Canada Steps Up Monitoring for Temporary Foreign Workers Program

Last Updated: 9 April 2020.

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Over the past several years, Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been a hot topic across the major news outlets in the country. Reactions to the controversy surrounding the program have ranged from virulent criticism to impassioned defense.

The debate has previously been about the economic necessity of outsourcing, the obligations of Canadian companies, and national identity in a globalized world. These are all fundamental issues reaching far beyond discussion of the merits of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Even a major overhaul of the program would be only the tip of a very large iceberg. Nonetheless, such an overhaul is the simplest way for the federal government to address the criticism, so is likely to be the immediate result.

Since December 2015, changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations have allowed Employment and Social Development Canada to impose administrative monetary penalties on employers found non-compliant with the program. In addition, employers now can also be banned from using the foreign worker programs for anywhere from one to ten years per violation, with permanent exclusion for the most serious offenders.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is continuously evolving to ensure it works for everyone – workers, employers and the Canadian economy. More recently, following recommendations from both the Office of the Auditor General and Parliament, and as part of continued efforts to strengthen the compliance regime, the Government has stepped up monitoring of the program. Particularly, random compliance audits and unannounced on-site employer inspections have been introduced. These types of inspections are undertaken in situations where there is a high-risk of non-compliance and where the safety of temporary foreign workers may be at risk. As of 2018, Employment and Social Development Canada conducted 2,800 inspections per year. Results from current inspections are that over half of employers are initially found non-compliant, but the vast majority take corrective action to address any identified issues. Details about non-compliance are now also easily accessible on the Government of Canada’s website.

The easiest way to prevent unintentional non-compliance by employers is to provide clear communications. It is the responsibility of the employer and the worker to ensure that all steps are followed correctly. Preparing thorough applications and paying close attention to compliance conditions will now be more important than ever.

The ability to bring in temporary foreign workers to fill labour needs is vital to the success of many Canadian businesses. The government has acknowledged and encouraged this in the past, and will certainly continue to do so going forward. However, employers must be prepared for stricter monitoring and enforcement of the program.

The Immigration Law Group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. has the expertise to assist both employers and potential employees with evaluating eligibility, preparing comprehensive application packages, addressing any potential complications, and advising on ongoing compliance requirements.

Warren Creates is Head of Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall’s Immigration Law Group. He is a Certified Specialist in the fields of Immigration Law, Citizenship Law, and Refugee Law. He can be reached at wcreates@perlaw.ca or 613.566.2839.

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