Enhancements to leave of absence contract provisions

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Effective January 1, 2015, Sun Life will be amending the Continuation of coverage contract provision to continue coverage for all statutory leaves nationally, including those introduced by Bill 21, Ontario’s Employment Standards Amendment Act (Leaves to Help Families). The Bill came into effect on October 29, 2014, and includes three new categories of unpaid, job-protected leave of absence.

How will Sun Life support you?

Sun Life’s current contract provision for Continuation of coverageonly extends coverage for statutory leaves relating to maternity/parental leave. Under your current group plan, if you want to extend coverage for other statutory leaves that fall outside the standard continuation of coverage provision – such as family medical leave, reservist leave, etc. – you must request approval from Sun Life.

Starting on January 1, 2015, to support you with your obligation to continue coverage, Sun Life will amend the
continuation of coverageprovision under the standard group contract to allow for the continuation of coverage during all statutory leaves. Coverage will be extended for no more than the period set out in the applicable employment standards legislation. Approval from Sun Life to extend coverage during statutory leaves will no longer be required.
Please note that current practices with respect to approval of non-statutory leaves – submit a
Plan Sponsor Request to Continue Coverage form to your Service Representative – will continue.

About Ontario Bill 21

The new legislation is intended to build on the existing Family Medical Leave by adding three new categories of leave of absence:

  • Family caregiver leave – Provides employees with up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to a family member with a serious medical condition.
  • Critically ill child care leave – Entitles an employee who has been employed by his/her employer for at least 6 consecutive months to take up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support to a critically ill child of the employee.
  • Crime-related child death or disappearance leave – Entitles an employee who has been employed by his/her employer for at least 6 consecutive months to take up to 52 weeks of leave of absence without pay if their child disappears as a result of a crime, and up to 104 weeks of unpaid leave if their child dies as a result of a crime.

Employer obligation

During any of these leaves of absence, eligible employees are entitled to continue to participate in their benefit plans, unless the employee(s) elects not to do so in writing.

Contract changes to allow for coverage during statutory leaves

Effective January 1, 2015, Sun Life will be amending the Continuation of coverage contract provision to continue coverage for all statutory leaves. Since all provinces have legislation allowing for at least one type of statutory leave, this change will apply to all group contracts that contain a Continuation of coverage provision. This means that where we have referred to “maternity/parental leave”, we will now refer to a “statutory leave, as set out in applicable employment standards legislation”.  Further, where your group contract allows for the continuation of coverage during a leave of absence that is not required by any legislation, we will refer to such a leave as a non-statutory leave.

Contracts that do not include a continuation of coverage provision

If your contract does not contain the continuation of coverage provision, note that our administrative guidelines will be revised to allow you to approve the continuation of coverage during a statutory leave, as required by legislation.

Actions required:

Keep a record of the changes: this Focus Update serves as an amendment to your contract effective January 1, 2015. Please file this notice with your Sun Life group contract for future reference. The next time you amend your benefits plan, the updated wording will be included in your contract.                                  

Questions?

Please contact your Client Service Administrator at 1-877-786-7227.