Insurance: What you need to know
The Alberta Human Rights Act protects members of the public against discrimination in insurance. The AHR Act does not protect against poor treatment or bad service, unless it flows from a protected ground of discrimination such race or family status. Read about protected areas and grounds.
Examples of discrimination covered by the AHR Act:
- denial of home insurance based on gender or family status
- denial of spousal insurance coverage to same-sex couples
Examples of issues not covered by the AHR Act:
- denial of insurance based on age
- different premium rates based on risk assessment
Insurance providers are responsible for ensuring that their services do not discriminate against members of the public based on any of the protected grounds. To meet this obligation, insurance providers need to review their services regularly to identify and eliminate any potentially discriminatory aspects of their service. For example, an insurance provider might review its process for accepting new clients to identify any discriminatory effect based on a protected ground such race or family status.
If an insurance provider has a requirement that would discriminate against people based on a protected ground like sexual orientation or physical disability, it has a duty to accommodate affected individuals to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation means making changes to any rules, standards, policies or physical environments to ensure that they don't have a negative effect on anyone based on any protected ground. For example, an insurance provider that refuses to provide insurance to people with AIDS discriminates against those clients based on physical disability. The insurance provider could accommodate these clients by providing them with insurance at a higher rate to cover the additional risk posed by AIDS, or in the case of an insurance agent, finding alternative policies.
Individuals who require accommodation based on a protected ground have a responsibility to inform the insurance provider of their needs. Doing so gives the insurance provider the opportunity to make any changes necessary to accommodate the individual making the request, as well as anyone else with the same or similar needs. For more information about the duty to accommodate, see the Commission interpretive bulletin Duty to accommodate.
In some circumstances, discrimination may be reasonable and justifiable. A service provider may refuse to offer services to some people based on one or more protected characteristics if providing the service would be an undue hardship. For example, an insurance provider may charge higher premiums for life insurance to clients in poor health.
Reviewed: February 4, 2010
The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.
Due to confidentiality concerns, the Commission cannot reply to complaints of discrimination by email. Please contact the Commission by phone or regular mail if you have a specific complaint.
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