What Canada’s 2017 federal budget means for employers

Canadian federal budget

On Wednesday, the federal government announced the 2017 budget – and there’s a number of investments, amendments, and policy changes that might change the workplace as we know it.

Here’s a look at what Canada’s 2017 federal budget means for employers:

Hard-to-fill jobs might soon be easier to fill

A number of initiatives outlined in the 2017 budget are geared toward identifying skills gaps in the Canadian labour market, and taking steps to close them. Many of the programs are geared toward encouraging the workforce to continue learning and honing skills long after their formal education is complete.

For example, $225 million was earmarked over the next four years to establish a new organization that works with employers, schools, and non-profit organizations to explore new ways to offer skills development. Another project will develop and test new approaches that make it easier for adults in the workforce to qualify for student financial assistance and return to school.

These projects (and their timelines) are still vague at best, but the fact that these issues are being addressed should be welcome news to most small business owners. “We applaud measures in the budget to help build skills levels and the labour force available to employers,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in its post-budget news release.

…and it could be easier to recruit foreign high skilled talent

The federal budget also expanded its commitment to enticing more foreign talent to Canada. In November, the Global Skills Strategy was announced to “help high-growth Canadian companies attract the specialized global talent they need to innovate and grow,” according to ISED. A major component of this strategy was the streamlining of work permits and temporary resident visas for foreign highly skilled talent so that the process takes two weeks instead of three months.

The 2017 budget took this initiative a step further with financial support for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program. The budget also included an amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure that the Express Entry system is “responsive to the needs of the Canadian labour market.”

Employment Insurance benefits are getting more flexible

The budget announced several amendments to the Employment Insurance Act to broaden eligibility, and offer more flexible options to the ever-changing workforce. Highlights include:

  • A new EI caregiving benefit for up to 15 weeks
  • An 18-month parental leave
  • Increased job protection to federally regulated sectors while they are receiving caregiving, parental or maternity benefits

In addition, an investment of over $130 million will allow unemployed Canadians to go back to school or get additional training while still receiving EI benefits.

…and so are work arrangements

According to the budget, federally regulated employees now have the right to request “more flexible work arrangements, such as flexible start and finish times, the ability to work from home, and new unpaid leaves to help them manage family responsibilities.”

Employees (and interns) are getting more protection

The federal budget also announced an intention to invest funds and amend the Canada Labour Code to improve employer compliance provisions, “to ensure that hard-working Canadians can more easily recover wages owed to them by their employer, and to ensure that employers who repeatedly offend will be punished.”

For students and young Canadians, the budget included a commitment to eliminate unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors, when they aren’t part of a formal educational program. When interns are unpaid (a.k.a. when they’re part of an education program), they are now protected by labour standards, like maximum hours of work, weekly days of rest, and general holidays.

…and entrepreneurs are getting more funding

The budget established the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative to increase late-stage venture capital available to Canadian entrepreneurs. It also included $14 million over two years to support Futurpreneur Canada, a national not-for-profit organization that gives young entrepreneurs mentorship, learning resources and start-up financing.

Easier access to government programs is on the way

If all of this seems overwhelming, help is on the way. To try to consolidate the numerous programs (and required paperwork) available to startups and SMBs across many governmental departments, the budget announced the establishment of Innovation Canada, a platform designed to “make it easier for Canadian innovators to access and benefit from Government-led innovation programs.”

The budget also announced a whole-of-government review of all of these programs to ensure they are “effectively supporting Canada’s innovators in turning their ideas into thriving businesses.” And that’s what we all want, right?

See also:
3 SMB trends for 2017 that every employer needs to know


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