Canadian Labour Laws: The Rights of a Temporary Foreign Worker

Each year, Canada sees many foreign nationals travel to the country in search of work. Most of the time it is temporary work that not only acts as a survival job but also gives them valuable Canadian work experience. This is something you need to have if you hope to advance your career in Canada. As a temporary foreign worker in Canada, you have certain rights which you need to be aware of. In fact, as a temp worker in Canada, you enjoy the protection and oversight of certain Canadian labour laws.

These labour laws ensure that you have access to fair wages, health insurance, employment security, due process and reasonable hours, amongst other things. In this blog, we will be talking about these rights and laws which you need to know before heading to Canada. Keep in mind that these facts and figures were derived from reports as recent as 2022. However, they do not necessarily apply for the foreseeable future as laws and legislation can change at any time.

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, there are several ways for foreign nationals to make their way into the country for work. Initiatives such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and International Mobility Program (IMP), facilitate this. One common thread between all these programs is that the employee must have a job offer in hand before they can receive a work permit. Having said that, exceptions do exist.

There are open work permits for recently graduated international students, youth exchange workers and spouses of Canadian citizens. There are plenty of options at one’s fingertips in this regard. Therefore, for this article, we will be talking about labour laws under the assumption that you have already received a work permit.

According to a report published by the Law firm, L&E Global, immigration law comes under the jurisdiction of the federal government. As a result it is subject to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “IRPA”). The report also states that to be lawfully employed in Canada, one must be a citizen, a landed immigrant, or have a work permit. It is also important to note that temporary foreign workers enjoy the same protections as their Canadian counterparts.

Recent Updates to the Canadian Labour Laws

The Canadian government recently introduced new legislation to govern the TFWP. The legislation is designed to protect foreign workers and address short-term labour and skills shortages.

The new amendments were put in place to assess the authenticity of the job offers to minimize fraudulent offers and better protect employees. This was a countermeasure against not just fraud but potential abuse of labour. A secondary element to the amendment seeks to halt the hiring of temporary foreign workers when employers fail to meet commitments of employment.

Temporary Foreign Worker Labour Laws

Lastly, as per the L&E global report, temporary foreign workers can hold a temporary work permit for only four years at a stretch. But again, there are exemptions for this time limit, such as for those who are in managerial, or other highly-skilled positions.

Employer Compliance Protocols

To hire temporary foreign workers, Canadian employers need to go through certain application processes. The offer of employment should be submitted to government officials for review. The offer should contain the position of hiring, expected duties, location of employment, wages and expected numbers of hours.

This information comes into play for the work permit application and the finalized work permit of the employee. Once the permit is issued, both employer and employee are expected to uphold the stipulations of the work permit. Anything less runs the risk of jeopardizing the current and future immigration processes.

“There is no better way to exercise the imagination than the study of the law.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Essayist

Low Wage Worker Rights​

If you are a temporary foreign worker who is hired for a high-wage job then that’s all well and good. You can afford to support your family, have savings and make a decent living. However, if we’re being honest, the majority of temporary foreign workers come under the minimum wage brackets. Hence, there are specific areas where they can expect certain leniencies and rights to be afforded by their employers.

Wages and Labour Laws

Salary: According to labour laws, employees have to be paid an amount that equals or exceeds the minimum wage rates mandated by the Canadian government. This ranges from $11.00 an hour to $14.00 per hour. Even if the employee is getting a salary as opposed to a daily wage, it should add up in consideration of the hours worked.

Housing: The labour laws also state that employers have to make sure that low-wage workers have access to suitable and affordable housing. In some cases, the employer will provide it, while in others the employer will simply facilitate this. According to the Canadian Immigration Law Firm, CANADIM, the total cost of housing can’t exceed 30% of the worker’s income before taxes.

Transportation: Employers have to ensure and cover the cost of the employee’s travel from their country of origin to Canada. The same applies to when they leave the country after their employment term is completed. This cost can’t be deducted from the employee’s income.

Health Insurance: As the name suggests, the employer has to give workers health insurance. Now, this can be provincial or territorial coverage. However, in most cases, the employer will be required to purchase said insurance from a private entity.

Minimum Working Conditions

Each province or territory has certain employment standards known as minimum legislative standards and labour laws. Another name for this is ‘Floor Rights’. This covers a wide range of things from hours of work to overtime pay, vacations and holidays and so on. Neither the employer nor the employee can contract out these rights except for when it is for favourable terms of employment. With that in mind, there are three areas that we need to look at.

Working Hours and Overtime: Most Canadian jurisdictions have legislation that governs maximum working hours. Generally, this breaks down to 8 hours of work per day or between 40 to 48 hours of work in a given week. In certain cases, these maximum hours can be exceeded but that falls into the category of overtime.

When it comes to overtime, there are regulations for that as well. Overtime is typically considered as time-and-one-half in Canada. The overtime entitlements apply to both salaried and hourly staff. Having said that, there are certain classes of employees that are purposely excluded from overtime. This includes the likes of managers, supervisors or other senior/high-level positions.

Health and Safety in the Workplace: Each Canadian jurisdiction has its own unique set of health and safety mandates for temporary foreign workers. These legislations provide employees with certain rights designed to promote workplace safety. This includes the right to be informed of the nature of the work (like if it is working with hazardous material or with heavy machinery). They also mandate that the employee has the right to refuse the work if they believe it to be too dangerous.

Lastly, there are laws in place that dictate that the employer must assess the risk of harassment in the workplace. They must then come up with programs to deal with violence and harassment.

Protection Against Harassment: Beyond just being one of the labour laws, this is also a human right. Employers are required by law to have policies in place to prevent and address harassment in the workplace. In most instances, employers will need to conduct investigations into workplace allegations and take corrective action accordingly.

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