Sanctions

Overview

Clients are required to provide information to the ministry and comply with eligibility requirements when requested. Non-compliance with these requirements may result in sanctions which can include rate reductions or ineligibility for assistance.

Policy

Effective: January 1, 2020

Periods of ineligibility or rate reductions may be applied for any of the following reasons:
 

  • failure to provide information or verification [see Policy – Table: Information or Verification Related Sanctions]
  • inaccurate or incomplete reporting [see Table: Sanctions for inaccurate or incomplete reporting]
  • failure to meet employment-related obligations or to comply with an Employment Plan [see Policy – Table: Employment Related Sanctions]
  • not accepting income or assets or disposing of assets [see Policy – Table: Income or Asset Related Sanction]
  • not providing a monthly report (HR0081) when required
  • failure to comply with the requirement to attend eligibility audit or complete an HR0080R

When applying sanctions, the ministry has the discretion to not apply a sanction where there are mitigating circumstances or the non-compliance is a one-time occurrence. Sanctions are not to be applied in situations where non-compliance is beyond the client’s control.  For example, sanctions are not appropriate for a client with a severe mental health condition who is not able to complete an activity in the Employment Plan.

A sanction for non-compliance with an Employment Plan (EP) should not be applied in situations where the EP has not been signed.

Failure to Verify or Provide Information 

If an applicant or recipient fails to provide information or verify information the ministry may declare the family unit ineligible for assistance until the applicant or recipient complies. 

If a family unit is homeless or is at imminent risk of homelessness and fails to provide or verify information under Section 10, the family unit must remain eligible for assistance despite that non-compliance. The ministry may reduce the income assistance, disability assistance or hardship assistance of a family unit.

Table: Information or Verification Related Sanctions

Types of Sanctions

Consequence

Period of Time

Section 10 of the Employment and Assistance Act (EA Act) and Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act (EAPWD Act) - Failure to provide requested information

The Minister may apply ineligibility on the family unit or reduce the family unit’s assistance by $25 per month

If a family unit is not compliant with Section 10 but is experiencing homelessness or is at imminent risk of homelessness, the family unit must remain eligible for assistance despite that non-compliance.

Until compliant

Section 10 of the EA Act and EAPWD Act - Failure to provide information, dependent youth

The Minister may apply a $25 per month reduction on the family unit

Until compliant

Section 11 of the EA Act and EAPWD Act -  Failure to complete or submit monthly report (HR0081), or to report changes in circumstances

The family unit is ineligible

Until compliant

 

Section 34 of the EA Regulation and Section 30 of the EAPWD Regulation - Failure to attend eligibility audit or complete HR0080R

The family unit may be ineligible

Until compliant

Guidelines for Applying a Sanction for Non-compliance with a Request for Information

Before applying a sanction, the ministry must consider the following:

  • there is a reasonable basis to believe the information and/or documentation exists at the time of the request;
  • the information and/or documentation is accessible by the applicant or recipient;
  • the applicant or recipient is clearly informed of the information and/or documentation required;
  • the applicant or recipient is given information on how to provide the information and/or documentation to the ministry;
  • the applicant or recipient is provided the reason(s) why the information and/or documentation is required;
  • the applicant or recipient is given a reasonable timeframe to meet the request

Guidelines for Applying a Reduction ($25 per month)

Ministry staff may reduce the recipient’s assistance by $25 per calendar month as an alternative to making a family unit ineligible for assistance for non-compliance.

Only one reduction of $25 per calendar month can be applied to a recipient’s assistance at any time. Only one reduction can be applied per family unit.

Ministry staff must consider the recipient’s ability to stay housed or pay for their shelter costs and other essential items such as medical equipment, utility costs and food.

Factors to consider when assessing a recipients ability to stay housed may include the following situations:

  • Homeless or is being housed or living in temporary accommodation (e.g. staying in a guest room), inadequate accommodation (e.g. discontinued utilities), time-limited accommodation (e.g. transition housing), 
  • Imminent risk of losing shelter (no other resources to pay for shelter costs) or accommodation where the tenancy will be or is terminated within three months (e.g. eviction notice)
  • Requires a crisis supplement (for shelter)

 

Factors to consider when assessing a recipient’s ability to pay for shelter and other essential items may include the following: 

  • Inability to pay for their shelter costs
  • Frequents use of crisis supplements (including crisis for essential utilities and crisis for food)
  • Expenses exceed their assistance amounts
  • Limited financial resources (e.g. employment income) from other sources of income.

Ministry staff must assess each situation on an individual basis and the family units needs are taken into consideration.

Inaccurate or Incomplete Reporting

To encourage accurate and complete reporting of income, assets and changes in circumstances, a sanction may be applied to those clients who do not report accurately, if an overpayment occurs as a result of the inaccurate reporting.  If a determination is made that the overpayment is due to the client providing inaccurate or incomplete information the sanction will be a $25 reduction of assistance for a prescribed period of time (See Table below).

Table: Sanctions for inaccurate or incomplete reporting

Types Sanctions

Consequence

Period of Time

Failure to accurately or completely report (on the Monthly Report HR0081) any income, assets or circumstances that affect the eligibility of the family unit that result in an overpayment.

The amount of assistance the family unit is eligible to receive is reduced by $25.

Note: The overpayment recovery amount is deducted from the reduced (sanctioned) amount.

1st occurrence – 3 months

2nd occurrence – 6 months

3rd occurrence – 12 months

Each subsequent occurrence – 12 months

Table: Employment Related Sanctions

Types Sanctions Consequence Period of Time

Failure to comply with an Employment Plan [for more information, see Related Links – Employment Plan]

The family unit is ineligible (when there are no mitigating circumstances for the non-compliance)

The family unit’s case is closed

If a person or family reapply for assistance at a later date, they must satisfy all application requirements including the work search.

Failure to accept suitable employment or

Voluntarily left employment without just cause  or

Dismissed for just cause

(See Just Cause)

Singles and couples are ineligible

Family units with dependent children are subject to a $100 per month rate reduction for each applicant or recipient that is subject to the sanction

Two calendar months from whichever is later: the date of application for assistance or the date the default occurred.

Failure to demonstrate reasonable work search

Singles and couples are ineligible

Family units with dependent children are subject to a $100 per month rate reduction for each applicant or recipient that is subject to the sanction

One calendar month from whichever is later: the date when the default occurred, or the date when the Minister becomes satisfied the recipient is demonstrating reasonable efforts to search for employment

Just Cause

Consequences are only related to failure to accept suitable employment, voluntarily leaving employment without just cause, or being dismissed for just cause.  In assessing whether there is just cause for persons who quit or refused employment or who were dismissed, the following factors can be considered in determining when there may be “just cause”:
 

  • having a physical or mental condition which precludes maintaining employment
  • sexual or other harassment
  • discrimination
  • dangerous working conditions
  • following a spouse to new employment
  • leaving an abusive or violent domestic situation
  • having to care for a child or other immediate family member who has a mental or physical condition which requires the person to care for them
  • reasonable assurance of another job

Table: Income or Asset Related Sanction

Types of Sanctions

Consequence

Period of Time

Failure to pursue or accept income or assets or other means of support that are still available

The minister may apply ineligibility

Until income, assets or other means of support are accepted or pursued

If income, assets or other means of support are no longer available

The minister may apply

  • ineligibility for singles or couples without dependent children
  • $100 per month rate reduction for one parent families
  • $200 per month rate reduction for two-parent families

One calendar month for each $2,000 of the value of the foregone income, asset or other means of support

[See Period of Time]

Disposal of property for inadequate consideration (less than the actual or market value)

The minister may apply

  • ineligibility for singles or couples without dependent children
  • $100 per month rate reduction for one parent families
  • $200 per month rate reduction for two-parent families

One calendar month for each $2,000 of the value of the foregone income, asset or other means of support [See Period of Time]

Disposal of property to reduce assets (intentionally disposed of to reduce assets)

The family unit is ineligible

Two calendar months for each $2,000 of the foregone asset, or other means of support [See Period of Time]

 

Sanctions for Employment-Related Obligations:

Clients with employment-related obligations are required to fulfill both the requirements set out in Sections 9 (EP) and Section 13 (Employment-related obligations) of the EA Act (Section 9 and 12 of the EAPWD Act).

A client can be non-compliant due to their failure to meet employment-related obligations (e.g., fails to demonstrate reasonable work search) OR non-compliant due to their failure to comply with the conditions of their EP (e.g., must attend school in the evening).  In each case, the corresponding sanction would apply.

If the client does not comply with the conditions of the EP (e.g., must attend school in the evening) AND does not fulfill the employment-related obligations (e.g., fails to demonstrate reasonable work search), then the sanctions for both Sections 9 and 13 apply concurrently.

Note: There may be legitimate situations in which the conditions of the EP prevent the client from meeting the conditions of Section 13 of the EA Act (e.g., the client is attending an eligible course leaving very little time to search for employment).  The wording of Section 9 "subject to the conditions of an EP" means that Section 9 takes precedence when the two are in conflict.  Thus, if meeting the conditions of an EP causes non-compliance with Section 13, sanctions should not be applied.  Refer to EP Standards, Section D.1a and D.2a.

If the client is declared ineligible under both Section 9 and Section 13 and appeals the decision, two separate Request for Reconsideration forms (HR100's) are required.

[For more information on Employment Plan Sanctions, see Related Links – Employment Plan – Additional Resources – Employment Plan Standards.  For more information on differentiating between Employment Plan and Employment Obligations Sanctions, see Additional Resources – Guidelines for differentiating between Section 9 and Section 13].

Effective: August 1, 2015

Applicable sanctions that apply to the same period of time are deemed to have occurred concurrently. 

If assistance is subject to a reduction for more than one reason or on account of more than one person, the reduction of assistance is cumulative and must be reduced for each reason and for each person.

Note: In the case of sanctions for inaccurate or incomplete reporting, staff will exercise discretion when applying additional sanctions. 

Case Example 1: Two sanctions of ineligibility applicable to a couple without dependent children

If one person is ineligible for a two-month period due to voluntarily leaving work without just cause and the spouse is also ineligible for the same two-month period for the same or some other reason, the family unit is ineligible for those 2 months.

Case Example 2: Two reduction sanctions applicable for the same period

The recipient in a family unit has a $100 reduction applied for two months, and the recipient's spouse has two $100 reductions applied for the same two months.  The family unit's assistance is therefore reduced by $300/month for the two months ($100 + $200).

Case Example 3: Sanction of ineligibility and reduction

If a family unit is ineligible for assistance for a period of time and is also subject to rate reductions for the same time period, the ineligibility is applied and the rate reduction is deemed to have occurred for that period.

The family unit has a six-month reduction for period of January to June and three-month ineligibility for period January to March is applied:

Month

Consequence

January

1st month of ineligibility

February

2nd month of ineligibility

March

3rd month of ineligibility

April

Rate reduction

May

Rate reduction

June

Rate reduction

July

Full Assistance (sanction period ends)

Procedures

Effective: January 1, 2020

Sanctions are applied from the date non-compliance is determined and continue until the sanction time has elapsed. 

Example: If a client reapplies for assistance one week after they are determined ineligible due to failure to demonstrate work search, they continue to be ineligible until the one month sanction period has elapsed.  However, if the client reapplied for assistance three months after they were determined ineligible, then the sanction for Section 13 would not apply as the one month sanction period had already elapsed.

Employment and Assistance Workers (EAWs) record sanctions and applicable start and end dates on the case.

Only Ministry Investigators can apply sanctions for fraud convictions.

Notes describing the details regarding the decision to apply a sanction are made on the case.

Sanctions and sanction resolutions can be removed or updated until the end of the business day on which they were entered.

Effective: September 30, 2006

Sanction amounts are not prorated within any month and are applied for an entire assistance month.

Case Example: A single parent with one child over the age of three fails to accept suitable employment on August 15.

The sanction start date is September 1 and will be applied for two consecutive assistance months (September and October) assuming the single parent received assistance for August.  Therefore, the September and October assistance cheques will each be reduced by $100.

Sanctions are based on the individual's situation at any given time and may change from ineligibility to a rate reduction, or vice versa, if the family unit composition changes.

Case Example: A single person ineligible for assistance for two months due to not accepting suitable employment, becomes part of a family unit consisting of two adults with dependent children.  A rate reduction of $100 per month is now applied to the family unit (one adult has been sanctioned and the other has no sanctions).

If the person with the sanction for failure to accept suitable employment leaves the family unit prior to the sanction end date, that person will continue to be ineligible for assistance and the remaining family unit will become eligible for full assistance.

Sanctions for inaccurate or incomplete reporting are based on whether the client provided inaccurate or incomplete information that resulted in an overpayment of assistance.  The amount of the reduction is $25 per month for 3 months on the first occurrence, 6 months on the second occurrence, and 12 months on the third and each additional occurrence.

There is discretionary authority to waive the sanction where there are legitimate mitigating  circumstances which demonstrate the client took the necessary steps to ensure the information they provided was accurate and complete.  There is no discretionary authority to alter either the term or the amount of the sanction.

Effective: January 1, 2020

Supervisory approval is required for all sanctions that could lead to ineligibility.  Before such sanctions may be applied, the Supervisor must review the ineligibility decision, and add an activity to indicate they have reviewed and support the ineligibility decision.  

Removing or Updating Sanctions

EAWs and QCSs can remove a sanction (other than a sanction related to a fraud conviction) by entering the appropriate resolve reason on the case. EAWs may not remove sanctions applied by QCSs. EAWs may contact a PLMS Supervisor to review a PLMS-applied sanction if they have questions or if the client’s situation has changed.  

A sanction can be updated by changing the Sanction End Date (only if the end date is not system generated).  Exceptions:  a sanction for inaccurate or incomplete reporting is resolved only when the sanction duration period is completed, the client is successful at reconsideration or appeal, a decision to waive the sanction is made, new information presented reverses the determination that an overpayment was issued, or a recording error is made (e.g., staff update the wrong case by mistake).

A resolve reason is not required when the end date (set by either the system or the EAW) has been reached.

Case Example: An EAW sanctions a client for being dismissed with just cause on October 15.  The client has received October assistance.

The EAW enters the sanction and a start date of 2019 NOV.  The system will automatically set the end date for 2019 DEC and resolve the sanction when the two-month sanction period has ended.

Effective: January 1, 2020

Failure to Provide Requested Information 

When a recipient is non-compliant with a request for information or verification of information, staff will assess if they may be subject to a reduction or discontinuation of assistance, according to the policy.

  • If the decision is to reduce assistance, add the applicable sanction to the key player on the case.
  • If the decision is to discontinue assistance, turn cheque production off

Notify the recipient of the decision and of their right to reconsideration.

Effective: January 1, 2020

When a recipient is required to complete an HR0080R (EA/EAPWD Review) form to provide or update their declaration and consent, or to add a spouse to the case, and does not comply, the family unit ceases to be eligible for assistance. Turn cheque production off and notify the recipient of the decision and of their right to reconsideration.

Failure to Submit a Monthly Report (HR0081)

If a recipient of income assistance fails to submit the Monthly Report (HR0081) the cheque will automatically be set as "No Stub" and the recipient must complete the HR0081 before receiving further assistance.  (Recipients with the Persons with Disabilities designation are only required to submit a completed HR0081 if there is a change in income, assets, or circumstances.)

Effective: January 1, 2020

If a recipient does not provide, accurate and complete information regarding income, assets, circumstances or changes and the inaccurate or incomplete reporting results in an overpayment, a sanction may be applied as an incentive to encourage clients to report their income, assets and circumstances accurately.

If a recipient with the Persons with Disabilities designation was issued an overpayment of assistance and they did not accurately or completely report the income, asset or circumstance that led to the overpayment, staff may apply a sanction for inaccurate or incomplete reporting.  [For more information on earnings exemptions and calculating overpayments, see Related Links – Recoveries – Overpayments – Additional Resources, Guidelines Applying Earnings Exemptions.]

Prior to appying a sanction for inaccurate or incomplete reporting, staff will determine the amount of overpayment and contact the client.

[For policy and procedure on calculating an overpayment, see Related Links - Recoveries – Overpayments.]

Staff may exercise discretion when applying a sanction and, if necessary, request Supervisor approval to waive a sanction. 

When determining whether a sanction for inaccurate or incomplete reporting of income or assets should be applied to a recipient of assistance, staff must have supporting evidence that the client reported inaccurately or incompletely.

Evidence may consist of:

  1. A signed HR0081 (monthly report),or
  2. A signed application form (e.g. HR0080, HR0080R), or
  3. Other documentation that demonstrates the client provided inaccurate or incomplete information.

Clients with Persons with Disabilities designation are required to submit a completed HR0081 if there is a change in income, assets, or circumstances.  The sanction for inaccurate or incomplete reporting may be applied if they have not reported accurately or completely (that is if they did not submit a Monthly Report HR0081).

Steps: Applying Sanctions for Inaccurate or Incomplete Reporting:
 

  1. Determine the amount of the overpayment and prepare the overpayment notification.
     
  2. Ensure the following:
    1. An overpayment has been calculated and is supported by evidence.
    2. Documentation is present that demonstrates inaccurate or incomplete information was provided.  (Example: the HR0081 shows $0.00 employment income and a copy of the client’s pay-stub shows $450.00 of net income received.)  Or, in the case of a PWD client, there is no HR0081 but evidence supports the income, asset or change in circumstance. 
    3. Client has had an opportunity to review the overpayment and respond by providing information to challenge the existence of the overpayment (i.e., mitigating circumstances) or the amount.
    4. Client failed to take the necessary steps to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the HR0081.  (Example: they did not check their bank statement for a direct deposit of employment income and therefore failed to report.)  
  3. Provide an opportunity, using the HR3042 letter, for the client to provide information if they did take steps to ensure the information was accurate and complete.  If the client demonstrates legitimate mitigating circumstances interfered with their ability to ensure accurate reporting, and they can demonstrate that they took steps to ensure accurate reporting, staff will waive the sanction in these cases.
  4. Determine if this is the first, second or third (etc.) time an overpayment has occurred as a result of inaccurate or incomplete reporting.
  5. Staff may determine it is appropriate to waive a sanction in cases where there are legitimate mitigating circumstances which demonstrate the client took steps to ensure accurate reporting.  Such cases must be reviewed and approved by the supervisor and staff should note the reasons and complete the approval activity.

The following decision-making steps/questions may guide you in applying discretion.
 

  1. Is the decision based on fact, i.e., not personal opinion or the rationalization by the client? For example, is the sanction waived because the client’s situation (need for money) seems to warrant the act of non-reporting so the client could afford new things and get out of debt before closing their case?
  2. Has the person been given the opportunity to provide information (e.g. direct contact or using the HR3042?)
  3. Did the client fail to take necessary steps to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information?
  4. Is the intent of the sanction being served by applying it? (For example, is applying the sanction going to provide incentive/reminder to accurately and completely report all income, assets and changes in circumstances in the future?)
  5. Is this decision consistent with the ministry’s values?

Example:  Waiving a sanction:  A mentally challenged client inaccurately reports their employment income because they misunderstood the correct reporting procedures.  They saved all their pay-stubs and reported all of it at one time (like filing income tax).  When the client and their community support worker meet with staff to review the overpayment, it becomes clear that the client, due to mental limitations, needs assistance in completing their stub regularly.  The decision may be to waive the sanction.  It also would not serve as an incentive for future reporting or prevent future overpayments.  The staff reviews correct reporting procedures and advises the client and their support worker that accurate reporting is important on a monthly basis to avoid future overpayments.

Example:  Applying a sanction:  A client inaccurately reports their employment income in 2004.  A review in 2006 indicates there was an overpayment of assistance for ten months.  The case was closed from January 2005 to November 2005.  When the client meets with staff to review the overpayment, the client explains the reason they did not report all their income was because they needed to buy extra clothing and to pay back loans to friends.  They currently have a broken leg and state a reduction of $25 right now would be really hard.  The staff advises the client that a sanction in the form of a $25 reduction in assistance for three months must be served and reviews correct reporting procedures.  The staff also advises the client that if in the future they provide inaccurate or incomplete information, the second occurrence will result in a $25 reduction for six months.

Example:  Applying a sanction:  A client states they don’t care about being sanctioned because it will not change their behaviour in the future.  They will continue non-reporting of income.  The staff advises the client that a sanction will be applied and reviews correct reporting procedures and reminds the client of their reporting obligations.

Example:  Waiving a sanction:  A client incurs an overpayment because they submitted a monthly report that indicated only partial earnings when in fact their financial statements indicate two electronic funds transfers (paycheques) in the same month.  The client brings the bank statements to the meeting and explains that they received their bank statements after the 6th of the month and did not realise the pay had been deposited.  The staff may decide to waive this sanction because the client demonstrates legitimate mitigating circumstances that prevented them from knowing about the income prior to submitting the Monthly Report.
 

  1. Determine the appropriate sanction period.  Follow the principles of administrative fairness and advise the client of the sanction, the reasons, the duration, the amount of reduction in addition to the overpayment recapture amount, and when the sanction will begin.

Update the case accordingly.

Apply the sanction for non-reporting.  The sanction is in effect and the $25 reduction will begin on the next assistance cheque from the date the sanction is added.  The sanction is served for three consecutive months (the system will automatically monitor the duration).

Note: In cases where both adults in a family unit failed to report, a sanction may be applied on both and the reduction will be $50.  The sanction is applied to each adult person who incurred the overpayment.  If the dependant adult leaves the case, their sanction will follow them because it is attached to the Contact.
 

  1. If the decision is to waive the sanction, supervisor approval must be noted on the case via an approval activity.
  2. Update the case by adding the sanction.  Then, resolve the sanction using resolve reason “New Information” and make notes on your decision to waive the sanction.

This will alert staff in future that a sanction has been waived and identify the date.  Staff will be able to review the notes and reasons for waiving the sanction by searching the case and activities.
 

  1. Make notes on the details of the sanction and ensure copies of all relevant documents pertaining to providing inaccurate or incomplete information are scanned and profiled.
     
  2. Advise the client of their right to request reconsideration.  It is recommended that if the client wishes to request reconsideration of both the overpayment and the sanction they be encouraged to submit both requests at the same time.  This will ensure the related information is reviewed and, if necessary, addressed in a timely manner.

Examples:
 

The amount of the overpayment is overturned so a sanction is no longer valid.

The overpayment amount is not overturned but information exists to support the client took action to report the income.  The information as to the client’s actions was not noted by the ministry, so the sanction is overturned.

Note: This is a unique situation because if the decision is to overturn the overpayment decision, the client will have already been serving the sanction.  Staff should remember to issue a reconsideration and/or appeal supplement to cover the sanction amount in these cases.  That way, if the sanction decision is overturned, the staff will resolve the sanction by updating the case using the applicable resolve reason (successful reconsideration or appeal) and advise the client accordingly.

Effective: August 1, 2015

For details regarding the consequences of a conviction under the Criminal Code, the Employment and Assistance Act or the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act, see related links – Recoveries.

 

Sanctions Applied if Quit or Fired

Effective: August 5, 2008

Example: If a person has the 2-month sanction applied for quitting or being fired and then subsequently obtains a full-time job, the two-month sanction is independent of whatever else takes place and it would stand regardless of whether or not the person has an open case, until the 2 months lapsed.  For example, if a person has a 2-month sanction applied for quitting a job and then leaves income assistance for employment, the 2-month sanction would have lapsed if the person reapplies six months later.

Use of Section 13Example: A person who applies for income assistance 40 days after quitting or being fired, is found ineligible and a 2-month sanction is placed on the case.  The person re-applies after 20 more days have elapsed from the date they quit or got fired from their job.

The sanction would remain in effect for the 2-month period following an application for assistance.  Regulations stipulate the duration of the consequence begins from the later of the date of the event or date of application for assistance.

 

Authorities and Responsibilities

 

Responsibilities

Effective: January 1, 2020

EAWs who received training on administrative fairness and sanctions, Quality Compliance Specialists, and Ministry Investigators are responsible for:
 

  • Applying sanctions for providing inaccurate or incomplete information resulting in an overpayment of assistance

Supervisors are authorized to waive discretionary sanctions for providing inaccurate or incomplete information resulting in an overpayment.

Supervisors are responsible for reviewing and approving all sanction decisions that could result in ineligibility.