This consultation will help inform the development of a modern way of delivering benefits that complements the existing insurance and benefits landscape.

The world of work has changed. Ontario’s workers need the way they access workplace benefits to change with it. Workers across all industries are less likely to have access to benefits, due to factors such as:

  • choosing to work for themselves as entrepreneurs
  • an increase in temporary and contract work
  • changing jobs more frequently than in the past
  • having multiple jobs at once

A portable benefits program would provide innovative benefits that are attached to a worker, rather than an employer. This would allow part-time, temporary and contract workers to seamlessly access benefits, even if they move from job to job.

The goals of a portable benefits program would be to:

  • improve workers’ health and financial security
  • support labour mobility
  • help businesses attract talent

Reasons for exploring a portable benefits program

While many health services are covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), there are some that are not covered for most Ontario workers, including:

  • telemedicine services
  • professional wellness services
  • prescription drugs
  • dental services
  • eye exams and prescription glasses
  • many mental health services

For most Ontarians in permanent, full-time jobs, the costs for these services are at least partially covered by employer-provided benefits plans.

Risks for workers

Workers who don’t have benefits can be exposed to financial and health risks — which may mean that they are unable to pay for preventative dental care or prescription drugs: a recent estimate found that fewer than 1 in 4 Ontario workers in part-time, temporary or self-employed roles had supplemental health and dental insurance,footnote 1 while people with low earnings are also less likely to have employer-based benefits.footnote 2

Risks for the health care system

Gaps in benefits coverage also have an impact on the health system in Ontario. Roughly 1 in 5 Canadians avoid going to the dentist because of cost.footnote 3 At the same time, every nine minutes someone goes to an emergency room in Ontario because of dental pain — visits that cost the province an estimated $31 million in 2015.footnote 4

Job mobility and attracting workers

Employers in many sectors are experiencing unprecedented labour shortages, making the need to attract and retain workers more important than ever. Having an affordable, accessible and portable benefits plan could help employers who do not currently offer coverage to attract and retain workers.

A portable benefits program would also help position Ontario as a destination of choice for entrepreneurs and highly skilled workers and demonstrate a modern approach to workforce issues.

Portable Benefits Advisory Panel

In 2021, the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee (OWRAC) recommended that the Ontario government appoint an expert panel to design and test a portable benefits program, where contributors could be employers, workers and the government.

The Portable Benefits Advisory Panel was established in March 2022 to advise the government on the viability, design and implementation of a program that would provide portable benefits to millions of workers who change jobs often and may not have access to employer-provided benefits. The panel will issue a report with their recommendations in 2023.

Your privacy matters

This information is being collected to help us develop recommendations regarding a portable benefits strategy for Ontario. Your responses will be reviewed by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. Your feedback may also be used anonymously in a summary report.

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