Canada: Market Guide for Employee Benefits Practitioners

Expanding a business into a foreign country can be a daunting task. There are a countless number of things to take into consideration and an unending supply of decisions that will need to be made during the process. Some of these decisions will need to include the types of employee benefits that will be offered to employees in the new country. As one of the largest budget categories of any business, and one of the key factors in attracting and retaining new talent, it is vital not to overlook the importance of employee benefits when expanding internationally.

The following market guide is intended to provide some basic information regarding the current state of the employee benefits market in one of the 56 countries that Asinta Partners are located in around the world. This month’s pick is Canada, home of Asinta’s Partner, The Williamson GroupA Cowan Company.

Canada By the Numbers

  • Population:  36 Million (, 2016)
  • GDP Rank (2015): 10th Worldwide  (World Development Indicators, World Bank, 2016)
  • Total Land Area: 9,071,595 square Km (3,502,561 square miles) (, 2016)
  • 81.7% of the population lives in urban areas (, 2016)
  • Median Age: 40.8 years (, 2016)
  • GDP Growth Rate (2015): 2.4% (Forbes, 2015)
  • Forbes Best Countries for Business Rank: 7th Worldwide (Forbes, 2015)

Typical Employee Benefits Offered in Canada

The type of employee benefits offered within Canada vary by industry, employee make-up (executives versus administration, for example), and employee group size (regardless of industry).  A typical employee benefits plan for a startup company in Canada usually includes life insurance, AD&D Insurance, Dependent Life Insurance, and Long Term Disability, with options for extended health care and dental care.

Getting Established

The first step to becoming an established business in Canada is to create a legal entity under Canadian law. As with any other country, there are a number of different legal entities that the business may take in Canada. Options include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited or incorporated companies and co-operatives.  Hiring a lawyer who is experienced in companies establishing an international presence in Canada to help accomplish this step properly from the start is highly recommended.

Want more information? Check out this article from the Canada Business Network.

Need Employees? Put Employee Benefits First

Once the business is established legally, it’s time to start considering the number of employees that will be hired and what level of employee benefits will be offered. It is common for employers in Canada to provide their employees with group benefits for the attraction and retention of employees and as a part of their overall compensation package. According to Jacquie Fritsch, Asinta Partner in Canada with The Williamson Group – A Cowan Company (TWG), “Over 85% of employers in Canada offer a full group benefit package, including life, disability, extended health and dental.”

Employee Benefits in Canada for Small Businesses (less than 10 employees)

It’s important to remember that even businesses planning to hire a small number of employees in Canada still need to offer their employees a competitive benefits package.  Businesses with only one employee in Canada commonly offer their employee either a monthly stipend for self-procured benefits of approximately $500 CDN per month. Such a monthly stipend is taxable to the employee. A second option commonly found in such situations include a gross salary increase to compensate for the additional cost by the employee. These options can be cumbersome when you’ve hired multiple employees and want to combine them into an employer sponsored group program because each employee will have already chosen a different level of coverage for themselves.

For this reason, Asinta’s Partner in Canada, The Williamson Group – A Cowan Company, recommends that employers expanding into Canada with one employee begin by offering their employee a three month waiting period for benefits. This gives the employer time to hire their second and/or third employees. At this level, no medical underwriting is required, costs are less with a group plan, employees are treated equally, and administration of the benefits is easier for the employer. According to Fritsch, “There are limitations with small groups (fewer than 10 employees) as to the carriers that will offer benefits and the benefit limits that you would like to offer. This being said, there are carriers that would like to set up group benefits packages with 1-2 employees to start.”

Employee Benefits in Canada for Medium to Large Companies

Companies with more than 10 employees will typically have more flexibility in the number of carriers who will be willing to provide benefits to their employees. Some of these carriers will be willing to offer low cost or pre-packaged benefits plans that may be tempting to agree to. While choosing such a plan may save some time in the beginning, it will likely end up causing more problems in the long term. It is highly recommended for any sized company to sit down with a benefits advisor who is willing to listen to what their business really needs in terms of its employees. A good advisor will then help to build a customized benefits plan that will be cost-effective while helping the business to draw in and retain happy, healthy employees.

The Williamson Group – A Cowan Company: Experts on Employee Benefits in Canada

Expanding your company into Canada is a big step, but it isn’t one that you need to walk alone. Asinta’s Partner in Canada has nearly 40 years of success designing and implementing comprehensive and cost-effective benefit programs for their clients, as well as providing individual financial services to business owners and their top executives. TWG also offers third party Human Resource services and disability programs aimed at bringing employees back to work in the safest and most timely way possible.

Not only are they experts in Canada, but they are also experts at working with companies based outside of Canada who are looking to expand into the Canadian market. Through their Partnership with Asinta, TWG’s Jackie Fritsch, regularly helps international companies get started right in Canada. She’ll give you professional, personalized service that is geared specifically for you and your company. Once your company is a success in Canada, she’ll even be able to refer you to the local expert in any of the 56 countries worldwide that she is Partnered with through Asinta, when you are considering your next international expansion.

You can contact Jacquie today via her contact page.

You can also read this case study to learn more about how Jacquie was able to help a new client turn their employee benefits program around in just 10 business days.