Controversial new Employment Insurance rules aimed at urging unemployed Canadians to look harder and further for available jobs will take effect Jan. 6, despite concern the changes will be particularly hard on seasonal workers.
Human Resources minister Diane Finley issued a news release Thursday that outlines details around Ottawa's new definitions of a "reasonable" job search and "suitable" employment.
The government first signalled the changes deep inside its first omnibus budget bill in the spring of 2012. The lack of clarity around the changes prompted widespread concern and the minister ultimately decided to offer more detail around the government's plans.
The rules will replace the current one-size-fits-all EI rules with a three tiered system. "Long-tenured workers" would be given more time to hunt for a new job in their field, "occasional claimants" would have less time and "frequent" claimants would be expected to quickly accept any available work.
The government's news release said these changes have been approved through regulation, however the detailed regulations had not yet been posted online at the time the news release was distributed.
The release states that suitable employment will take into account personal circumstances like health, the working conditions offered by an employer and the number of available hours.
Acceptable one-way commuting times are defined as one hour each way and "could be higher taking into account previous commuting history and community's average commuting time."
In an interview, Ms. Finley said public servants in her department will have the authority to make common sense decisions.
"It's only a guideline and it will vary according to personal circumstances," she said of the commute times. "For example, if somebody is looking at a job for minimum wage in a town 20 miles away in a rural area where there is no public transit and they don't have a car, that wouldn't be reasonable because they'd have to pay for a cab and they'd end up being worse off than not working or being on EI. It's all based on common sense."