As the economy in Saskatchewan is starting to reopen, employers are facing the challenge of bringing back employees who were temporarily laid off due to COVID-19. What has happened to their employee benefits plan? How do we ensure a smooth transition back to work for these employees? There are a few important issues for employers to think about:
Did you terminate employees from the benefits plan, or did their benefits continue during a temporary work stoppage?
Employees that were terminated from the benefits plan can be reinstated within 6-12 months, depending on your insurance provider. Check with your carrier and/or your benefits advisor regarding reinstatement provisions in your benefits contract.
Employers should also make sure that the start date for the pre-existing condition on the Long-Term Disability (LTD) benefit is not reset for employees that are being reinstated. More information on the mechanics of LTD pre-existing condition can be found here.
How can employers support employees that are coming back to work post COVID-19?
As for plan members whose benefits continued during a lay off – these employees may seem more fortunate, but being unable to work and earn income is a difficult time for anyone. Additionally, coming back to work after a long, involuntary break can be stressful and daunting for many. Employers want to find ways to support their teams through this trying time.
Now is the time to continue your focus on wellness programs and wellness culture within the organization. Read our recent blog on Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) for tips on how to leverage EAP’s to help your teams cope with physical and mental challenges of COVID-19. Some carriers have extended their EAP programs to clients while all the changes that have occurred in our lives are still ongoing. These initiatives are trying to address the potential concerns around people spending so much time in isolation.
In addition, there are programs such as the Business Assistance program which gives clients access to professionals to help navigate legal issues, financial concerns, and human resources topics.
Lastly, don’t forget about virtual healthcare which has become a common offering. Through COVID-19, the uptake on this benefit has been significant. Different carriers handle the virtual healthcare benefit differently. Check with your carrier to see if virtual healthcare is already a part of your benefits program. If so, make sure employees are aware of this important benefit. Our blog on virtual healthcare has detailed information on both public and private virtual health programs in Saskatchewan.
What about employees that are coming back part-time post COVID-19?
Many carriers have made concessions around temporary layoffs through COVID-19. However, it is important to confirm the minimum number of hours that employees must work in order to remain eligible for benefits. Your benefits contract should have this information, or you can check with your carrier.
Making sense of it all
As businesses in Saskatchewan are reopening, there have been many changes happening to benefit programs in a relatively short timespan. It may seem daunting trying to navigate through this sea of new information. This is where your benefits advisor can help. We are independent employee benefits advisors and benefits is all that we do. We work with all of the Canadian insurance carriers and we take pride in simplifying benefits for our clients. If you’d like to understand how some of the post COVID-19 changes may apply to your employee benefits plan, get in touch with us – we’d be happy to simplify benefits for you!