Employer responsibilities for protecting Temporary Foreign Workers and Canadians against coronavirus

Shelby Thevenot
Published: April 3, 2020

Canadian employers are allowed to bring temporary foreign workers into the country, but they must do their part to ensure the safety of the new arrivals and Canadian residents.

It is now mandatory for all travellers to Canada to undergo a 14-day self-isolation period. They may not even stop at the grocery store on their way from the airport to their home destination. Employers are expected to facilitate this measure while maintaining the health and wellbeing of the foreign workers, especially if they are providing housing facilities.

The Canadian government has compiled nine criteria for employers to follow in compliance with quarantine regulations. There are five additional criteria for employers who provide housing for their workers.

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Criteria for employers

  • Employers must comply with all laws and policies regarding the employer-employee relationship during the self-isolation period, given that the worker’s period of employment is supposed to begin upon their arrival to Canada.
  • Employers must give foreign workers their regular pay and benefits during the self-isolation period. No amount may be deducted from a worker’s pay due to self-isolation and proof of wages should be kept. For workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, the provisions of the applicable contract must be followed. Other workers must be paid for a minimum of 30 hours per week at the rate of pay specified on the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Employers may withhold standard contract deductions, such as Employment Insurance, as per the applicable immigration program requirements.
  • Employers cannot authorize workers to work during the self-isolation period even if requested by the worker. Exceptions apply to workers who have been deemed to be providing an essential service by the Chief Public Health Officer. In addition, employers cannot ask the worker to perform other duties during their self-isolation period, such as building repairs or administrative tasks.
  • Employers must regularly monitor the health of workers who are self-isolating, as well as any employee who becomes sick after the self-isolation period. In practice that would mean the employer should communicate with the worker on a daily basis and ask if the worker is experiencing any symptoms. They can fulfill this requirement either by calling, texting, emailing, or speaking in-person two metres away as a last resort. They should also maintain a record of responses.
  • Employers must arrange for symptomatic workers to be fully and immediately isolated from others and contact local health officials. Employers should also contact the appropriate consulate.
  • Employers must ensure that all workers have access to proper hygiene. This includes facilities that enable them to wash their hands with soap and warm water. They should provide the soap and alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Employers should provide information to the worker on COVID-19 either on or before their first day of self-isolation. It is recommended that employers provide the information in a language the worker understands, and consideration is given to the most appropriate way to deliver the information, either by phone or in writing etc. The Public Health Agency of Canada has materials available in several languages, which can be accessed by calling 1-833-784-4397 or emailing phac.covid19.aspc@canada.ca.
  • Employers, and all Canadian residents, should report Quarantine Act violations to local law enforcement. This includes workers that do not respect the mandatory self-isolation period.
  • All people in Canada are expected to follow the latest public health requirements, including guidance from the federal and provincial governments where they operate. Employers are also required to follow all applicable federal and provincial or territorial employment and health safety laws including new provisions for job-protected sick leave as a result of COVID-19 that are found in several jurisdictions.

Additional criteria for employers providing accommodations

In cases where the requirements cannot be met, employers must find alternate accommodations, such as a hotel, in order to respect self-isolation requirements.

  • Employers must provide housing for self-isolating workers that is separate from those who are not in self-isolation.
  • Employers can house workers who are subject to self-isolation together, but the housing must enable them to be two metres apart at all times. Beds must be at least two metres apart, shared facilities are allowed as long as they provide sufficient space in the accommodations. It is recommended that date-stamped photos be taken of the facilities, including the bedroom, to demonstrate compliance. If new workers are brought into the living space where others have been self-isolating the 14-day requirement resets the day they arrive. This is to account for the potential that the new recruit was exposed to the virus before arriving at their accommodations.
  • Employers should ensure that surfaces in the accommodations are cleaned and disinfected regularly. Bathrooms, kitchens, and common areas should be cleaned daily or as often as required and a log be maintained by the workers or the employers. Employers are expected to provide the cleaning materials. They may hire a professional cleaner.
  • Employers should post information about preventing the spread of COVID-19 in their accommodations, including best practices for workers in maintaining the bathroom and other washing facilities. The government suggests posting it in bathrooms, kitchens, and other common areas in the worker’s language. As mentioned before, the Public Health Agency of Canada has materials available in several languages, which can be accessed by calling 1-833-784-4397 or emailing phac.covid19.aspc@canada.ca.
  • Employers must ensure the accommodations allow workers to avoid contact with people over age 65, and people with medical conditions who are at risk of developing a serious illness. For example, a caregiver to a senior must be housed in separate accommodations for the duration of the self-isolation period.

Need assistance with the Temporary Work Permit application process? Contact wp@canadavisa.com.

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