Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles
Chapter 10 - Section 5

10.5.0 Earnings

The legislation requires that all claimants who are claiming regular benefits prove that they are available for work and unable to obtain suitable employment, and that they are making reasonable and customary efforts to obtain suitable employment. Claimants have always been expected to broaden their willingness to seek and accept less favourable levels of earnings as the length of their unemployment increases.

A claimant may restrict to a wage rate for a specific type of employment in which there is a very limited possibility of obtaining. In this case, it is important to obtain information concerning the prevailing rates of pay in the area where work is being sought, as well as concerning the occupation the claimant is prepared to accept.

If a claimant restricts their availability for work to a level of earnings that is not within the prevailing wage rate in the claimant’s area of work, for the type of work being sought, they will be disentitled from regular benefits until those requirements are met if:

  1. this is a restriction and not just a preference (Digest 10.4.4 "Voluntary restrictions");
  2. they have been warned that such a restriction is unacceptable (Digest 10.4.2 "Warnings to claimants").
  3. They are unwilling to change their expectations.

10.5.1 Preferences, restrictions and warnings

One should avoid drawing hasty conclusions from an answer to a question regarding the level of earnings a claimant is prepared to accept. In response to such a question, a claimant will naturally respond by specifying earnings that are consistent with or close to past experience and qualifications. This does not necessarily mean that the claimant is imposing an absolute restriction and will not accept anything less (Digest 10.4.4 "Voluntary restrictions"). It is quite normal for a person to look for gainful employment and start with high expectations, leaving room for later concessions.

Similarly, in an effort to reply to direct and specific questions on a form or questionnaire, or to give the information within the limited space provided, a person may not have had the opportunity to clarify what appears to be a somewhat definite and categorical answer.

Personal efforts made to obtain employment at a lower level of earnings, or the acceptance of employment at a lower level, may be an indication that the level originally specified was a preference rather than a restriction.

As indicated in Section 10.4.3 of this Digest, the Commission will continue its long-standing practice of warning claimants whose availability may be restricted in some way. The claimant will be advised of the specific periods of time during which they may restrict their expectations, and that once that period ends, they will be expected to remove their restrictions. At that time, if they do not comply, they will be disentitled from benefits.

10.5.2 Extreme Restrictions

Bearing in mind that the unemployment insurance plan is designed to compensate workers who are involuntarily unemployed, it is not reasonable for a claimant to expect to collect benefits while restricting their availability to only jobs that offer higher wages than those received in the past. Such a demand not only severely reduces chances of re-employment in the near future but, in addition, strongly indicates a lack of sincere interest on the part of the individual, in bringing the period of unemployment to an end.

Once the claimant has had a reasonable period of time within which to explore the chances of obtaining employment, the continued insistence on a rate of pay as high as that paid at the last employment will generally be considered as illegitimate. Similarly, a restriction to a rate of pay which is lower, but still high enough to make the short-term prospects of re-employment unlikely, is also an undue restriction.

10.5.3 Exceptions

In certain l situations, no period of time should be allowed to explore the chances of obtaining employment at a rate of pay equal to that received at the last employment. This happens in cases where it is clear there exists no possibility of obtaining that wage with other employers. In fact, a restriction to a rate of pay which one has no reasonable hope of obtaining is tantamount to saying one does not wish to work. In these cases, a disentitlement would be imposed from the start date of the benefit period, if the claimant was not willing to remove the restriction.

For examples where restricting to an individual’s previous wage; individual left employment in an industrial city to move to an area where the wage rates are much lower:, retired from employment which paid the highest rates in the area;, employment following seasonal employment at a rate which they have no chance of obtaining during the off-season;left highly paid employment in a line of work so rare that there are no other such opportunities in the area.

10.5.4 Less favourable financial situation

A claimant is not expected to seek and accept employment if, by accepting the offered earnings, they are placed in a less favourable financial situation than the lesser of, their financial situation while receiving benefits, or that which they were in during their qualifying period.

For example, and taking into account the claimant’s EI benefits including any working while on claim earnings provisions, otherwise suitable employment is not suitable and does not have to be sought or accepted, if the intermittent and part-time nature of the employment means that on-going transportation and child care expenses are so high that the claimant would be put in a less favourable financial situation by accepting the employment Digest 9.4.7 "Less favourable financial situation".

If a claimant is restricting their availability for work to a level of earnings that exceeds the legislative definition of suitable employment, they will be disentitled from regular benefits until they meet those requirements, if:

  • this is a restriction and not just a preference;
  • the restriction does not put them in a "less favourable financial situation"; and
  • they have been warned that such a restriction is unacceptable.

July 2016 ]
January 2014 ]

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