Canada further strengthens its Temporary Foreign Worker Program to better protect live-in caregivers
This month, the Government of Canada announced it is implementing stricter regulations with the aim of further improving the working conditions for temporary workers and live-in caregivers in Canada. According to the federal government, consultations held over the past two years revealed that employers were exploiting some live-in caregivers because the system made them vulnerable.
"Temporary foreign workers come to Canada in a very vulnerable position because they are dependent upon their employer," said Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC) Chair Nigel Thomson. "These new rules will help ensure that employers play by the rules."
To address this, the federal government is tightening the regulations affecting live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers, as well as the people who hire them. "The government is taking action to protect temporary foreign workers, including live-in caregivers, from potential abuse and exploitation," explained Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
New regulations came into effect in April 2010 that required employers to provide contracts that specify wages, benefits, accommodation, duties, hours of work, and holiday and sick leave entitlements.
Starting in April 2011, new rules will apply a more rigorous assessment to jobs for live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers before the employers are given the authorization to hire. The assessment will address whether the employer has followed the rules in the past and has honoured their commitments to workers with respect to wages, working conditions and occupation. Failure to meet the commitments will result in a two-year prohibition on hiring foreign workers.
Other countries that host foreign temporary workers and live-in caregivers, including Hong Kong, Germany, Israel and other nations in Europe and the Middle East, do not allow these types of workers to become citizens. They are meant to stay in those host countries for years as temporary guest workers and any of their children born there are not considered as having rights to citizenship.
Under Canada's innovative program, foreign live-in caregivers may become citizens of Canada. They are "fast-tracked" and can apply for permanent-resident status after completing 24 months of employment. Under the new Citizenship and Immigration Canada regulations, live-in-caregivers have four years, instead of three, to complete the required 24 months of full-time work. There will also be more flexibility with respect to the amount of time given to meet the requirements needed for permanent residence status. Any overtime worked may now be used to apply for permanent residency more quickly. Under the law, it will be possible for a person who works a lot of overtime to apply earlier, or the deadline may be extended if the person works less than full-time hours or needs time off due to illness, for example.
"We owe it to them, their employers and all Canadians to ensure that the program is fair and equitable. After all, they are an essential element of Canada's economic success," said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program helps address temporary labour shortages by allowing employers to hire foreign workers when sufficient numbers of Canadian workers are not readily available. Without access to temporary foreign labour, many small businesses in Canada would not be able to function and would be forced into insolvency.
These new regulations are seen as important because it demonstrates Canada's position that temporary foreign workers and live-in caregivers should be encouraged to apply for permanent resident status and that they may become citizens in a timely fashion and move on to other forms of employment if they choose.