Kudrinko’s finds benefits in inclusiveness

March 31, 2022

Kudrinko’s is a welcoming and affirming place – that’s the message independent grocery store owner, Neil Kudrinko, is prioritizing this spring.

The Westport, Ontario grocer recently ensured that his business’ newly-negotiated benefits plan under Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Sun Life) includes gender affirmation coverage for his employees. The store is one of the first independent grocers in the province to take that inclusive step.

Kudrinko has been learning about some of the barriers and challenges under OHIP for folks who are transitioning or non-binary, and noted that the government does not pay for all surgeries. Gender affirmation procedures and hormone therapies can help a person to align their body with their gender identity. However, some of these are not covered by public health care.

Experts in the medical community agree that these surgeries are life-saving for some people. Couple that with the direct access to counselling that Kudrinko had in place for his employees throughout the pandemic, as well as in their newly added Employee Assistance Program, and it’s clear Kudrinko values staff wellbeing.

Sun Life began offering gender affirmation coverage through Extended Health Care plans in 2019, to help people transitioning embody their authentic selves. Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing insurance, wealth and asset management solutions to individual and corporate clients. 

While he doesn’t anticipate any of his employees accessing the program at this time, Kudrinko feels it’s an important step towards bridging the gap between OHIP and the needs of many in the trans community. “If nothing else, our support of the program signals to the business community that we have an obligation to consider the needs of trans people,” Kudrinko said.

Alex Bailey, Head of Operations with Baicorp Financial Inc., negotiated the new benefit agreement for Kudrinko’s. The agreement not only provided Kudrinko with significant savings but also a large array of enhancements, certainly a positive change for the staff. Bailey said in his experience, this was the only company outside of the tech/consulting industry for which they have provided the consulting for such coverage.

Included in the core coverage are surgical procedures not covered under the provincial health care plan, for example, the reduction of an Adam’s apple or voice surgery. The enhanced benefits provide additional coverage for surgical procedures to align physical features with gender identity, such as facial bone reduction or cheek augmentation.

Bailey said Kudrinko’s commitment is fantastic and sends a positive message to the community. “We need companies like Neil’s which believe in providing a full program for their staff without the immediate expectation of utilization,” he said. “This is how we build a safe and strong pool where this benefit is affordable for all organizations.”

He went on to say that companies should look to provide a safe working environment for their employees, noting that mental health and gender affirmation supports can go miles in assisting staff members on a very tough and long journey.

In a previous press release distributed when Sun Life started offering the coverage, Dave Jones, President, Sun Life Health stated, “When it comes to health and wellness, we understand that no two needs are the same, which is why we continue to evolve and diversify our health benefit plans, helping to meet the needs of all Canadians… Having additional support through gender affirmation can make a meaningful difference and help plan members live happier and healthier lives.”

Kudrinko agreed, saying it’s a priority for his company to have supports like this in place. “The fact that we were able to negotiate a plan with Sun Life that is affordable to our members and that co-exists with our values is exciting,” he said.


For more information, please contact:
Neil Kudrinko, President, 613.273.2130 or neil@kudrinkos.ca