The Federal Government recently announced cuts to special rules that provided pregnancy, parental and compassionate care Employment Insurance benefits to temporary foreign workers.  The cuts took effect on December 9th, 2012 and are expected to immediately affect approximately 1,900 temporary foreign workers.

Temporary foreign workers are provided work permits which describe both the time period in which someone is able to work in Canada and any restrictions to the work, such as only being able to work with a specific employer or at some specific location within Canada or a province or territory.

The cuts affect a wide range of temporary foreign workers, including those with expired Social Insurance Numbers or, alternatively, those with expired work permits.  Under the old rules, such individuals were eligible to attain employment insurance benefits under certain circumstances. 

The changes are most likely to affect seasonal temporary workers who often work in Canada for several months before taking breaks in their country of citizenship.  Approximately 11,650 temporary foreign workers collected Employment Insurance benefits in 2011.  Such individuals would often collect Employment Insurance benefits while in their home country which would provide financial assistance during their absence from Canada. 

The Federal Government has stated that the cuts are aimed at maintaining the integrity of the Employment Insurance regime.  Specifically, government representatives pointed to the fact that under the normal Employment Insurance rules workers are not able to attain benefits when outside of Canada. 

The Federal Government further stated that providing individuals who are ineligible to work in Canada Employment Insurance is inconsistent with the underlying purpose of the program which is to provide assistance to individuals who are actively seeking employment.