Check this space often for updates, resources, and tools that will help you navigate these challenging times.
Updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Regular Updates on COVID-19
- As provinces and economies re-open, Canadians wary of hands-on healthcare, but bullish on new virtual options
- Disconnection from colleagues key challenge of working remotely: survey
- 56% of Canadians say coronavirus negatively impacting mental health: survey
- Sick leave, accommodation, mental-health considerations for a post-pandemic return to work
- Most workers want virtual care benefits for mental health: survey
- MindBeacon’s online CBT available for all Ontarians
- Morneau Shepell’s online CBT free for all Ontarians during coronavirus
- Group benefits insurers sponsor digital mental wellbeing program
Safety of our Employees
With the ongoing global impact of COVID-19, Benefits by Design (BBD) Inc. is doing our part to help protect our employees, their families, and our communities. To encourage social distancing, our staff will primarily be working from home. We are moving all meetings to either telephone or video conferencing format, and all business travel has been postponed until further notice.
These measures have been proactively put in place to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus and lessen the burden on the Canadian healthcare system.
Updated regularly with COVID-19 information from our supplier partners.
Led by Mark Hoffman, a certified business continuity and crisis management consultant.
A one-pager of online health resources available through Green Shield Canada and BBD.
Updated daily with the latest COVID-19 related information, pertinent to plan members.
Downloadable brochure for insured plan members with information on how to access their Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Downloadable brochure for employers with information on how to access their Business Assistance Program (BAP).
A clickable, interactive map of Canada with provincially-funded telehealth services.
Telehealth services stand to make a great impact during COVID-19’s social distancing measures. Learn more about the services available!
Canadian businesses are working hard to adapt in the wake of COVID-19 and when it comes to benefits plans, we want to make clear what the options are.
Frequently Asked Questions
Business Relief Measures
Businesses may have significantly reduced income during this time and struggle to pay their group insurance premiums. Is BBD prepared to extend the premium grace period and not impose claim suspension?
We will extend our existing grace period by 30 days. Our new standard premium grace period during COVID-19 will be 60 days.
I have a client who is about to renew. In light of everything, what is BBD doing for premium renewal deferrals?
Renewals for May 1 and June 1 will be postponed for two months – until July 1, 2020, and August 1, 2020, respectively.
If you have a client who does not want to defer their renewal, please contact your Client Manager.
All self-funded plans (ASO and HCSA) will renew on their regular renewal date.
What are BBD’s layoff provisions?
Can a group reduce or remove coverage for certain benefits (i.e., paramedical or dental) while they can’t access those services?
BBD is committed to helping working Canadians retain their benefits coverage however, we understand that many businesses may be experiencing financial hardship. In those cases, feel free to reach out to your BBD Client Manager about specific plan amendments.
- Positive Test Results
- Unconfirmed Case of COVID-19
- Close Contact with a Diagnosed Person
- Diagnosed and Cannot Work
An employee has tested positive for COVID-19. What does an employer need to do?
The employee should not be permitted to return to the workplace until they are free of the COVID-19 virus, a minimum of 14 days, and showing no signs for 24 hours after that.
The current advice from health authorities is that all employees who worked closely with the infected employee should also be removed from the workplace for at least 14 days to ensure the infection does not spread in the workplace.
What constitutes “closely” will depend on the workplace and the nature of interactions between employees. Employers should err on the side of caution.
Employers should also take reasonable measures to protect, to the extent possible, the identity and confidentiality of any employee who contracts COVID-19.
An employee has an unconfirmed case of COVID-19. What does an employer need to do?
As with a confirmed case, the employee should leave the workplace.
The Public Health Agency of Canada encourages any person who has even mild symptoms to stay home and call the public health authority in the province or territory they are in to inform them. They will provide advice on what the employee should do.
Other employees who worked closely with the infected employee should also leave the workplace for at least 14 days, or until the diagnosis of COVID-19 is ruled out.
One of our employees told us that they came into contact with someone who has COVID-19. What should we do?
Once contact is confirmed, the employee should leave the workplace for at least 14 days. Coworkers who may have come into close contact with the employee should also leave the workplace for at least 14 days.
What if an employee has COVID-19 and cannot work?
Where an employee contracts COVID-19 and is unable to work, an employer must grant any applicable legislative leave to the employee, in addition to meeting any sick leave obligations outlined in employment agreements or collective agreements.
If the employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, there might be additional reporting obligations under workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety legislation.
What happens to employees if an organization is ordered to close their business by the government?
If an employer is ordered to close by health or other authorities, employers may be able to layoff employees without liability under provincial employment standards legislation or the common law. Each case will be different, and you should contact a lawyer for advice.
For new groups in installation, do you have the ability to send the Plan Admin digital copies of employee benefit cards since all employees do not necessarily register to the plan member portal?
Yes, when implementing new employee benefits plans, we can send a digital PDF copy of the ID to the Plan Administrator of the group for distribution to employees. Please inform us if this is something you require when implementing a plan.
- Temporary Layoff
- Record of Employment
- Temporary Layoffs and Benefits Continuation
- Business Closure and Benefits Continuation
- Benefits Termination
- Employee Health and Dental Conversion
Can an employer temporarily lay off employees?
Yes, but employers should be mindful of the legal rules and requirements that protect employees. A layoff can be treated as a termination of employment under employment standards legislation or the common law depending on the circumstances. There may be exemptions in many jurisdictions due to the pandemic and forced closures. Each case may be different, and you should contact a lawyer for advice.
Does an ROE (Record of Employment) have to be issued for a temporary layoff?
A Record of Employment must be issued for each of the employees that are on a temporary layoff.
What happens if an employer wants to continue benefits during a temporary layoff?
For clients who wish to extend benefits to their employees during a temporary layoff, the following options are available:
Option 1: New option due to COVID-19. Allow short-term and long-term disability benefits to be extended during the layoff period for 3 months and maintain the 6-month maximum for all other benefits. This is being done as a temporary administration practice and no changes need to be made to reflect this change.
Option 2: Retain current layoff provision to allow all benefits except disability to be extended for up to 6 months or otherwise stated in the contract.
Note: For clients in Quebec, coverage will follow RAMQ guidelines.
Important: The layoff option has to be decided on at the group level.
Coverage without disability insurance (except as required by law) can be extended for up to 6 months. All benefits (except disability) must be extended – there can be no picking and choosing of benefits offered during the layoff. No prior notice of the layoff is required. Layoff period will be terminated on the earlier of:
- Confirmation of return to work by the employer
- End of 6 month extension period
Collection of Premiums
If Plan Sponsors cannot collect employees’ premium contributions at this time, they can pay the full premium and collect back when the plan member is back at work. This will not affect benefit taxability.
Return to work date
If there is no return to work date specified by the client, then benefits will terminate at the end of the 6 month extension, and if applicable 3 months for disability coverage. Once the employee returns to work, no evidence is required – the normal reinstatement rules would apply.
If an employer needs to shut their doors, can their benefits continue during this time? Or, will they need to terminate and reinstate their plan when we start to get back to “normal” life?
We are temporarily allowing 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.
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.
What happens if an employer wants to terminate benefits during a temporary layoff?
We strongly recommend that plan sponsors maintain coverage for their employees during a temporary layoff and that they seek the professional advice of an employment lawyer before making a decision to terminate benefits for employees during a temporary layoff (see Benefits by Design’s Business Assistance Program).
Plan sponsors should be aware of the potential risks of terminating coverage including:
- No life or disability coverage
- Employees currently out of country
- Stockpiling of medications prior to termination
What coverage options are available if an employee no longer has group coverage?
Health & Dental Options
If you are between the ages of 18 and 79, we have a fantastic solution available through Green Shield Canada’s (GSC) Health Assist ZONE and LINK individual health and dental programs.
LINK offers guaranteed coverage for you and your family for day-to-day medical, dental and travel expenses, as well as unforeseen health expenses and must be applied for within 90 days of losing coverage. Choose from four pre-designed plans.
ZONE covers you and your family for day-to-day medical dental and travel expenses, as well as unforeseen health expenses. ZONE offers eight pre-designed plans (four guaranteed issue) and has more affordable options if you have no outstanding ongoing or medical issues.
My pharmacy is restricting the amount of medication I am able to get. Why can’t I get more? What are my options for early refills?
Given the evolving coronavirus situation, GSC is working collaboratively with pharmacy organizations, officials, and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association to ensure everyone has access to the medication they need. As a result, plan members will see some differences – most significantly, GSC’s 90-day supply requirement for maintenance medications has been reduced to a 30-day supply to help manage an increase in requests to refill medications. When it comes to requesting refills, they have adjusted their standard approach to allow for refills up to 14 days early.
For certain medications with variable use, such as inhalers, it can be difficult to measure a consistent day supply. In the event that someone requires a refill for this type of medication, have them ask their pharmacist to review the day supply, and if necessary they can utilize the resources available on providerConnect.ca to assist them with submitting the claim on the plan member’s behalf. Keep in mind that officials recommend that patients maintain at least a 14- to 30-day supply of medication on hand but also warn against “stockpiling” as this creates an unnecessary risk of medication shortages.
For additional information, please visit GSC’s Support Centre.
What tools or resources are available through BBD’s group benefits plans to assist us during these uncertain times?
If the employee benefits plan includes an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), this program is available to provide support to employees and their families during these challenging times.
For clients with HumanaCare’s EAP, HumanaCare’s best-in-class services are available through a host of mediums, including e-counselling and telephone counselling, to encourage social distancing. Contacting HumanaCare is easy – simply call 1-800-661-8193 24 hours a day, anywhere in North America, or email email@example.com
If the employee benefits plan includes Life Insurance through BBD & Empire Life, they have access to a Business Assistance Program (BAP). A BAP helps employers access accredited legal, financial, and human resource professionals to navigate the complex problems arising within their business. Contacting HumanaCare is easy – simply call 1-800-661-8193 24 hours a day, anywhere in North America, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As a way to encourage social distancing, what telemedicine or telehealth resources are available?
Green Shield Canada has many telehealth resources available to get employees through during this time. A complete list is available here.
HumanaCare also offers counselling service through a host of mediums, including e-counselling and telephone counselling. These services extend to both their EAP and BAP.
Alliance Pharmacy offers convenient free next business day delivery across Canada to home, work, or any post office. A complete list of their services is available here.
Telehealth resources have been ramped up across Canada to ensure access to medical professionals. BBD compiled a list of the large provincial providers, which is available here.
Information for plan members with Green Shield Canada (GSC) standard travel benefit.
What if a plan member was away before the travel advisories?
As of March 23, 2020, a plan member’s travel day limit will be extended indefinitely (meaning their insurance will continue in-force) if they travelled before the advisory was issued on March 13, they are now being quarantined, and their travel coverage would expire while they are away. Previously, only hospitalization of a plan member would allow such an extension.
A plan member’s travel day limit will be extended indefinitely if they travelled before the advisory was issued on March 13, they cannot get transportation home, and their travel coverage would expire while they are away. Previously, only hospitalization of a plan member would allow such an extension.
What if a plan member’s travel is deemed essential?
If a plan member left before or after the advisory was issued, and they are crossing the border for work purposes deemed “essential” travel (e.g., truck drivers, airline workers, and health professionals), they can use their travel coverage for any unforeseen medical emergency, including treatment required for the coronavirus. All other limitations and exclusions of the travel plan remain in place.