Are Employers in Ontario Required to Offer Extended Benefits?

Are Employers in Ontario Required to Offer Extended Benefits?

As an employer, choosing the right benefits plan is an essential part of running your business. Whether you’re looking to boost morale, improve your employee retention rate, or attract new talent, the benefits you offer play a central role in how productive your staff can be. What may come as a surprise to you, however, is that not all benefits are extras that you can choose. By law, all employers in Ontario are required to offer certain benefits to full-time employees. 

Which Benefits Are Required for All Employers? 

In Ontario, employers are required to provide some benefits to all employees. Among other things, the Employment Standards Act outlines the benefits that all full-time employees must have. The Act also prohibits “discrimination between employees or their dependants, beneficiaries, or survivors because of the age, sex, or marital status of the employee.”

If you own a business in Ontario, there are three required forms of coverage. Firstly, the Canada Pension Plan is federally mandated for you and your staff members. Likewise, both you and your employees must contribute to Employment Insurance. Thirdly, all employers in Ontario are required to provide workplace insurance coverage in accordance with the provincial Workplace Safety and Insurance Board standards for your industry.

Why Offering Extended Benefits Matters

The three categories above may be the only ones you absolutely have to offer, but there are other options that you may also want to consider. While you can technically get away with providing the bare minimum required by the province, the benefits plan you offer is an essential element of employees’ total compensation. 

A well-crafted, well-implemented, and comprehensive benefits package can be more cost-effective and impactful than increasing salaries. In fact, a 2020 report found that between 60 and 77 percent of workers would leave their current organization for one offering better support for their well-being, even if they would receive a lower base salary. 

Even if you already offer benefits to your employees, this concern is still relevant. A 2021 survey by The Conference Board of Canada and TELUS Health found an 83% gap between Canadian workers’ health benefits and the type of health benefits they want their employers to provide. 

Types of Benefits

Certain types of coverage may seem more basic and necessary than others. However, some seemingly less common benefits may actually present a better value for your employees. Let’s take a look at some of the most common options for supplemental group benefits plans and consider their relative value. 

Dental Coverage

While not currently required in most provinces, dental coverage has a very high relative value compared to other supplemental benefit options. Not only do many Canadians not have access to dental insurance from any source, but dental-related work absences are far more common than you may assume. One report estimated that Canadian businesses lost a total of 4.15 million working days each year due to dental visits or dental sick days. 

Prescriptions and Chronic Illness Medications

Drug coverage can be one of the most draining on your company’s finances. Chronic illness medications, in particular, are a major cost driver. A recent study found that chronic disease medications accounted for 83.7% percent of drug plan cost increases in 2021-2022. 

Prescription coverage is not required in Ontario, and offering this type of drug coverage is also largely unnecessary. Many provinces cover medication costs beyond what employee benefits pay for, meaning that your employees can still access the drugs they need if you do not cover them. Similarly, new legislation has made getting prescriptions easier than ever before. 

Mental Health Coverage

Contrary to more “old-school” thinking, mental health coverage has an extremely high relative value when compared to other benefits. Whether or not it’s required, supporting your employees’ mental health has a considerable impact on your bottom line. 

In addition to boosting your hiring and employee retention prospects, there is a noted productivity benefit to supporting your employees psychologically. A number of studies have found that happier employees are more efficient at their jobs, with some studies suggesting that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than their unhappy peers

Create the Perfect Benefits Plan with Zarmac

No matter what’s required by law, the ultimate goal of every business owner should be to support their employees in a sustainable, efficient way. But each company has unique needs. That’s why working with an experienced partner can help you find the ideal solution for your business. 

Zarmac Benefits has been providing benefit programs to both new and established businesses for over 20 years. We take the time to analyze what you need and customize a benefits package specifically for your business style, now and for the future. 

Zarmac provides critical analysis specific to your business to deliver real choices, advise on trends, streamline renewals, and optimize your plan design. We make it easy for you and your team by supporting the management of your program. We also proactively educate and eliminate questions to ensure there are no surprises.

Ready to protect your business and your team? Find out more about the Zarmac difference!


We have some exciting news at Zarmac Benefits! We are extremely pleased to announce our merger with Marquee Benefits Inc., a highly respected benefit and pension solutions consultant based in Barrie, Ontario. Our newly combined firm will be conducting its practice as Marquee Benefits Inc., effective February 13, 2024.

Marquee Benefits shares the same values as we do. A genuine approach based on extensive knowledge of the industry and genuine desire to help create the right benefit solution for your organization. Please feel free to connect with us if you have any questions.

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