Benefits while on Maternity Leave
What are employers’ obligations to continue benefits when an employee goes on maternity leave?
This question arises frequently in the firms we insure, most of which are small without trained Human Resource Professionals on staff. Now, Chambers Plan offers all insured firms the Business Assistance Service (BAS) to assist in situations. Firms are well-advised to take advantage of the BAS to avoid costly legal problems. The Employment Standards Act makes it clear that during pregnancy and parental leave, the ESA protects the employee’s right to continue to take part in employer benefit plans.
If the premiums are shared, the employer must continue to pay its portion of the premiums. The Ontario Human Rights Commission states in the publication “Policy on preventing discrimination because of Pregnancy and breastfeeding” that:
Women on maternity leave continue to be entitled to other benefits under employment-related benefit plans including pension, life insurance, accidental death, extended health and dental plans. Employers are also required to continue to make contributions to such plans, so long as employees continue to make their contributions, as required.
Disability benefits cannot be claimed while on maternity leave because the employee is not actively at work and a claim would be denied. However, an employee can claim disability benefits if they are unable to return to work. Therefore, it is necessary for the employee or employer to continue paying disability premiums during the leave.
To cover her premiums, the employee could issue post-dated cheques or negotiate some other method agreeable to the employer. If the employee decides not to pay the employee portion of the premiums, all premiums and coverage can be suspended during the leave. The firm should gain a statement in writing to confirm that this is the employee’s wish before suspending coverage.
Firms are reminded to submit an EMPLOYEE TERMINATION / REINSTATEMENT REQUEST form when an employee takes a maternity leave.
For reference please see section 7.1.1 here: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-preventing-discrimination-because-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding/7-employment and the Ministry of Labour website here: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/pregnancy.php