In March we announced the launch of a new blog series that’ll be unfolding over the next few months. Our goal for this series is to highlight the ways in which women in the workforce can be negatively impacted by employee health plans. In order to have fair and gender-neutral compensation packages, employers must consider all aspects of compensation – not just take-home pay.

Cost containment

Employee benefits can be expensive. To offset costs, plan sponsors will sometimes choose to offer benefits plans where costs are shared with their employees. That being said, those who offer employee benefits plans should consider how they choose to implement cost-share with their employees. While there is an upside to using a cost-share method, it could also unintentionally further marginalize female employees. This is particularly rooted in the fact that on average, women tend to be paid less than their male counterparts.

It’s been documented that there is a significant wage gap between men and women. In 2015, Canadian women were receiving 87 cents for every dollar that Canadian men earned.

Now, let’s crunch the numbers to see how this increase stacks up against inflation.

  • In 1981, the Consumer Pricing Index (CPI) was 12.12%, compared to the CPI in 2015 which was 1.61%
  • This means that in 1981 the CPI was 144.21% higher than in 2015, giving the dollar in 1981 significantly more purchasing power
  • The dollar in 1981 would cost $2.44 in 2015

So, raising pay by 0.38% annually is clearly ineffective when it comes to closing the gender pay gap.

Ditch and switch?

Not necessarily. Cost-sharing is a great cost management strategy. However, when implementing such a provision, plan sponsors should consider how it could impact their most vulnerable employees. As financial burdens increase, the temptation to avoid seeking medical attention could become more present as well. Especially when a part of those medical costs is coming out of a smaller pocket. The good news is that in October 2018, the Federal government announced the introduction of proactive pay equity legislation – Act to Establish a Proactive Pay Equity Regime within the Federal Public and Private Sectors (Pay Equity Act). This will challenge employers and hold them accountable to examine their compensation practices (benefits included) while ensuring that women are in fact receiving equal pay for equal work.

Want to make sure your employees are equally experiencing your benefits plans? Start by levelling out the playing field. And be sure to follow our next posts on out-of-pocket expenses and coverage level differences.



1. Rio political declaration on social determinants of health. World health organization. Retrieved on March 18, 2019 from

2. Canadian Inflation Rate, CA$1 in 1981 to 2015. CPI Inflation Calculator. Retrieved on April 17, 2019 from

3. Number of women in senior management falls in Canada, rises in Europe. News wire. Retrieved on March 18, 2019 from

4. Government of Canada introduces historic proactive pay equity legislation. Employment and Social Development Canada. Retrieved on April 10, 2019 from

5. Pros and Cons of High Cost Sharing for Employer Health Plans. Health payer intelligence. Retrieved on April 10, 2019 from