Legislative Updates: Summer 2017

28 Jul Legislative Updates: Summer 2017


Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act: Bill-17 brought Alberta up to the employment standards that most other provinces have enjoyed. The changes to the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code will ensure that parents of critically-ill or injured children can take time off to care for their family without fear of losing their job; allow Albertans to take time to care for themselves if they are dealing with a short‐term illness, domestic violence, or mourning the loss of a loved one; lowering the threshold for maternity leave and providing for the extension of parental leave to allow greater flexibility for working families.

What this means to you: HR policies and employee manuals would need to reflect changes to these standards, and policies shaped around the treatment of benefits during these types of leaves. Contact us if you would like a referral to an HR advisory practice who can assist you in this area.



Genetic Testing: The bill to prohibit the use of genetic testing received royal assent in May 2017. This new law prohibits requirement for a genetic test or disclosure of voluntary test results as a condition to buy goods and services. There is an outstanding issue of a prospective insured voluntarily disclosing genetic test results because they feel that it is in their best Interest. Canada was the second last G8 country to adopt genetic non‐discrimination legislation.

What this means to you: If you have had an insurance policy issued to you and the pricing was rated or modified based on genetic information, you may wish to investigate your options. It may be possible to reapply for coverage at lower rates depending on the type of coverage, policy, and other factors.



Sometimes, legislation that is passed in one jurisdiction trickles to other jurisdictions as well. Watching what happens in other provinces can be a window into the future of benefits and insurance across Canada.

Taxation of group benefits premiums in Saskatchewan: Effective Aug. 1, 2017, the Government of Saskatchewan will apply its 6% provincial sales tax (PST) to life and health insurance premiums.

The PST will apply to both employer and employee premiums paid on group health policies that cover plan members in Saskatchewan.

The PST will also apply to administrative services only (ASO) and Cost Plus arrangements, as well as Health Care Spending Accounts and Taxable Spending Accounts.

What this means to you: If you have employees in Saskatchewan, watch for changes to your bill or invoice effective August 1, 2017.


Medical Marijuana: A man in Nova Scotia sued his health plan for not covering his medical marijuana. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Board ruled in favour of covering the therapy.

Medical marijuana is not typically covered under benefits plans. First, it is not yet approved by Health Canada for safety, efficacy and quality; second, it does not have a drug identification number.

What this means to you: If employees are asking about coverage for medical marijuana, most plans are allowing medical marijuana to be covered under the Health Care Spending Account, but changes may be coming.


Fair Treatment of Customers (FTC), Quebec: Quebec’s introduction of FTC or “Sound Commercial Practices” legislation released in July 2013 is designed to protect consumers from deals “too good to be true.” Insurers must make fair treatment of customers a core component of their governance and corporate culture.


Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) Updates:

Clear Communication Guidelines ‐ In June 2013, CLHIA released “clear communication” guidelines, which goes beyond editing old documents with simplified terminology. Every aspect of the consumer experience, from marketing to applications policies and contracts must be easy to understand, clear, orderly, and use design elements to enhance understanding. Consumers are increasingly purchasing products online, and this buying behaviour has made clear communication more important than in the past.

What this means to you: The insurance industry is looking inwardly at improving benefits communication to increase the clarity for plan members and consumers in general. Here’s how to make benefits communication clearer:

  • Use simple, easy-to-understand language
  • Use communication methods that is meaningful and relevant to your employee group


Contact us today if you have any questions about how these changes may affect you and your group benefits plan.