1.) Measures to help with cashflow challenges
BBD will continue to follow the standard contract and offer a grace period of 31 days following non-payment of premium.
We understand that these are uncertain times for small businesses, and thus may choose to make changes to their benefits plan to minimize the financial impact of COVID-19. These are difficult decisions, and we are here to help you navigate through the following options:
- Reduction of benefits through plan amendments
- Temporary suspension of benefits
- Continuation of benefits through temporary employee layoffs
2.) Coverage options for temporary lay-offs.
BBD 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. Plan Sponsors 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.
Plan Sponsors should be aware of the potential risks of terminating coverage including:
- No life insurance or disability coverage
- Employees currently out of country
- Stockpiling of medications etc. prior to termination
For Plan sponsors wishing to extend coverage to employees who are temporarily laid off, the following options are available:
Option 1: Retain current layoff provision to allow all benefits, except disability, to be extended for up to 6 months or otherwise stated in the contract.
Option 2: 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 to the contract will be made to reflect this change.
If Plan Sponsors cannot collect employees’ contributions at this time, they can pay the full premium and collect back when Plan members are back at work. This will not affect benefit taxability.
If an employee has the option to continue their coverage but cancels it because they will not contribute their share of the premiums, when they return to work evidence of insurability will be required to be added back to the plan.
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.
When an employee is laid off, the disability pre-existing condition period does not start over when they return to work – it is a continuation from the previous time of employment.
3.) Paramedical Services – acceptance of virtual claims
Green Shield coverage for paramedical practitioners, virtual services are covered when performed by:
- Registered Dietitians
- Psychologists / Psychotherapists / Social Workers
- Occupational Therapists
4.) Minimum Hours & Coverage amounts
When looking at employee eligibility, we look at an average over a period of time. There is no need to terminate an employee from the plan if their hours have dropped due to COVID19 as long as the intention is that the employee will return to working the minimum hours once this situation has resolved itself
5.) Record of Employment
A Record of Employment must be issued for each of the employees that are on a temporary layoff
6.) Amending the benefit plan temporarily
Reducing benefits during this time is an excellent option for reducing the financial impacts of COVID-19. If you’ve determined this is the best course of action, please contact your advisor to initiate a plan amendment.
7.) Employee Assistance Program
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 firstname.lastname@example.org