Benefits for Employees Over 65: Changes to Your Obligations
A recent Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT) —Talos vs. Grand Erie District School Board — will impact the common practice of ending benefits for employees over the age of 65.
Talos claimed, and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) agreed, that when his employer ended his insurance, group health and dental benefits at age 65 they were discriminating based on age, which is prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Code. While this decision might be reviewed, in the meantime it is law.
What does this mean for you as a housing provider if you offer benefits to employees only until they turn 65?
This means that you may face allegations of discrimination. These allegations are likely to be upheld at the HRTO and you may be obligated to provide financial compensation as a result.
What should housing providers do to address this decision?
Housing providers should have a discussion with their insurance benefits provider to review their existing plans and determine the potential cost associated with providing insurance and benefits for employees over 65.
Once the cost is set, the provider can then assess whether the costs represent ‘undue hardship’. Remember, the threshold for undue hardship is high.
Costs will amount to undue hardship if they are:
- shown to be related to the accommodation
- so substantial that they would alter the essential nature of the housing providers services or considerably affect its viability
If the cost of these benefits does not represent undue hardship, housing providers should consider adding benefits for employees over 65. Unionized workplaces will have additional complications to consider.
Given the complexity of this issue and the potential financial consequences, housing providers are encouraged to seek legal support on their course of action. ONPHA members can also contact our Best Deals partner Morneau Shepell.