Portable Benefits for Ontario Workers

Health Benefits
Posted by: HR Enable Category: Ontario Employee Benefits Tags: Comments: 0

The Government of Ontario has begun a consultation process regarding the viability of a benefits program that would provide health benefits to workers who do not receive benefits under the current workplace healthcare benefits model.

The Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee was formed in June 2021 to help lead Ontario through economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. In its November 2021 report the Committee proposed that the Ontario government consider a portable benefits program to support workers who cannot access traditional workplace benefits, leading to the creation of the Portable Benefits Advisory Panel in March of 2022.

The basis of the portable benefits model would attach healthcare benefits to the individual employee as opposed to the employer. Under this model the worker can carry their benefits coverage with them from job to job, which acts to disconnect supplemental health benefits from employment.

Portable benefits can exist in a variety of ways. They could be largely publicly funded, or the government could mandate that employers and workers pay into a central account for all eligible workers to draw from. These portable benefits could be made available to exclusively temporary, part-time, self-employed, and contract workers, or they could be extended to included full-time indefinite workers as well. Another factor under consideration is whether these portable benefits would replace existing employer-provided health benefits, versus existing alongside them as a supplemental solution.

The Panel is undergoing an ongoing consultation process which allows workers, employers, representatives, and members of the public to advise the Panel on how portable benefits would impact them. They had a brief survey that was open until December 16, 2022 and accepted more detailed submissions via email at portablebenefitspanel@ontario.ca.

By providing increased health benefits to workers who previously haven’t had access to those benefits, a larger percentage of the population will be able to receive preventative healthcare measures which will not only improve the health of Ontario residents, but also lessen the strain on the Ontario Public Health System.

Employers may be affected by the implementation of portable benefits in a variety of ways. For those employers who offer comprehensive benefits packages to their employers as a means of attracting and recruiting top talent, a portable benefits model may weaken the effectiveness of their benefits package as an employee incentive. However, employers who don’t currently offer a strong benefits package can gain a competitive advantage in the labour market with the implementation of portable benefits.

By helping part-time, temporary, and contract workers achieve greater health and security, portable benefits may make it easier for some employers to transition their workforce to part-time, temporary, and contract roles rather than relying solely on full-time employees. This increase to worker health and security can also benefit employers who have historically engaged in these types of work arrangements.

Employers who have relied on part-time, temporary, or contract workers over full-time employees as a means to save on labour-related costs may be at a disadvantage if they are required to contribute to a portable benefits fund in proportion to the hours worked or wages earned by those employees. This could lead to an increase in full-time employees for those companies, as employing part-time,

temporary, and contract workers may no longer allow employers to save on those labour costs related to employee benefits packages.

Portable benefits in Ontario are still under consideration so it will be interesting to see the recommendations of the Advisory Panel as it will significantly impact employers.

HR Enable specializes in professional HR and legal consulting, and we are able to guide you through the ramifications of a potential portable benefits model as it pertains to your business and help you to design and implement portable benefits into your policies. Contact us today to discuss how portable benefits could impact your business.