As everyone knows, the social assistance system in Ontario has been through several changes in the last year. One change that has affected many people is the Quit\Fired Rule.
The law says that if you quit your job or refuse employment without reasonable cause, or if you are fired due to misconduct, you may be denied Assistance for up to 3 months.
Only single people will be denied assistance for a 3 month period, others will see their Assistance reduced. As this rule uses words such as "misconduct" or "reasonable cause", that are not defined in the General Welfare Assistance Act, it will require several appeals and decisions before the Social Assistance Review Board knows how some situations will be handled.
Until such time, everyone must be careful when a loss of employment might be coming. The General Welfare Assistance Act states that, if you lose your job because of "willful misconduct", you will be then denied welfare. You cannot be denied Welfare if there is no "willful misconduct". In essence, any act that can be seen as deliberate, reckless and/or intentional can be considered misconduct. For example, if you are dismissed due to lateness, that event may not in itself create misconduct. However, if you were given previous warnings about lateness, then it might be considered misconduct.
The other word used is "reasonable cause" in quitting or refusing employment. Again, there are no precedents which state what is considered "reasonable" and what is not. If you are in a situation where you will be quitting or refusing employment, obtain legal advice beforehand, as you may see yourself denied Welfare and/or Employment Insurance (formerly Unemployment Insurance) benefits.
Other legislation has tried to interpret these terms, namely the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Employment Standards Act. However, the Welfare Department and the Social Assistance Review Board are not obligated to follow these interpretations provided in other legislation.
The Unemployment Insurance Act offers some situations where it would be considered reasonable cause to quit or refuse employment. One can argue that, if one legislation considers it a justifiable reason to quit or refuse employment, then the Social Assistance Review Board should follow the same reasoning. The following instances were considered "just cause" for Unemployment Insurance purposes:
- sexual or other harassment;
- obligation to follow a spouse or other dependent child to another residence;
- discrimination on a prohibited ground of discrimination (i.e. race, marital status, gender etc.) within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act;
- working conditions that constitute a danger to health and safety;
- obligation to care for a child or member of the immediate family;
- reasonable assurance of another employment in the immediate future;
- significant modification of terms and conditions respecting wages or salary;
- excessive overtime work or refusal to pay for overtime work;
- significant changes in work duties;
- antagonistic relations between an employee and a supervisor for which the employee is not primarily responsible;
- practices of an employer that are contrary to law;
- discrimination with regard to employment because of membership in an association, organization or union of workers;
- undue pressure by an employer on employees to leave their employment.
Although the Unemployment Insurance Act states that the above situations are considered just cause for leaving employment, it doesn't mean that Welfare will consider them as being reasonable cause. Remember to document every important fact so that, if you are refused Welfare because you refused or quit employment, your situation fits one of the above categories and an appeal to the Social Assistance Review Board will be an easier process.
Should anyone require more information regarding this matter, call West End Legal Services of Ottawa at 596-1641.