Health Canada says the compensation of workers in the care sector needs to be “dynamic”.
That means when the economy improves, they will see an increase in their wages.
But that will only happen if the economy picks up and the industry continues to grow.
That’s what Alberta is doing.
The Alberta Health Services (AHS) has been using its powers to freeze out care workers from receiving the $8,000 monthly payment that they are owed.
The AHS is the province’s third largest employer.
Its decision comes on the heels of a study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that found that a significant number of Alberta’s workers have received less than half the $9,600 in compensation promised under the care worker compensation system.
“When the economy starts to pick up and there is a lot of investment going into health and wellness, it is going to take care of the system,” said Dr. Robert Zawacki, the senior vice-president of research and policy at the Centre for Economic Policy Research.
“So, when we have an economic downturn, that’s when we need to get more proactive.”
The AHS has been looking at ways to make it easier for workers to collect their payments.
In January, it announced that the agency will be releasing a set of guidelines that will be updated annually.
But it won’t come cheap.
The guidelines will be $2,200 per worker per year for a single worker.
For an individual, that could be $7,400.
The guidelines also include a $10 monthly contribution for each worker.
“I’m not really surprised that there’s an increase of concern from the industry,” said Zawampi.
“It is a real concern for us.
The whole thing is based on a model that’s based on our experience with this.”
The province has been trying to improve the system since at least 2013.
AHS says it’s not perfect.
But its recent efforts have paid off.
The agency has cut the number of people it requires to collect the payments by half.
“This will save us from having to go through the full cost of the process,” said AHS director of compensation, Sarah McLeod.
“And that is a great thing for us.”
The new guidelines will apply to care workers who are laid off or leave the workforce for personal reasons.
The new guidelines also apply to those who have been on the job less than a year.
The province also plans to increase the pay of health and safety workers who work in the field by $200 a month, to $1,000.
That is the amount that would be available to the Alberta Health Benefits program if the AHS were to freeze workers out of their payments by 2018.