New Regulations to Protect Foreign Workers

Steven MeurrensUncategorized

On September 26, 2022, regulatory changes to Canadian immigration law took effect with the goal being to increase protections for temporary foreign workers.  All employers who currently employ, or wish to employ, foreign workers should understand these changes.

In order to understand the changes, it is necessary to understand the distinction between the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (the “TFWP”) and the International Mobility Program (the “IMP”).

In brief, the TFWP is a method of hiring foreign workers in which employers need to first obtain Labour Market Impact Assessments to demonstrate that the entry of the foreign workers will have a positive or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market. This is typically done through recruiting on prescribed locations for a four week period prior to applying, although there are recruitment exemptions.

The IMP consists of workers who are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment.  Examples include free-trade agreements, International Experience Canada, provincial nominees, charitable and religious workers, and more.   Many more, in fact. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has almost one-hundred exemption categories.

Providing Information to Foreign Workers About their Rights

The change which will likely take most employers by surprise is that employers must provide foreign workers with up-to-date information about their rights in Canada.

To meet this requirement, employers will need to provide their employees with specific PDFs (or printed pamphlets) that are made available by the Government of Canada.  The PDF for employers hiring employees under the TFWP can be found here.  The PDF for employers hiring employees under the IMP can be found here.  The information must be provided on or before the employee’s first day of work.

As well, employers must make the information available to foreign workers in both English and French available to their foreign workers throughout their period of employment.  The requirement that the information be available in both official languages applies regardless of whether employers have employees who speak both languages.

Health and Safety

Employers of foreign workers must now make reasonable efforts to provide access to health care services when a foreign worker is injured or becomes ill at the workplace. Reasonable efforts can include ensuring that there is a phone available to foreign workers to call emergency services or organizing (but not paying for) transportation to a hospital, clinic or doctor.

As well, employers in the TFWP must obtain and pay for private health insurance that covers emergency medical care during the period for which their foreign workers are not covered by their provincial or territorial health systems.

Other Changes

The remaining changes are more straight-forward, and most employers were probably already doing what is now required.

First, employers must have written employment agreements with their foreign workers that are signed by both employers and foreign workers.

Second, employers cannot retaliate against foreign workers who report abuse.

Third, employers are prohibited from charging or recovering fees for the provision of services in relation to Labour Market Impact Assessments, employer compliance fees or fees related to recruitment.

Ensuring Compliance 

In order to enhance its ability to monitor compliance, the government will now have the ability to require that third parties, without the consent of the employer or worker, provide documentation relating to employer compliance.  As well, employers and affiliated entities who are not compliant can be banned from hiring employers, with especially stringent rules in the TFWP.

Canada’s immigration system increasingly relies on prospective immigrants first working in Canada as foreign workers and both the IMP and the TFWP have grown tremendously in recent years (with a brief drop during the COVID-19 pandemic).  This is unlikely to change in the near future, and as such, it is important that all foreign workers understand the September 26 changes now in effect.