Despite the travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, employers in Canada can bring in Temporary Foreign Workers [TFW] to the country to work for them.
It is the responsibility of the employer bringing the TFW to Canada to do their part for ensuring the safety of the foreign worker arriving in Canada as well as that of Canadian residents.
Guidelines have been issued by the Government of Canada for the protection of foreign workers and stopping the spread of COVID-19.
All travellers to Canada will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day period of self-isolation. Travellers coming to Canada from abroad have been advised to proceed directly to their homes or to the place that they will self-quarantine in for the next 14 days.
Stopping anywhere on the way from the Port of Entry to the destination is strictly prohibited. Visiting friends or going to the grocery shop is not allowed. If found, this can lead to a fine or even time in jail.
Employers that are getting Temporary Foreign Workers [TFWs] to Canada to work for them are expected to aid in the facilitation of this measure while ensuring the health and overall wellbeing of the foreign workers. This is to be done especially in situations wherein the employer will be providing housing facilities for the workers.
Nine criteria have been compiled by the Canadian government in this regard. Employers have to adhere to the criteria in compliance with the quarantine regulations.
While the nine criteria are generally for all employers getting temporary foreign workers to Canada, five additional criteria have been laid down for those employers that will be providing housing facility for their workers.
General criteria for employers getting TFW to Canada
The general criteria laid down for all employers bringing TFWs to Canada are –
Compliance with all laws and policies concerning employer-employee relationship during the period that the worker is in self-isolation. The worker’s period of employment is to be considered to begin on his arrival in Canada.
No pay deductions during self-isolation. Employers must ensure that they give the foreign workers their regular pay as well as benefits during the period that the worker is in self-isolation. Proof of wages is to be maintained.
For those workers that are coming to Canada through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, the specific provisions of the applicable contract have to be followed. Other workers will have to be paid for a minimum of 30 hours in a week at the rate of pay that has been specified on the Labour Market Impact Assessment [LMIA].
Standard contract deductions, such as Employment insurance, in keeping with the requirements of the applicable immigration program, may be withheld by the employer.
No authorization to be given to work in self-isolation, even if requested by the foreign worker. Exceptions are applicable to those workers that are regarded, by the Chief Public Health Officer, to be providing an essential service.
Employers cannot ask the foreign worker to take up other duties – such as administrative tasks or building repairs – during the period that the worker is in self-isolation.
Regular health monitoring. Employers will have to regularly monitor the health of their self-isolating workers. This includes any employee that might have fallen sick after the self-isolation period is over.
For the purposes of regular health monitoring, the employer will be expected to communicate with the worker every day, enquiring on a daily basis if the worker is feeling any COVID-19 symptoms.
The daily communication can be through any means – email, text, call, or speaking in-person [from 2 metres away].
A proper record of the responses given by the employer has to be maintained.
Ensuring immediate isolation of workers that have symptoms. Employers must make arrangements for the full and immediate isolation of symptomatic workers. The appropriate consulate would also have to be contacted by the employer.
Access to proper hygiene. It will be the responsibility of the employers for ensuring that all workers have due access to proper hygiene. This will include providing facilities enabling workers to wash their hands with warm water and soap.
In case water and soap are not available for washing hands, the employer would have to provide alcohol-based sanitizer and soap.
Providing information on COVID-19. Employers will be expected to provide information to the worker on coronavirus.
The information on COVID-19 is to be provided by the employer to the employee either on or before the first day that the worker will be self-isolating from.
It is recommended that the information be provided to the worker in a language that the worker can understand. Due consideration should also be given to the most appropriate method for getting the information across to the worker in a way that he understands it best. While for some it might be in writing, explaining over the phone might be better for others.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has materials on COVID-19 available in many different languages.
Quarantine Act violations to be reported. Employers, as well as all residents of Canada, should report any Quarantine Act violations to their local law enforcement. This includes reporting any workers that are not respecting the mandatory self-isolation period.
All in Canada to follow the latest public health requirements. This includes guidance from the provincial and federal governments.
Employers will also be expected to follow all the applicable federal, provincial or territorial laws regarding health safety and employment. This includes new provisions for COVID-19 related job-protected sick leave.
Additional criteria for employers providing housing facilities
Situations wherein the proper accommodation requirements cannot be met, employers will have to find alternate accommodation, such as a hotel, for fulfilling the 14-day self-isolation requirements.
Housing for self-isolating workers to be separate from that of workers not in self-isolation. Employers must provide separate accommodation for self-isolating workers and those that are not self-isolating.
Workers subject to self-isolation can be housed together, provided the housing keeps them two metres apart always. Shared facilities are allowed provided there is sufficient space. Beds should be kept a minimum of two metres apart. For demonstrating compliance with the requirement, date-stamped photos must be taken of the facilities.
If any new worker comes into the living space, the 14-day period will be re-set in view of the new individual being at risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 prior to arriving at the accommodation.
Ensuring that accommodations are cleaned and disinfected. It will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all the surfaces are properly cleaned and disinfected in the accommodation. Common areas, bathrooms, kitchens should be cleaned daily or as often as needed. Log to be maintained. Cleaning materials to be provided by the employer. Professional cleaner might be hired.
Posting information about preventing the spread of COVID-19. Employers will be expected to post, in the accommodations, information about prevention of spread of COVID-19. This includes posting information on the best practices to be followed in maintaining the facilities. Such information is recommended to be posted in common areas, bathrooms and kitchens. The information is to be posted in a language that is easily understandable to the foreign workers housed in the accommodation provided.
Ensuring that workers avoid contact with individuals that are at risk of developing COVID-19. It will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the accommodations allow workers to avoid contact with individuals that are above 65 years in age and with people that have other medical conditions putting them at risk of developing COVID-19. For instance, a caregiver to a senior should be housed in separate accommodations during the self-isolation period.
While Temporary Foreign Workers can now travel to Canada, there are certain guidelines that the employers will have to adhere to. Additional guidelines are in place in cases wherein the employer will be arranging the housing facilities for the workers as well.
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