Canada to make major changes in regulations of Temporary Foreign Workers

Stricter rules for employers and more protection for employees may be forthcoming.

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

Temporary workers enter Canada with one of the two paths. The first is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The flow is for companies that want to hire non-Canadians for jobs that Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not willing to do. The other one is the International Mobility Program (IMP). The way allows foreigners to work in Canada at jobs even where there may be a Canadian to do the work.

The big difference between a job under the TFWP and one under the IMP is that the TFWP needs LMIA but the IMP does not. LMIA stands for Labor Market Impact Assessment. It is a form that an employer seeking to hire through TFWP completes. It shows that the employer tried to find Canada to take the job, but could not find it.

Workers raised concerns in conversations. In particular, it was noted that TFWs often cannot understand and exercise their rights. Major problems included:

  1. Previously, employers found compliance with regulations did not circumvent bans on hiring TFWs. These employers do the hiring through the other companies they own.
  2. TFWs are not aware of their rights or what they mean.
  3. TFW does not have proper access to health care.
  4. Recruiters or employers charge TFWs illegally 'recruiting fees'.
  5. TFWs fear employers' revenge if they raise concerns about working conditions. These fears have led to employees not reporting abuse.

Being a TFW in a new country with a completely different culture can make one vulnerable and prone to psychological stress. Due to this, Canada has decided to strengthen the protections for TFWs. The government is planning the following changes:

Requiring all TFW employers to provide all TFWs with a paper document outlining TFW rights. Employers would also have to post this information in a public place in the workplace.

  1. Make every employer provide the employee and the government with a contract of employment. This document confirms that the employee will work in the same job, working conditions, and pay, as written in the offer of employment.
  2. Make it clear that the employer provides a workplace free from abuse. Revenge is also considered abusive.
  3. Allow Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to delay the processing of LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment)  if it suspects that the employer has not complied with the regulations.
  4. Create new requirements for granting LMIAs. These will include: taking reasonable efforts to make the workplace free from abuse; demonstrate that the employer respects all federal and provincial employment rules; and not allow an unqualified employer associate or alter-ego to hire TFWs.

Reduce the time duration for an employer to respond to a Notice of Preliminary Findings (NoPF) from 30 days to 15 days. NoPF identifies concerns about non-compliance. Reduced response time will allow faster resolution.

Tighten the ban and penalty on employers and recruiters who charge TFW illegal recruitment fees.

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

Requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to provide access to health care for employees who become ill or injured at work. One example would be setting up a telephone in the workplace for TFWs to call health services.

All the employers are required under the TFWP to pay for and provide private health insurance to their employees  (except the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program). This insurance must cover emergency medical care. At present, some TFWPs are not required to provide such protection.

The Canadian government accepts that the new regulations may impose higher costs on businesses. However, the expenditure is expected to be minimal. For example, an extra 10 minutes to deliver the employment agreement and working conditions to each TFW. The benefits will be clearer to employers, employees, and the government. TFWs in particular will enjoy stronger protections.

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