On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. This has created a lot of questions for organizations to navigate. The overall message we are hearing for Canadian organizations is that preparation is better than reaction.
We have a very fluid situation with new information becoming available continuously. To help you assess the impact, we have compiled a list of benefit related items as they relate to COVID-19. Please remember that these are generalizations. For detailed information on your benefits program or claims specific questions, contact us or your insurer directly.
CHLIA had been helping its member companies — which account for 99 percent of Canada’s life and health insurance business — develop short-term disability leave policies. They are recommending that plan sponsors waive the waiting period for short-term disability benefits if an employee is quarantined so they can stay at home and still receive their salary.
This policy would apply to anyone who is placed under quarantine by a medical doctor or public health official. Today we have seen many organizations suspend all business travel. Some have also imposed self-directed quarantines to any staff who are returning from a flight for up to 14 days.
Out of Country Coverage
When it comes to EHC and OOC, most carriers will be treating illness due to the Coronavirus as any other medical emergency. This means there is no exclusion to treating someone because this is an epidemic vs. another type of medical emergency.
If plan members traveling in an area identified by WHO as high risk, are not permitted to return home to Canada because public health officials have placed the area in quarantine due to Coronavirus, an extension may be granted to the number of days out of country limit.
Anyone traveling to a country with a travel advisory (ie: Italy, China, Iran, South Korea) should consult with their insurance company prior to departure. In terms of personal travel, employers are encouraged to create policies regarding employees returning from international holidays or flights.
Employee Assistance Programs
Employees may be starting to feel the emotional toll of the news of the pandemic. Anxiety can be a challenging side-effect to these uncertain times. If your plan has an EAP, it may be a good time to remind staff to take advantage of this benefit and speak to someone.
These are turbulent times. Your employees may be concerned about the current state of the market and be contemplating decisions that could have adverse effects on their long term financial goals. We have a team of investment professionals who are able to help them navigate through these critical decisions. If you or your staff would like to speak to us about their retirement savings programs, please reach out.
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