Canada introduces strengthened protections for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) alongside Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations concerning Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs).
In all there are 13 amendments designed to strengthen protections for TFWs and enhance the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP).
ESDC says these regulations will protect TFWs from abuse and mistreatment in Canada by:
- mandating that employers provide all TFWs with information about their rights in Canada;
- prohibiting reprisal by employers against workers, for instance against those who come forward with complaints; and,
- prohibiting employers from charging recruitment fees to workers and holding them accountable for the actions of recruiters in this regard.
A further addition will see that employers are responsible for providing access to healthcare services for their employees. They must provide private health insurance to be used by employees as needed.
The department says the amendments are intended to deter bad actors from participating in the program and will improve the program’s ability to inspect workplaces, enforce the rules and administer appropriate consequences for those who choose not to follow the rules.
One possible consequence is the suspension of the processing of any new Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs), a document an employer submits to ESDC that proves hiring foreign labour will not have a negative impact on Canada’s workforce or economy. Any foreign hires must have a copy of this document to get a work permit to enter Canada.
Suspension of LMIAs would happen if ESDC had good reason to suspect an employer of non-compliance with the new conditions at the risk of a foreign worker’s health or safety.
In addition to the amendments, a recent roundtable discussion took place between the ESDC and stakeholders interested in improving the effectiveness of the TFWP. It is expected that similar meetings will take place over the coming years. ESDC has also implemented additional measures to improve the TFWP such as:
- enhancing inspection tools and mandatory training to strengthen the quality and timeliness of inspections;
- continuing to leverage an enhanced tip line service including live agents, allowing workers to flag any situation of abuse or misuse of the program in a confidential manner;
- continuing to raise employers’ awareness of their obligations to foster compliance with the TFWP's conditions; and,
- expanding collaboration with consulates, as well as provinces and local authorities, to help the department to identify concerns that need immediate attention and take action.
Rights of TFWs
TFWs have the same rights as Canadian citizens or permanent residents. This means employers are legally obligated to provide a safe working environment free of harassment and reprisals.
Additionally, it is against the law for an employer to refuse to pay an employee for their work as stated in an employment agreement, including overtime. Employees should make sure to have a signed copy of this agreement before the first day of work.
“In Canada, the rights of all workers—including temporary foreign workers—are protected by law.” says Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, “The International Mobility Program (IMP) sets requirements and conditions for hiring TFWs in Canada and issues open work permits to vulnerable employees who are experiencing unjust work environments so they can quickly find new employers. With these new regulations in place, the Government of Canada is strengthening its ability to protect temporary foreign workers and is enhancing its capacity to prevent potential mistreatment or abuse during TFWs period of employment in Canada.”
What is the TFWP?
The TFWP is designed to fill urgent gaps in Canada’s labour force by allowing employers to hire internationally. However, the employer must be able to demonstrate a genuine need for taking this step by obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Without one, they must only hire Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Unlike other immigration programs, there is no cap on the number of TFWs that can enter Canada.
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