Canada to make major changes to temporary foreign worker regulations

Michael Schwartz
Published: July 25, 2021

The Canadian government is proposing major changes to rules for temporary foreign workers, according to a recent article in the Canada Gazette.

Temporary workers come to Canada under one of two paths. The first is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). This stream is for companies who want to hire non-Canadians for jobs that Canadian citizens or permanent residents are unwilling to do. The other is the International Mobility Program, or IMP. This path allows foreigners to work in Canada at jobs even where there might be a Canadian available to do the job.

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The major difference between a job under the TFWP and one under the IMP is that the TFWP requires an LMIA but the IMP does not. LMIA stands for Labour Market Impact Assessment. It is a form which an employer seeking to hire through TFWP completes. It shows that the employer tried to, but could not, find a Canadian to take the job.

Employees raised concerns in talks. In particular, they noted TFWs are often unable to understand and use their rights. Major problems included:

  • Employers previously found to be non-compliant with regulations avoiding bans on hiring TFWs. Such employers do so by hiring through other companies they own.
  • TFWs being unaware of their rights or what they mean.
  • TFWs not having proper access to health care.
  • TFWs being charged illegal ‘recruiting fees’ by recruiters or employers.
  • TFWs fearing employer reprisal if they raise concerns about working conditions. These fears have caused employees to not report abuse..

Being a TFW in a new country and culture can make one vulnerable. As a result, Canada has decided to strengthen the protections for TFWs. The government plans the following changes:

Requiring all employers of TFWs to provide to each TFW, a paper document that outlines TFW rights. Employers would also have to post this information in a public spot in the workplace.

  • Making all employers provide an employment agreement to both the worker and the government. This document confirms that the employee will be working in the same job, working conditions, and wages, as written in the employment offer.
  • Making clear that the employer provides a workplace free of abuse. Reprisal is also considered abuse.
    Allowing Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to pause processing of an LMIA if there it suspects the employer has been non been compliant with the regulations.
  • Creating new requirements for granting LMIAs. These will include: taking reasonable efforts that the workplace is free of abuse; showing that the employer respects all federal and provincial employment rules; and not allowing an affiliate or alter-ego of an ineligible employer to hire TFWs.

Reducing the time an employer has to respond to a Notice of Preliminary Findings (NoPF) from 30 days to 15. A NoPF indicates non-compliance concerns. A reduced reply time will allow quicker resolution.

Tightening the ban and punishment on employers and recruiters charging TFWs illegal recruiting fees.

Giving ESDC and IRCC the power to demand documents from third parties, such as banks, to ensure employer compliance.

Requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to provide access to health care to employees who become sick or injured at work. An example might be setting up a phone at the workplace for TFWs to call health services.

Requiring all employers under the TFWP (except those under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) to pay for and provide employees private health insurance. This insurance must include emergency medical care. Right now, some TFWPs are not required to provide such protection.

The Canadian government accepts that the new regulations may impose greater costs on business. However, outlays are expected to be minimal. For example, an additional 10 minutes to provide the employment agreement and working conditions to each TFW. The benefits will be greater clarity for employers, employees, and government. TFWs in particular will enjoy stronger protections.

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