Employee Benefits in Canada
What kind of perks are out there, and to which ones are you entitled?
When you first move to Canada and secure your first job, you might be surprised to find out that your employer will usually offer you several benefits in addition to your wage.
While some employers only offer you the bare minimum of what they are required to provide (vacation days, worker’s compensation, and Canada Pension Plan), others will offer you additional health care benefits, travel benefits, mobile phone plans, and retirement savings matching.
While every employer is different, and the rules and laws vary in each province, we have compiled a brief but handy guide to employee benefits in Canada.
Why Do Some Employers Offer Employee Benefits?
For some of the benefits listed below, the answer is quite simple – they are legally required to! However, some employers have realized that offering their employees a series of additional benefits can really help their businesses and organizations in the long run.
Employees who have extended health benefits, such as RMT massage, chiropractic visits, vision care, and dental coverage, tend to be in better overall health. This means that they call in sick less often and do a more efficient and effective job overall (at least in theory).
That said, there are some less common employee benefits that can also help employers with their bottom line. By providing additional vacation days, Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) matching, health saving plans, and even discounts on gym memberships, businesses can ensure their workers are dealing well with stress. Some of these benefits can also help employees plan for their future, thus greatly reducing anxiety related to uncertainty.
Employees who receive competitive compensation packages that include a good wage, a healthy amount of annual vacation time, and additional health and financial benefits are more likely to stick with their employer in the long term, in general. This benefits an organization because they don’t have to spend additional funds on recruiting and training new staff. When overall workplace morale is higher, and people stay in their jobs longer, most good employers are happy to pay.
Legislated Employee Benefits
Though details vary by province, below are the employee benefits most Canadians are entitled to when working a full-time job. Note that if you’re a contractor, freelancer, or working part-time hours, you might not be eligible for these benefits.
The following are legislated benefits that all employers in Ontario must provide for their employees:
Employment Insurance (EI) – Both you and your employer must contribute
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) – Both you and your employer must contribute
Workplace Insurance coverage – Your employer will pay for this; requirements and premiums vary based on your specific industry and work environment
Paid Vacation Days
In addition to the above employee benefits, you are also entitled to a minimum of ten paid vacation days per year (except in Saskatchewan, where the number is 15), with an additional nine paid statutory holidays per year. If you’re required to work on a “stat” holiday, you’re entitled to an addition day off in lieu.
Many employers will offer additional vacation days to employees the longer they work for the organization; it is not uncommon to meet an experienced professional who has six weeks of annual paid vacation or more. Some employers will place restrictions on paid holiday days, however, requiring that employees take no more than two weeks of vacation at any one time.
Additional Employee Benefits
While the above benefits are mandated by law, some employers choose to offer employees additional benefits. This enables them to attract the best talent and retain their valuable team members longer.
Some employers will offer:
- Discounted gym memberships
- Contests with lucrative prizes
- Extended health benefits
- Transportation allowances
- A work vehicle
- Free childcare
- Flexible working hours
- A cell phone and mobile service plan
- Annual holiday parties
- Annual financial bonuses
- RRSP matching
- Health saving plans
- Additional educational opportunities
What Are Extended Health Benefits?
All Canadians are entitled to free or heavily subsidized basic health care under their provincial health plan. However, these plans often leave out some important extras, such as vision care, dental care, prescription coverage, massage, acupuncture, counselling sessions, and certain kinds of specialists.
Extended health care coverage is a common employee benefit offered by many employers. It fills the gaps in the provincial plan and can be very valuable for you and your family’s health.
If your employer does not offer extended health coverage, you can purchase this form of insurance independently.
Some Employee Benefits Are Taxable
If you’re lucky enough to be offered some work perks, keep in mind that you might owe additional taxes on them. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) considers certain benefits as a part of your income, and so they’re taxable. Your employer will need to calculate their value correctly and make the correct payroll deductions when generating your annual T4 slip.
A few examples of taxable employee benefits include:
- Company cell phones
- Transit passes or cards
- Company cars
- Free lodging
Unique Employee Benefits
Your workplace will likely not be as creative as the following companies, but it’s fun to check out some of the unique employee benefits they offer:
- Virgin’s Richard Branson offers unlimited vacation time to his employees at a corporate level
- Reebok offers free fitness classes on-site, which fits right in with their fitness brand
- Cameco has a lounge, complete with a nap room for employees to rest and relax
- Molson Coors Canada brews beer in house for employees and offers them tastings!
- Google is known for its extensive perks, including a free balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner every weekday
- Airbnb gives their employees a $2,000 travel stipend each year so that they can experience the good life they sell to others
- Spotify helps their female employees by paying for egg freezing!
Now that we’ve set the bar ridiculously high for your future employer, it’s time to sign off!