Part I: Important Deadlines to Protect Employers and Employees

Regular care and attention benefits you and your employees

Working with your employee benefit advisor, company leaders invest significant effort in defining an employee benefit plan that includes medical, dental and disability coverage, to ensure their company can attract and retain top talent in a competitive market.

But what happens when there is a new employee, or an employee gets married or has a child? Keeping on top of the evolving workplace and regularly reviewing benefit plans will avoid headaches and more importantly, financial risks and liabilities.

Add employees, spouses or dependents within 31 days

Enrolling new employees or adding a spouse and/or dependent child to your company’s benefit plan must be reported to the insurer no later than 31 days after the life event. After 31 days, such additions may be considered late and coverage may be delayed, limited or declined. This is particularly problematic as benefits are often a key component of employee contracts.

Below is a sample chart of general timelines and deadlines to consider when adding employees or their family members to the employee benefits plan:

New Employee

Date of Hire May 4, 2016
Date eligible for benefits (e.g. 3 month waiting period) August 4, 2016
Deadline to enroll new employee September 4, 2016

 

Marriage

Date of Marriage September 10, 2016
Date eligible for benefits September 10, 2016
Deadline to add the spouse October 11, 2016

 

Common Law Spouse

Date employee began living with common law spouse in a marriage like relationship April 22, 2016
Date eligible for benefits (12 month cohabitation period) April 22, 2017
Deadline to add the common law spouse May 23, 2017

 

Adding dependent child – birth or adoption

Date of birth or date of adoption October 5, 2016
Date eligible for benefits October 5, 2016
Deadline to add a child November 5,2016

 

Re-applying for extended health and dental benefits previously waived

(e.g. loss of spousal coverage)

Date coverage through a spouse’s plan terminates September 15, 2016
Date eligible for benefits: September 15, 2016
Deadline to re-apply for extended health and dental benefits October 16, 2016

 

Use a secure enrollment tool

All changes should be made online through a password protected secure enrollment tool. Your benefits provider should clarify any additional secure methods to communicate changes. Keep in mind, using an unsecure email is not advised when communicating confidential information about your employees.

Make benefit plans mandatory to protect all employees

In some cases, employees may wish to opt out of your benefits plan as they have existing spousal coverage or they just do not want to pay their portion of the premium. This not only reduces employee protection, it may put your plan, and your company, at risk.

Industry best practice is to make it mandatory for eligible employees, and their families, to enroll in your benefit plan at the right time as a condition of employment. Timely registration minimizes administrative complications later on and ensures all employees are properly covered.

If employees contribute a portion of the premiums, they can waive coverage for extended health and dental benefits if they have similar coverage through another plan, such as a spouse’s plan. These employees must still complete the new employee application form, but indicate they wish to waive extended heath and dental benefits. At the time of the application, it should be explained to these employees that, if extended health and dental benefits are waived, they can only re-apply within 31 days of their other coverage terminating, or materially changing.

Ensure employees know their responsibilities

Employees are responsible for notifying employers of life changes. The employer’s role is to ensure employees know and understand this responsibility. Clearly defined polices ensure new and existing employees understand the benefits they have, how they operate and their role in keeping protection up-to-date. It benefits everyone.

At ZLC Financial we are not the world’s biggest benefits advisor but we are large enough to have the best people, resources and clients in Western Canada. Our goal is to work with you to find a better way for your employee benefits plan. We provide this value to you by leveraging one of the most skilled benefits teams in the city – over 250 years of experience within our team of 12 employee benefits specialists. We have been working with businesses ranging from 4 to over 7,000 employees for the past 30 years.

Part II of this employee benefit article will focus on important deadlines when an employee leaves the firm, whether permanent or temporary.

by Fab Biagini

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