Canada's Economic Action Plan

Canada's Economic Action Plan

May 24, 2012 10:42 ET

Connecting Canadians with Available Jobs

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 24, 2012) - The Government is making improvements to Employment Insurance to connect Canadians with available jobs. The announcement was made by the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

"Our Government wants to make Employment Insurance work better for Canadians," said Minister Finley. "Today, we are announcing improvements to EI that will help Canadians who want to work, get back to work."

The improvements will enhance the assistance provided to people collecting EI benefits. Canadians receiving EI benefits will now receive comprehensive job postings on a daily basis from multiple sources. This will ensure that Canadians receiving EI benefits are made aware of the jobs available in their local area.

The improvements include measures to better connect the EI and Temporary Foreign Workers program to ensure Canadians are aware of and can apply for local jobs before employers are approved to hire temporary foreign workers.

The Government will also define suitable employment as well as what constitutes a reasonable job search. This will strengthen the requirements for EI claimants to actively look for and accept all suitable work.

"As Canada faces unprecedented skills shortages, it will be critical to better connect Canadians with available jobs in their local area," added Minister Finley. "Clarifying what is expected of claimants looking for work is just one element of our broader plan to encourage and support Canadians as they seek to return to work. Under our plan, Canadians will always benefit financially from accepting suitable employment."

"It is important that we make changes now to ensure the EI program is working most effectively for Canada and Canadians," concluded Minister Finley.

Economic Action Plan 2012 announced additional measures that strengthen work incentives, such as enhancing the "working while on claim" provision and adopting a national "best weeks" approach to calculating a claimant's weekly EI benefit amount to better reflect local labour market conditions. More information is available at www.actionplan.gc.ca.

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This news release is available online at: www.actionplan.gc.ca.

BACKGROUNDER

Through Economic Action Plan 2012 (EAP 2012), the Government of Canada is making significant improvements to better connect unemployed Canadians with job opportunities in their local area.

Part of this plan includes clear expectations of Canadians who are claiming EI while they search for work. This includes clarifying the definition of suitable employment and what constitutes a reasonable job search.

Under the existing EI Act, Canadians who are collecting EI are required to look for work. The current legislation lacks clarity with respect to what constitutes suitable employment and a reasonable job search. The Employment Insurance Act states that claimants are obligated to search for and accept suitable employment but does not define the term. The Act only defines what is "not suitable employment".

As indicated in Bill C-38 - Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, it is the Government's intention to implement clear definitions for "suitable employment" and "reasonable job search." Should the Jobs, Growth, and Long-term Prosperity Act receive Royal Assent, the Government will define both in new regulations as outlined below.

PLEASE NOTE: These improvements only apply to Canadians receiving regular and fishing EI benefits. They do not apply to Canadians receiving EI special benefits (maternity, parental, compassionate, and sick leave).

Suitable Employment

Several factors will determine the definition for suitable employment. These factors include:

  • Personal circumstances - the personal circumstances of a Canadian receiving EI benefits will be taken into consideration when determining what is considered suitable employment. A person receiving EI will not have to accept work if:
    • they have a health problem that prevents them from taking a particular job;
    • they have family obligations that prevent them from working at certain times of the day;
    • they have limited transportation options in terms of commuting to and from work; or
    • they are not physically capable of performing the work.
  • Working conditions (i.e., position offered is not vacant due directly to a strike, lockout or other labour dispute);
  • Hours of work (i.e., all available hours of work, including hours per day and available outside the previous work schedule, are deemed to be suitable for employment)
  • Commuting time (i.e., workplace is within a one hour commute - could be higher taking into account previous commuting history and community's average commuting time).

There are two additional criteria that will determine the definition for suitable employment. These will vary based on the claimant's EI history and the duration of the claim. They are:

  • type of work (responsibilities, tasks, qualifications, experience); and
  • wages

In determining these criteria, EI claimants will be placed in one of three categories:

  • Long-tenured workers would be those who have paid into the EI system for the past 7 of 10 years and who, over the last 5 years, have collected EI regular or fishing benefits for 35 weeks or less.
  • Frequent claimants would be those who have had three or more claims for regular or fishing benefits and collected benefits for a total of more than 60 weeks in the past five years.
  • Occasional claimants would be all other claimants.

Long-tenured workers

The group of long-tenured workers would include claimants who have paid into the EI system for the past 7 of 10 years and over the last 5 years have received 35 or fewer weeks of EI regular/fishing benefits.

Long-tenured workers would be required to expand the scope of their job search the longer they receive EI benefits. However, long-tenured workers would be provided with significantly more time to search for a job within their usual occupation and at a similar wage (starting at 90% of previous hourly wage). After 18 weeks on EI benefits, long-tenured workers would be required to expand their job search to jobs similar to the job they normal perform and to accept wages starting at 80% of their previous hourly wage.

Frequent Claimants

The group of frequent claimants would include claimants who had three or more regular and/or fishing claims and received over 60 weeks of regular and/or fishing benefits in the past 5 years.

Frequent claimants would be required to expand their job search to jobs similar to the job they normal perform at the onset of their EI claim (1-6 weeks) and accept wages starting at 80% of their previous hourly wage. After receiving benefits for seven weeks, they would be required to accept any work they are qualified to perform (with on the job training, if required) and to accept wages starting at 70% of their previous hourly wage.

Occasional Claimants

The group of occasional claimants would include all claimants not captured by the definitions of frequent and long-tenured worker claimants. These claimants have limited experience of being unemployed and looking for work.

Occasional claimants would be allowed to limit their job search to their usual occupation and wage (at least 90% of previous hourly wage) for the first 6 weeks of their claim. After receiving benefits for seven weeks, they would be required to expand their job search to jobs similar to the job they normally perform with wages at 80% of previous earnings. After 18 weeks, they would be required to further expand their job search to include any work that they are qualified to perform (with on the job training, if required) and to accept wages starting at 70% of their previous earnings but not lower than the prevailing minimum wage.

Reasonable job search

The Government is providing clarity on what constitutes a reasonable job search. EI claimants' job search efforts would be assessed based on the following criteria:

Job search and employability activities - Canadians receiving EI benefits will be required to complete the following job search activities while collecting benefits:

  • Researching and assessing job prospects;
  • Preparing for job application (preparing resume);
  • Searching for job vacancies;
  • Applying for positions;
  • Attending interviews; and
  • Other efforts to improve employability (workshops, employment agencies, job fairs, networking, etc.).

Intensity of job search effort - Canadians receiving EI benefits will be required to look for a job every day they receive benefits. The frequency of their job search and the diversity of the search should be consistent with the opportunities available. For example, in a city or community with few job openings or opportunities, the job search should focus on identifying opportunities (i.e., researching and searching) and not applying to the same job or business every day. In comparison, a job search in an area with numerous job opportunities should focus on both identifying and applying for available positions.

Type of work being sought - when looking for work, the work being sought by a Canadian receiving EI benefits will have to align with the definition of suitable employment.

Evidence of job search efforts - Canadians receiving EI benefits would be required to keep a record of their job search activities and submit, when requested, evidence supporting all job search activities undertaken.

EI claimants who do not comply with job search requirements risk losing their benefits until such time as they comply.

Annex A: Suitable Employment is available at the following link: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/AnnexA_0524.pdf.

BACKGROUNDER

Connecting Canadians with Available Jobs

To support economic growth and face the challenges associated with an aging population and growing international competition for skilled workers, we need to better connect Canadian workers with available jobs.

Skills and labour shortages are already occurring across the country. According to Statistics Canada's Job Vacancy Survey, there were approximately 248 000 unfilled jobs across Canada in fall 2011.

Canadians want to work. But some of them face challenges in finding suitable work, including: not knowing where or how to find available jobs; not being aware that their skills match needs in another industry or occupation; and not understanding or knowing about the supports available to help them in their job search.

To support economic and social prosperity, the Government will encourage and support Canadians to stay active in the job market—either working or looking for work.

Job Alerts

Currently, through Job Alerts, people on EI receive up to three job postings when they apply and complete their online report every two weeks. However, many claimants do not receive any listings because Job Bank is the only source of postings being used and carries approximately one in five jobs advertised online in Canada. This is not as efficient or effective as it could be.

The Government believes it is important to provide Canadians who want to work with help in getting back to work. That is why we intend to improve the system and send job postings twice a day to Canadians receiving EI benefits for their chosen occupation. These job postings will come from a broader range of sources, including from private-sector job boards.

This new Job Alert system will send job postings to Canadians receiving EI benefits from their chosen occupation as well as related occupational sectors.

While Canadians receiving EI benefits would not be required to accept available work outside a reasonable commuting distance, job postings from different regions will be sent to them each day so they were aware of all available work in their chosen (or related) occupation across Canada.

The new system will also include labour market information on the demands and current wage rates of selected occupations and related jobs. Having access to this type of information will allow Canadians receiving EI benefits to make informed decisions about how best to conduct or expand their job search.

BACKGROUNDER

Hiring Canadians First

There is significant evidence to suggest that some employers are hiring temporary foreign workers (TFWs) while Canadians/permanent residents are making claims for Employment Insurance (EI) in the same occupation and province.

The Government will introduce coordination between the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the EI program to better connect unemployed Canadians with available jobs, in their local area.

Creating a link between the EI program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will help make local and qualified Canadian workers better aware of job opportunities through the Job Alert System, while ensuring temporary foreign workers are employed where they are most needed.

Canadians should have the opportunity to access these jobs before employers turn to temporary foreign workers.

For example:

  • In January 2012, Albertan employers received positive confirmation for 1 261 TFW positions for food counter attendants. At the same time, nearly 350 people made a claim for EI who had cited significant experience in the same occupation and province.
  • Furthermore, over 2 200 general farm workers in Ontario submitted claims for EI in the same month, while employers received approval to hire over 1 500 foreign nationals for the same occupation.
  • Finally, on the East Coast, in January 2012, Prince Edward Island collected 294 claims for EI from out-of-work fish plant workers, while 60 TFWs were approved to enter the province to work in the same occupation.

Top Five Occupations (EI Claims/TFW Positions) by Province (Jan 2012)

Newfoundland
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
6242- Cooks1,24721
6661- Light Duty Cleaners83816
6453- Food and Beverage Servers65822
6641- Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Occupations46114
3112- General Practitioners and Family Physicians186
Prince Edward Island
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
7411- Truck Drivers5444
6242- Cooks3094
9463- Fish Plant Workers29460
6471- Visiting Homemakers, Housekeepers and Related Occupations14710
8611- Harvesting Labourers1333
Nova Scotia
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
6242- Cooks1,10034
8431- General Farm Workers90433
6641- Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Occupations58114
2232- Mechanical Engineering Technologists and Technicians2415
5133- Musicians and Singers1615
New Brunswick
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
9463- Fish Plant Workers2,444210
7411- Truck Drivers2,33112
6242- Cooks1,1679
6641- Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Occupations71725
5133- Musicians and Singers158
Quebec
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
8431- General Farm Workers3,31262
8611- Harvesting Labourers355152
6474- Babysitters, Nannies and Parents' Helpers27859
5231- Announcers and Other Broadcasters5839
5232- Other Performers2027
Ontario
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
8431- General Farm Workers2,2181,514
6474- Babysitters, Nannies and Parents' Helpers648668
8432- Nursery and Greenhouse Workers411768
2243- Industrial Instrument Technicians and Mechanics8681
5232- Other Performers1398
Manitoba
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
8431- General Farm Workers47449
8432- Nursery and Greenhouse Workers4218
6212- Food Service Supervisors2324
8253- Farm Supervisors and Specialized Livestock Workers2217
6474- Babysitters, Nannies and Parents' Helpers1710
Saskatchewan
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
8431- General Farm Workers841117
7271- Carpenters49053
7265- Welders and Related Machine Operators139115
6641- Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Occupations96112
7312- Heavy-Duty Equipment Mechanics81186
Alberta
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
6242- Cooks597446
6641- Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Occupations3471,261
6661- Light Duty Cleaners292289
6474- Babysitters, Nannies and Parents' Helpers171356
6212- Food Service Supervisors42352
British Columbia
National Occupational ClassifcationEI ClaimsTFW Positions
8431- General Farm Workers5,718176
6242- Cooks1,884115
8611- Harvesting Labourers5152,349
7252- Steamfitters, Pipefitters and Sprinkler System Installers456150
6474- Babysitters, Nannies and Parents' Helpers322312

Source: Foreign Worker System (2012); Employment Insurance Administrative Data (2012)

BACKGROUNDER

Recent Improvements to Employment Insurance

The Employment Insurance (EI) program is Canada's largest labour market program and plays an important role in helping workers adjust to labour market changes and balance work and family responsibilities.

The EI program provides temporary financial assistance to unemployed Canadians who have lost their job through no fault of their own, while they look for work or upgrade their skills. It also provides temporary income support to those who cannot work for reasons such as sickness or childbirth.

The Government of Canada is making improvements to EI to ensure that it remains fair, flexible and responsive to the evolving needs of Canadians. Some examples of recent changes follow.

Supporting workers and the labour market

  • Economic Action Plan 2012 announced a new national EI pilot project that will ensure claimants benefit from accepting more work while on EI. Effective August 5, 2012, the new Working While on Claim pilot project will cut the current EI clawback rate in half (to 50 percent of earnings) and apply it to all earnings while on claim. As claimants search for permanent employment, this new pilot will increase the benefit from accepting all available work by allowing them to keep more of what they earn while on EI. Previously, only a portion of earnings were exempt from the clawback; once this exemption was passed, EI benefits were clawed back dollar for dollar. The practical result of this policy was that claimants reduced their labour force attachment by turning down work that exceeded this exemption.

Ensuring the EI program remains fair

  • As announced in Economic Action Plan 2012, we are introducing a new, permanent national approach to better align the calculation of the weekly amount an EI claimant receives with their regional labour market conditions. The amount of a claimant's weekly benefits will be determined using an average of their 'best weeks' of employment. In higher unemployment regions fewer best weeks will be used in this calculation, making it more beneficial for workers to accept all available work in slower seasons of employment. By replacing a selective pilot in 25 regions with a national program, we will ensure fairness and flexibility so that those living in regions with similar labour market conditions will receive similar benefits. EI rules currently in effect will continue to apply until the new measure is implemented on April 7, 2013, subject to approval by Parliament. As a result, the Best 14 Weeks pilot project will be extended to April 6, 2013, in the current 25 participating EI regions.

Supporting parents and families

  • Self-employed Canadians can now opt into the EI program to receive maternity and parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits. Previously, the self-employed had little or no income protection to help them cope with major life events, such as giving birth, caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, being sick or injured or caring for a gravely ill family member.
  • Foster parents who have made a verifiable commitment to adopting a foster child in their care now have earlier access to EI parental benefits.
  • Outside of the EI program, the Government provides assistance to parents through the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit. Effective January 1, 2013, a new Federal Income Support for Parents of Murdered or Missing Children will provide a payment of $350 per week for up to 35 weeks to eligible parents of murdered or missing children who are struggling to cope with the death or disappearance of a child as a result of a Criminal Code offence.

Contact Information

  • Alyson Queen
    Office of Minister Finley
    819-994-2482

    Media Relations Office
    Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
    819-994-5559