July 15, 2012
The federal government’s amendments to Employment Insurance will take effect in early 2013.

Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Diane Finley, announced the changes are intended to advance the Canadians First policy initiative to the Employment Insurance (EI) program, to connect Canadians with existing jobs.

The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) prepared a press release, noting that at this time the exact impact and implementation of the changes are unknown.

Some members say seasonal businesses will suffer with the new rules, resulting in the loss of good employees. Green industry business owners feel that the new rules will result in constantly retraining new employees, taking a heavy toll on finances and business opportunities. “Our climate dictates the seasonality of our industry, not our lack of willingness to work in our chosen careers,” said one owner.

Items identified by CNLA as areas of potential interest for the green industry include:
The delay or loss of seasonal agricultural or temporary foreign workers. CNLA says, “We believe this is unlikely, given the distance and wage criteria for postings. The greater concern is delay in receiving positive Labour Market Opinions and thus filling the positions.”

Repeat users of EI are going to face additional pressure to find alternate employment. They will be required to take jobs at 70 per cent of former wage, as early as six weeks after starting EI.

Reductions in the claw-back amount to 50 per cent of earnings will apply against EI claims. This helps reduce the disincentive to work by allowing workers on EI to keep more of what they earn for casual labour.

Personal circumstances will be taken into consideration when determining what is considered suitable employment. A person receiving EI will not have to accept work if he has a health problem that prevents him from taking a particular job, family obligations prevent him from working at certain times of the day, there are limited transportation options in terms of commuting to and from work, or he is not physically capable of performing the work.

Turning down a job that is considered suitable could result in EI benefits being discontinued.

Applicants will be filed into one of three categories. These include frequent claimants, occasional claimants and long-tenured workers.

Seasonal workers fall under the frequent claimants’ category. This includes anyone who has filed three or more EI claims in the past five years. Under the new rules, right away claimants will be required to take any work that is a “similar occupation” to their old job and pays 80 per cent of their previous earnings. After six weeks, the EI claimant must take any job at 70 per cent of his previous earnings

Under Occasional Claimants, seasonal workers are those averaging seven weeks a year on EI. This includes people who don’t go on EI enough to be considered frequent claimants, but also who haven’t worked steadily enough to be long-tenured workers.

In this category, for the first six weeks of receiving EI, claimants will be required to take a job in their same occupation, if it pays at least 90 per cent of their previous earnings. After six weeks, they will be required to take a job in a similar occupation that pays 80 per cent of their previous wage.

After 18 weeks they must take any work at 70 per cent of their previous earnings.

Long-tenured workers must work for seven of the past 10 years while paying at least 30 per cent of maximum EI payments and have received no more than 35 weeks of EI over the past five years. These claimants will have 18 weeks to find a job in their existing occupation that pays at least 90 per cent of their previous earnings. After 18 weeks they must move to a similar occupation that pays 80 per cent of previous earnings

Any questions or comments may be directed to Joel Beatson at the CNLA office, 1-888-446-3499, ext. 8610, or joel@canadanursery.com.