Frequently Asked Questions from our Group Benefits Clients

If we have a layoff, what happens to our employees’ benefit plan eligibility?

Your contract may already have provisions detailing which benefits and how long they will be continued when employees are on layoff. If your contract doesn’t contain specific language on the continuation of coverage, contact your Cowan consultant for assistance because this varies by carrier.

Most carriers will provide an extension of coverage that satisfy legislative requirements. Providing extensions of coverage greater than what is required by law will require the approval of your carrier.

When we recall employees from a layoff, how quickly can their coverage be re-instated?

Depending on how long they have been without coverage, the waiting period, if your plan has one, may not be in effect.

You could also ask the carrier to waive the waiting period if it is applicable due to the gap in time from loss of coverage to reinstatement. Contact your Cowan consultant for assistance with this.

How much time do employees have to submit claims after losing coverage?

The best practice is to have the claims submitted a quickly as possible. Depending on the time of the year, your contract with the carrier may have a requirement to submit claims within a certain amount of months following the end of the year.

Can employees continue their coverage on their own with our carrier if they are terminated?

Employees cannot continue the benefit plan coverage own their own with your carrier.
They can convert their life insurance without proof of insurability with your carrier if done so within 30 days of loss of coverage through your benefit plan.

Employees could also purchase individual health and dental coverage that may not require proof of insurability if done so within 30 days of losing their coverage under your benefit plan.

Can we have the employees pay the premium for our benefit plan?

Yes, however, at least 50% of the total premium must be paid by the employer. The employer is responsible for remitting 100% of the premium to the carrier.

What happens if we are late paying our benefit plan premiums?

Your contract may have details on what happens if you are late paying the premium. Typically, premiums are due the first of the month. However, in many situations, nothing happens until the premium has been outstanding for 30 days or longer. After this time claims payments and the coverage could be suspended pending payment of the outstanding premium.

Your carrier may have implemented an extended grace period for premium payments. Contact your Cowan consultant for more information.

Can I put our plan in “suspension?”

The ability to do this depending on your carrier. Contact your Cowan consultant for assistance.

If I have a renewal coming up in the next few months, will it be delayed?

There is no insurance carrier standard on this at this time. To date, a number of carriers have shared their process with us, but it depends on the number of employees covered.

We are proceeding with the expectation that upcoming renewals will continue as scheduled. If you have specific concerns on your upcoming renewal, contact your Cowan consultant.

Can I continue to make amendments to my plan?

Some carriers have put a moratorium in place for future Short-term Disability plan amendments. Amendments that have already been communicated to the carrier for a future date may continue as scheduled. Connect with your Cowan consultant for more information.

Amending other parts of the benefit plan you might be considering may proceed. Note that employees must be actively at work on the date of the change for the change to be in force for them.

Can I continue coverage if we reduce our hours of work?

Your contract will detail the minimum hours of work per week for coverage to be in place. Any changes in the minimum number of hours of work per week for eligibility must be on a class basis. It cannot be applied on an employee by employee basis.

Many of the carriers have put a position on this that might vary from what is in your contract. Connect with your Cowan consultant to learn how this might apply to you.

What happens to the benefit coverage if we temporarily reduce pay?

The income-related coverage, like life insurance, LTD, and STD, will be based on the reported income to the carrier.

Reductions in pay should be reported to the carrier in the same manner any change in income has been. However, many carriers are allowing to maintain income-related benefits to remain at the prior levels. Connect with your Cowan consultant to discuss how you want to have this put in place.

I have a flexible benefits plan that allows employees to change coverage for life event changes, how does what we are going through today apply?

The specifics within your flexible benefits plan on life event changes are not impacted by the COVID-19 situation.

How has Out of Country Medical Emergency coverage been impacted by COVID-19?

Many carriers have extended the trip duration for employees already out of the country and trying to return to Canada. Speak with your Cowan consultant to understand what your carrier has done.

For employees who are out of the country for essential travel (e.g. commercial truck drivers), the coverage remains in force.

For all other out of country medical emergency coverage questions, contact your Cowan consultant.