Qualifying for a group benefits plan requires meeting specific eligibility criteria, and unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for these plans.
In this post, we'll look at the eligibility requirements for benefit plans.
Each insurance carrier may have slightly different criteria, but generally, employees must meet the following requirements to be eligible for benefits:
Residency in Canada with Provincial Healthcare Coverage: To qualify, employees must be Canadian residents with valid provincial healthcare coverage.* This rule guarantees that group benefits are used as supplemental health insurance, rather than replacing provincial healthcare.
Provincial coverage assures insurers that private health insurance will be used as intended—to cover normal/emergency medical services while protecting individuals from associated out-of-pocket expenses.
- Permanent, Full-Time Employment: Eligible employees are typically permanent, full-time employees. Contractors, interns, seasonal employees, etc. are not eligible unless explicitly outlined in your contract.
- Minimum Hours per Week: Employees must meet the minimum hours per week requirement (the specific number of hours depends on your contract with the insurance carrier).
Waiting Period: Most insurance contracts require employees to complete a waiting period before receiving benefits. Typically, the waiting period is three months. Please note that this waiting period is separate from any employment probationary period.
Plan administrators can also choose to waive this waiting period at their discretion. If they waive it, it’s important to understand that it is on an all-or-nothing basis.
For example, if the contract specifies a three-month waiting period, you can either require the employee to complete the entire three months or completely waive the waiting period, allowing benefits to begin on the first day of employment; there are no in-between options.
*Some insurance carriers will allow enrolment in all benefits except Health if there is no provincial healthcare coverage available
Employees' dependents must also meet eligibility requirements. Anyone who does not match any of the definitions listed below is not eligible to enrol as a dependent.
- A legally married spouse
- A common-law partner: While most insurance carriers have a 12-month minimum cohabitation condition, certain carriers may allow coverage from the first day of cohabitation
- A dependent child under the age of 21
- A dependent child under the age of 25, if they are still attending school as a full-time student
Understanding benefit plan eligibility requirements is crucial for both employees and employers. Employers need to enrol their employees within the specified timeframe to a to keep things running smoothly.
Late applications could cause delays and might even mean the benefits get denied. By following the guidelines and timelines, a smooth benefits process can be ensured for everyone involved.