Group & Individual Disability Insurance in Canada

Group & Individual Disability Insurance in Canada

March 17, 2022

I also cover this in a YouTube video. Click here to watch!

What is the difference between Group Disability Insurance coverage at your place of work versus an individually-owned Disability Insurance policy? Well, in this blog I’ll be sharing with you the key differences between the two plans, so you can make sure you have all of the important features. 

Now, if something happened to you last night and you couldn’t work today, the question I always ask is… what is going to be your monthly paycheque?

If this happened to you, the best way to address the issue is something called Disability Insurance – it will step in to become your paycheque for the rest of your working life.

With a Group Disability Plan at work, you are limited to the features that have been negotiated by someone in the Human Resources Department or the Benefits Department. Depending on where you work, you might have what are called “Flex Dollars” that you are allowed to use when designing your Benefits package. These Flex Dollars can be used to purchase Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Dental or Medical Plans.

The key mistake I sometimes see people make is that they use some, or all, of their Flex Dollars to pay for their Group Disability Plan. This is such a mistake because if you use your Flex Dollars to pay a portion or all of your Group Disability Plan, and then you go on a disability claim, any money that you receive would be fully taxable as regular employment income. However, if you don’t use any of your Flex Dollars to pay for your Group Disability premiums, and then you go on claim, then any money that you receive would be 100% tax-free money

So this is a huge no-brainer: would you rather have fully taxable income or tax-free money?

Also, if you are an incorporated business owner, you must make sure that you pay for your disability premiums with personal tax dollars, otherwise you would have the same issue of taxable income versus tax-free income if you went on claim.

Both plans usually allow you to add in a Cost-of-Living Allowance – otherwise known as COLA – which means that once you go on claim, your benefits each year would go up by the Cost of Living and would be indexed to inflation. This is good.


HERE’S THE THING: every Group disability plan in Canada has one huge flaw with it – it is called “Own Occupation.” Now, most of you reading this blog probably haven’t read your benefits plan in years, but if you read the fine print in your Group Disability Plan, you will find that if you go on claim, then you have “Own Occupation” for the first two years of your claim. That means that in the first two years of your claim, the insurance company CANNOT make you do any job other than the job that you were doing the day before you became disabled. 

Here’s the catch: in all Group Plans in Canada, after being on claim for two years, your definition of “Own Occupation” changes to “Any Occupation,” and the insurance company can now force you to do “Any Job” that you are able to perform, and with it, any money you make is subtracted off the Disability Benefit that you are receiving.

Here is how we fix that problem with your Group Plan

You can purchase a “cheap and cheerful” Individual Disability Policy, however, I would include a two-year waiting period before the benefit kicks in – so your Group Plan would cover you for the first two years. Then, when the definition changes in the Group Plan, we turn on your Individual Disability Insurance Plan with “Own Occupation” to solve this problem. This turns out to be very cost-effective because of the two-year waiting period.

Only an individual plan can have the following feature: Return of Premium (ROP). I recommend you do a calculation of the cost of this feature versus the payback. This works like clockwork: every 8 years, if you haven’t filed a disability claim, then you get 50% of the premiums back that you paid and you receive this money “tax-free”. So either you get a disability and you receive the monthly benefit, or you get 50% of your money back.

If you are a professional, like a doctor or dentist or you have a university degree or a Masters, then you will qualify for additional discounts on your Individual Disability Insurance.

If you’d like to learn more about Disability Insurance or if you have already decided that you need to get the coverage in place, contact me at the coordinates below to apply to become my client. Thanks for reading and always remember: when we design financial plans for our clients, we make sure that your money outlives you in retirement.

For the best life insurance advice and information, subscribe to my YouTube Channel and hit the notifications bell to be notified when we post new videos.  The channel allows me to share my passion for personal financial planning and I produce content that I would want to watch – and because of that, I promise to give you 110% effort in every video that I make.

By John Moakler, BMath, CFP, CLU

President and Senior Executive Financial Planner

Moakler Wealth Management

1 416 840 8544