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Normandin Beaudry

The continuation of health and dental coverage in the event of long-term disability


There, in black and white

NB Bulletin Vol. 6 N. 10, December 2003

When an employee goes on disability leave - short-term or long-term - benefits coverage can take on new dimension for the employee, and the costs of the coverage can take on new importance for the employer. How do Canadian employers handle this situation?

We asked Normandin Beaudry clients about their practices with respect to continuing Health and Dental Care Benefits coverage for disabled employees. We also consulted the "Spec BookTM", an impressive database that contains comprehensive information on the employee benefits provided by close to 500 Canadian companies that belongs to our business partner, Hewitt Associates.

Extrapolating from these two sources of information, we were able to obtain the requisite information for 344 Canadian companies. The results of our study indicate that only one in ten companies ends Health and Dental Care Benefits for an employee who is on disability. Among these companies, some end the coverage as soon as the employee starts to collect long-term disability benefits, but most continue the coverage for a specific period of time (the most common period is two years).

Of those companies that continue health and dental coverage during long-term disability, we noted that one company in four requires its employees to pay their usual share of the premium payments. The other three out of four assume full payment of the premiums, unless they are exempted from doing so by their insurer.

Based on this data, most Canadian employers are meeting and well exceeding the statutory requirements. In Quebec, the Labour Standards Act stipulates that an employee with at least three months of uninterrupted service cannot lose his or her employee status by virtue of an accident or illness until 26 weeks of uninterrupted absence have elapsed. Furthermore, an employee’s participation in the employer’s group insurance plan must be maintained, provided that the employee pays his or her share of employer-employee contributions if the employer requires it. The Act also states that the employer must, as a minimum, continue to pay its usual contributions.

Only Saskatchewan and the federal legislation have similar provisions to Quebec’s legislation, and they only protect benefits coverage for an absence of 12 weeks instead of 26. Ontario, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Yukon provide for absences due to accident or sickness which vary between five and 12 days.

However, employment standards laws are not the only laws to consider in this area. The treatment of disabled employees is a sensitive issue with a large number of legal implications and potential liabilities. Human rights laws across the country forbid discrimination against disabled employees. Employees who have employment contracts may have additional rights, subject to the contract’s terms. Depending on the circumstances, employees can also be entitled to job protection, including continuation of benefits, under Quebec Civil Law and the common law of wrongful dismissal, which applies outside of Quebec.

Regardless of an organization's management practices, all members of an organization should be aware of how their employer deals with the situation, either through reference to an employee booklet or a collective agreement.


Please feel free to contact us for additional information.

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Montreal, Quebec, H3B 1S6