Digest of Benefit Entitlement Principles Chapter 10 - Section 9

10.9.0 Daily commuting time

In most employer-employee relationships, transportation to the place of employment is the responsibility of the employee. In order to maintain their employment, employees must not only make and pay for those arrangements, but in some cases, may have lengthy daily commute times to work. Claimants anxious to return to the labour market are expected to make arrangements that would allow them to commute to places of suitable employment on a daily basis, and be willing to undertake similar lengthy daily commute times as they previously had, or that are common within their community, if necessary.

10.9.1 Urban communities

In metropolitan centres, a fair number of employment opportunities are located in the downtown area. Therefore, chances of obtaining employment in the short term may be largely reduced if a claimant is not prepared to accept a reasonable travel time from home to the core of the city. Unless unavoidable circumstances make it impossible for a claimant to commute to a potential work location, their unwillingness to accept work downtown may raise doubt as to their sincere desire to obtain work.

On the other hand, suburban areas may also offer many employment opportunities. In cases where claimants restrict their willingness to accept work to a specific area of the city, a determination must be made regarding the extent to which the likelihood of obtaining employment is reduced (CUB 46313, CUB 57048).

A reasonable period of time to find work may be allowed to claimants who are initially restricting their job search efforts or availability to the type of work, wages and other conditions of their previous employment, including commuting time. This will depend on the claimant's occupation and whether they have a reasonable chance of finding work within their restrictions. Whether the claimant would be willing to remove their restrictions at the end of a reasonable period of time would also be a factor in determining whether a reasonable period of time should be granted at all (CUB 75112). At the end of a reasonable period of time, if allowed, claimants will be required to lower their expectations or they could be disentitled from further benefits.

Even claimants whose recent employment was in the downtown area, and who no longer wish to accept work in that specific area may be allowed a reasonable period to look for work in other parts of the city. A reasonable period of time to exclude employment in the downtown core or to restrict their job search efforts or availability to the type of work, wages and other conditions of their previous employment will not be granted if there are no suitable employment opportunities in the part of the city in which the claimant is seeking work.

An unwillingness to consider employment opportunities outside the greater area of the city or in the surrounding communities is a restriction. However, as long as the claimant has a realistic chance of finding employment within their restrictions a reasonable period of time will be allowed. The inability to find work after a lengthy period of unemployment, in an occupation in which there are many opportunities, may be an indication that the claimant has either imposed restrictions which negate the chances of obtaining such work, or is not making sufficient efforts to find work.

Claimants who reside in neighboring communities are expected to make themselves available for work in the city, and be prepared to commute daily according to the normal methods of commuting within their community. It is the responsibility of those who do not have access to a car or to public transportation to attempt to arrange transportation that would allow them to accept suitable employment in an area within a normal commuting distance (CUB 46313).

10.9.2 Rural areas

In order to be considered available for work, claimants residing in a rural area are not expected to move from the area where they have always lived, in order to look for work in more urban areas. What is required is that they make themselves available on the same basis as other workers in that area: that is, throughout the boundaries of what has already been defined as the work area (Digest 10.4.1).

To this end, claimants should be prepared to make use of their car or other local transportation available, or make other arrangements such as carpooling with someone who commutes. Those who have no means of getting to the nearest place where they can reasonably expect to find employment clearly fail to prove that they are available for work.

Regardless of how good or bad the local labour market conditions are, a claimant's initial statement that they are prepared to accept work anywhere in the area where they reside is evidence that they are available for work throughout the duration of their benefit period. This is, of course, provided they do not impose other restrictions on their availability and willingness to accept work, and they demonstrate their genuine desire to get back to work by making reasonable efforts to obtain employment (CUB 76801, CUB 70183).

Claimants who have just left or refused to accept one of the few jobs they could reasonably hope to obtain in their geographic area of choice, would not be considered available for work.

10.9.3 Methods of transportation

Claimants are expected to use the methods of transportation commonly used in their area of residence, and are responsible for the cost of that transportation. Reasonable methods could include walking, taking a bus, car, train or subway, car-pooling with co-workers, or a combination of those methods of transportation, even if part of the commute time is spent waiting for one of them (CUB 72243A, CUB 73952, CUB 75826). However, claimants are not expected to walk several kilometers at night or to hitchhike, to look for or to accept work.

10.9.4 Exceptions

Claimants are not expected to commute to places of employment in order to seek or accept work, if other factors render the work not suitable. For example, a claimant may find employment that is within a reasonable commuting distance, however, they may have family obligations (Digest 10.7.0) or health and physical incapacities (Digest 10.10.0) that will not allow them to commute to the place of work (EIR 9.002(a)). The commuting and/or child care costs involved in accepting part time employment could be such that the claimant would be put in a less favourable financial situation, as previously discussed (Digest 10.5.4). If these types of circumstances are alleged, thorough fact-finding must be conducted by the Commission and the relevant criteria for determining suitable employment must be considered (EIA 6(4); EIR 9.002).

10.9.5 Application

What must to be examined are the claimant's individual circumstances. Is the claimant avoiding otherwise suitable employment because of an unwillingness to commute? If so, a disentitlement for non-availability may be in order.

Each situation must be examined based on the facts of the particular case. What must be considered is whether the claimant is placing a restriction on their availability or if they simply prefer not to commute to a particular work place, or at a particular time of day. Labour market information should be obtained to determine if the availability of suitable employment in the claimant's chosen geographic area is conducive to the claimant successfully obtaining employment.

In urban areas in particular, commuting time can be affected by the hours of work. In some cases employers may be flexible and permit employees to have different start and end times that could significantly lessen commuting time, or they may insist on a relatively early start or late end time to the work day (CUB 75613, CUB 76226). Claimants who are desirous of returning to the labour force as soon as possible, should be willing to work the hours expected by the employer, particularly if the commuting time is considered reasonable or common within the community.

10.9.6 Work away from home

The legislation does not require claimants to move in order to accept suitable employment. However, it does require claimants to apply for and accept suitable employment that is vacant or about to become vacant, to take advantage of any opportunity of suitable employment, to be available for work, and to be making reasonable and customary efforts to obtain suitable employment.

In some occupations such as construction, mining, forestry, shipping, other specialized occupations and trades or other temporary and seasonal employment, a claimant may be required to live apart from a spouse, children or established home residence for long periods of time. Living away from home is a condition that workers in some industries must endure at certain times. Claimants who choose to work in these types of occupations must generally accept having to live apart from their families for these long periods of time, as long as they are not prevented from visiting their families at reasonable intervals (CUB 63327, CUB 56893).

In these types of situations, rather than be voluntarily unemployed, claimants are expected to seek and accept all suitable employment opportunities that are available in the area where their insurable employment was earned, assuming that, by accepting any new employment in that area, they are not prevented from visiting their families at reasonable intervals. For example, a mining engineer who normally lives apart from his family while working is laid off from his employment in Saskatchewan. Given the nature of his chosen profession, rather than returning to his home area and only looking for suitable employment there, this claimant should be willing to seek and accept any employment opportunities that may arise in Saskatchewan, as well as in his home area, as long as the criteria for suitable employment are met, and he is able to visit his family at reasonable intervals (CUB 79985).

If immediate suitable employment is not available in Saskatchewan and the claimant returns to his home area, the claimant should be willing to return to work if recalled to his former place of employment in Saskatchewan, or to work in other geographical areas. A failure to seek and accept such employment may lead to a disqualification for job refusal and/or a disentitlement for non-availability.

[September 2019]

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