Employers are not required to provide employee benefit plans. However, if an employer does decide to provide them, the rules against discrimination under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) must be applied to certain plans.
The ESA prohibits discrimination between employees or their dependants, beneficiaries or survivors because of their age, sex or marital status.
There are some exceptions to the anti-discrimination rules. They are complex. If you require further information, please contact the Employment Standards Information Centre at 1-800-531-5551.
The anti-discrimination rule applies to benefit plans including:
The rule against discrimination applies to both the plan's contribution requirements and its benefit payments.
The following distinctions between employees or their dependants, beneficiaries or survivors are not allowed.
An employer cannot discriminate between employees who are 18 or over but under 65.
An employer cannot discriminate between male and female employees, or against pregnant employees. Also, there cannot be a distinction between employees because they are, or are not, the head of a household or the primary wage earner.
An employer cannot discriminate between single and married (whether same or opposite-sex couples) employees, including those who live in common-law marriages (whether same or opposite-sex couples), or against unmarried employees supporting dependent children.
An employee who is on pregnancy, parental, family medical, organ donor, personal emergency, declared emergency or reservist leave has the right to continue to participate in pension plans, life insurance plans, accidental death plans, extended health plans and dental plans during his or her leave. In addition, a female employee may be entitled to disability benefits during that period of the leave that she would otherwise have been absent from work for health reasons related to her pregnancy or childbirth.
Other benefit plans may allow employees on other types of leave to continue to participate in the plan while they are on leave. In that case, employees on pregnancy, parental, family medical, organ donor, personal emergency, declared emergency, or reservist leave are also allowed to continue to participate in such plans while they are on leave (this includes any leave negotiated between an employee or union and an employer that is longer than the ESA provides).