Staffing changes and your benefit plan – PLEASE READ

Clients and Friends,

I want to start by saying that we are here for you in these challenging times.  Thanks to another 12 days in self isolation (due to returning to Canada from a sailing trip) we will be in the office and available to you (now more than ever).

We are starting to get requests from clients about how they should handle benefits in the midst of laying off staff, reducing hours, having them work from home, and the other options you may be considering for the first time.  The short answer is that each insurer/ TPA is facing this for the first time too.  There is no standard answer.  Canada Life (was GWL) will be sending out the info below to advisors and clients very shortly.  This provides and aid to remember the various things we need to consider, but your provider may handle things quite differently. (CL/GWL is the first insurer to offer these options).

if you are laying off staff (with or without benefits) we need to ensure that it fits with the contract and that the insurer is notified.  if you are reducing hours, or rotating staff, then the minimum hours worked to be eligible for coverage may be affected, we need to let them know this too.

If you are in a critical position and need benefits suspended, or are considering the cancellation of your plan, it may make more sense to terminate coverage during the layoff, but maintaining coverage for a bare bones staff so that the coverage can be reinstated when staff are recalled.  Talk to us and we can work through possible solutions.

Canada Life (GWL) Communication

Canada Life (GWL) Renewals

To alleviate pressure on Canadian businesses during this time, effective immediately we will consider deferring, if requested by the plan sponsor, all non-finalized April, May and June renewals for 60 days each for all Selectpac and Regular, non-refund mid-market clients.  This will be done on a case by case basis.

Canada Life (GWL) Premium arrears handling

Effective immediately, we will stop sending letters or suspending claims at the 30-day mark and instead will move these activities to the 60-day mark. As with all other processes, this will be in effect for the next 2 months.

Canada Life (GWL) Reduction of work hours

Determining eligibility:

Minimum hours worked requirements for plan member eligibility under the contract will not be applied by the Enrolment, Life Claims and Disability teams from now until May 31.

If a plan sponsor would like to remove coverage for someone not meeting minimum hours, they need to submit a change request to have the employee terminated from the plan.

Canada Life (GWL) Covered benefit amounts:

Unless instructed otherwise by plan sponsors, benefits that are based on salary will be adjudicated based on the coverage for which the premium is being paid. Employer and employee premium rates will remain unchanged as we have committed to covering the higher benefit amounts.

Plans sponsors would need to request a salary reduction for employees working less hours if they do not want those employees to be covered for their standard life and LTD benefits.

This will only be temporary and is only an administrative handling practice so no formal changes to contracts will be made.

Canada Life (GWL) Temporary layoffs and leaves of absence

As you’re aware, our standard handling is to offer up to 31 days of coverage for short-term disability and long-term disability and up to 6 months for all other benefits.

Effective immediately, as a requested exception we will allow up to 60 days of short-term disability and long-term disability coverage and maintain the 6-month maximum for all other benefits.

As per usual process, even if a person satisfies their waiting period while on temporary layoff or leave of absence, disability benefits would not be payable until the employee’s declared return to work date as indicated by a recall letter from their employer.

Canada Life (GWL) Suspension of benefit plans

We will allow plans to suspend all coverage (premium and claims) for a maximum of 60 days with no penalty for reinstating. Plan Sponsors are accountable for communicating the impact of changes to coverage to their Plan Members.

Extremely important, if a disability was incurred during the time the plan was suspended, it will not be covered. Claims will only be covered if incurred while coverage was in force, or after the plan is reinstated. For the reason above, it’s recommended that life and long-term-disability remain in-force, while terminating less-essential benefits such as dental or vision. However, we are providing the full plan suspension offer for clients that really need it and enter into the agreement with full knowledge of the consequences.

Please note for Quebec, if long-term disability is offered on the plan, drugs cannot be terminated.

Canada Life (GWL) Out of Country Trip Limit increases

As per the most recent communication, “If you’re medically directed to quarantine by a physician or public health officials in advance of reaching your trip limitation and that results in surpassing the day limit, coverage would be temporarily extended to allow for potential coverage of a medical emergency until the end of the quarantine period upon which you could return home.”

We will consider, case-by-case, an exception up to 90 days for any individual circumstances that require exception handling based on compassionate grounds. An example of this may be someone who is unable to return home due to flight challenges.