Toronto Employee Benefits Lawyer
Employee benefits is a term used to address a broad range of issues, from Canada Pension Plan contributions to paid vacation time, and medical and dental coverage. Aside from salary, benefits are often high up on the list of a prospective employee’s concerns when considering a role with a new employer. Employers are legally required to provide certain employee benefits, but the majority of benefits are optional and left to the employer’s discretion. If optional benefits are provided, the employer is legally obligated to ensure the benefits are applied fairly and consistently amongst employees. Failure to do so can result in an employer being subjected to a hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal or a civil case for discrimination.
Further, employees should be aware of their rights to ongoing benefits in the event of termination. If employees receive benefits during their employment, they are entitled to continue receiving those benefits throughout the reasonable notice period post-termination.
At Haynes Law Firm in Toronto, we advise employees concerning their benefits entitlements at various stages of employment, from the initial hire to termination. Our team, led by seasoned employment lawyer Paulette Haynes, helps employees negotiate the most favourable benefits package possible as a part of their initial contract and enforces rights under their benefits plans throughout their employment. We have been working with employers and employees on the design and fulfillment of benefits plans for nearly 30 years and have represented clients on both sides of the issue in litigation and alternative dispute resolution forums. We understand an employer’s obligation to their employees when it comes to benefits and will ensure our employee clients enjoy their full entitlements at every stage of their employment.
Are Employers Required to Provide Employees with Benefits?
The answer to this question is yes…and no. Employers are legally obligated to provide certain benefits under the law, whereas other benefits are optional, and generally offered in an effort by employers to make themselves competitive in the job market.
Required Statutory Employment Benefits
Employers are required to provide certain benefits to all full-time and part-time employees as a statutory obligation. These benefits include:
Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
The Canada Pension Plan is a mandatory plan to help Canadians save for retirement. Upon retirement, contributors will collect a monthly income to help pay for expenses when they are no longer earning employment income.
Employment Insurance (EI)
Employees who pay employment insurance premiums are entitled to collect insurance to supplement their lost income in the event of future job loss.
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
Most Ontario employers are required to pay WSIB premiums to cover employees in the event of a workplace injury. In some sectors, such as construction, employers are required to purchase additional coverage.
With respect to Canadian Pension Plan benefits and Employment Insurance benefits, both employers and employees are obligated to contribute. Employers collect employee contributions by deducting them from the employee’s pay and remitting them on behalf of the employee to the Canada Revenue Agency, along with their portion.
Competitive (Optional) Employment Benefits
Competitive benefits are not mandatory for employers to offer to employees, however, they are often provided, to some degree, to help position the employer as a desirable place to work.
Competitive benefits include:
- Group health plan coverage, such as medical, dental, prescription drugs, and vision;
- Disability and accidental death coverage, including short-term and long-term disability;
- Supplemental retirement savings plans; and
- Additional options range from reduced summer hours, employee discounts on products and services, additional vacation time, and paid personal and/or sick days.
If employers choose to offer optional benefits, they must do so for all employees without discrimination. Further, competitive benefits which are set out in an employment contract must be provided throughout employment. Cancellation of benefits included in the contract could open the employer up to a claim for constructive dismissal.
Employment Benefits Throughout the Employment Relationship
Helping Employees Negotiating Benefits at the Time of Hire
Benefit entitlements are often negotiated at the start of a new role as part of the terms of the employment contract. Understandably, employees are often reluctant to ‘make waves’ by asking for increased benefits when beginning a new role but this is an ideal time to negotiate. The employment contract lays the foundation for employee entitlements throughout the employee’s tenure, including post-termination, if applicable. People don’t often consider benefits post-termination when they start a new role, but it is just as important a consideration as termination and severance pay. For this reason, it is imperative to negotiate the most comprehensive benefits package possible at the start of the relationship.
Our team will advise you or negotiate on your behalf during the contract negotiation period to ensure you receive the most favourable benefits package possible as you begin your new role. In addition, we’ll ensure your contract does not unnecessarily limit your entitlements post-termination, leaving you financially vulnerable while you look for a new role.
Helping Employees Enforce Benefit Entitlements During Employment
Employees are often provided with several mandatory and optional benefits as part of their employment contract. Employers also have an obligation under the Employment Standards Act to ensure that, when offering benefits to their employees, they do not treat employees differently because of their age, sex or marital status.
For example, if you are denied enrolment in, or removed from, your employer’s medical benefits plan due to your age, you could have a valid discrimination claim.
If you feel you have been discriminated against in your access to or enforcement of benefits, Haynes Law Firm will represent your interests to ensure your employer meets their coverage obligations.
Our team has worked with clients on both sides of this issue for over two decades and we are familiar with employer tactics to avoid fulfilling coverage obligations. We have extensive experience representing clients in employer benefit disputes before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and court. Paulette Haynes’ diligent and persuasive advocacy skills ensure employees are on equal footing in a dispute with an employer with seemingly unlimited resources for litigation.
Helping Employees Extend Benefits After Termination
Employees who are terminated without cause are entitled to retain their benefits coverage for the duration of the notice period. When facing a termination, employees are often so concerned with the amount of termination pay they neglect to consider their benefits. However, this coverage can be invaluable during the interim period when a person is looking to secure a new role. For this reason, Haynes Law Firm works with employees at the start of a new role, and upon termination, to ensure they have adequate benefits coverage in the event of termination.
Before signing an employment contract, we will review the terms relating to benefits coverage and termination, to point out potential red flags in terms of coverage. Employers will often attempt to limit their obligations upon termination through language in the contract, and employees need to negotiate these terms before signing.
Upon termination, we will review the termination package offered and again identify shortfalls in benefits coverage or the overall notice period, so the employee can negotiate the terms before signing. In cases where an employer refuses to provide adequate notice or coverage, we will bring an action against the employer for wrongful dismissal. Our firm excels in negotiating or litigating on behalf of employees to secure fair entitlements concerning benefits coverage upon termination.
For Assistance Negotiating or Enforcing Employee Benefits, Contact Haynes Law Firm
Toronto employment lawyer Paulette Haynes and her team of employment professionals at Haynes Law Firm, help employees ensure they receive their full entitlements when it comes to employee benefits. From the initial contract negotiation to ensuring comprehensive coverage post-termination, her team works with employees in all industries to obtain the most favourable results possible. To discuss how the team at Haynes Law Firm can assist you with your employee benefits concerns, please fill out the online form, or call 416-593-2731.