage affordable over the long-term. "Small businesses are a critical part of our economy, employing millions of Canadians," said Marc Avaria, Vice-President, Group Small Business for Manulife Financial. "We're in the business of helping Canadians prepare for their futures and one of the ways that we're doing that is by making it as easy as possible for all Canadian employers - no matter what their size - to provide their employees with access to valuable and meaningful health care coverage." Small business in Canada is vitally important. According to Industry Canada1, 98 per cent of all companies with employees in Canada are considered small businesses and they employ nearly half (48 per cent) of the working population 2. "Many small businesses in Canada don't have group health benefits. Small business owners in Canada certainly understand the value and advantages of having a group benefits plan, but they might be under the impression that it's too expensive to maintain or too complicated and difficult to set up and administer," added Mr. Avaria. "This product's stable pricing makes it a great fit for small companies. It's also an extremely simple and affordable plan design that owners and plan members can easily understand and use." In surveys conducted on behalf of Manulife Financial, small business owners indicated that cost and time are two important considerations that influence their decisions around health benefits plans 3. As Mr. Avaria noted: "Now, the advisors who work with these owners have a simple, straightforward plan to recommend, putting health care benefits within reach for the country's smallest employers." The LaunchPlan has the potential to provide valuable health coverage to more Canadians. "This plan gives even the smallest employers a tool that will help them attract the best performing staff members," Mr. Avaria said. "And it gives those workers more incentive to start and stay with the company."