Temporary Workers in Canada: Know Your Rights

Published on: September 4th, 2023

Each year, many foreign nationals travel to Canada to work temporarily and gain valuable Canadian work experience! As a temporary foreign worker in Canada, you have rights which your employer must respect. There are rules and regulations ensuring that you have access to fair wages, health insurance, and employment safety. Before you arrive, make sure you understand your rights as a temporary worker in Canada!

Free Assessment

Becoming a Temporary Foreign Worker in Canada

Canada has a range of options for people who wish to come to the country to work. Both the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and International Mobility Program (IMP) help foreigners come to Canada to work. One common thread with these programs is that in order to be eligible, a foreign worker must have already received a job offer from a Canadian employer. Generally, a job offer is required in order to obtain a work permit, though exceptions to this do exist, like open work permits available to recently graduated international students, youth exchange workers, and spouses of Canadians.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be describing the rights that you can expect if you’ve received a work permit through either the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program. Both of these programs require foreign nationals to have a job offer in order to receive a work permit. For those coming through the TFWP, the job offer will be reviewed through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process. As the IMP is exempt from requiring LMIAs, all work permits issued through this program will require employers to submit their job offer as part of the work permit application process.

If you’d like information regarding other options for work, you can review our previous article regarding open work permits in Canada.

Employer Compliance Protocol

In order to hire temporary foreign workers, a Canadian employer must go through an application process where the offer of employment will be submitted to government officials for review. Within this offer of employment, the employer will indicate the position, expected work duties, location of employment, along with the expected number of hours to be worked per week and the wage to be paid. This information will be included in the work permit application and attached to the employee’s work permit details.

Once a work permit is issued, both the employee and the employer must adhere to the conditions of the work permit. Foreign nationals should be aware that if they break the conditions of their permit, they can risk jeopardizing all future immigration applications. However, foreign nationals should be aware that the Canadian employer also must adhere to the conditions set out in the work permit and the approved offer of employment.

The employer is not legally able to pay a wage lower than what was agreed upon in the offer, or reduce the number of hours worked per week, or ask the foreign national to change employment locations or employment positions. Employers hiring temporary foreign workers may be subject to employer compliance inspections to ensure that they are meeting these various conditions.

Wages

When hiring temporary foreign workers, a Canadian employer must pay temporary foreign workers at least the same wage that a Canadian would receive to work in the same position. This wage can be determined by examining the National Occupational Classification (NOC) wage listing for the position and cross referencing against the regional wage information (if available).

As well, employees hired through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) are always hired in one of two streams, either the stream for high-wage positions or the stream for low-wage positions. High-wage and low-wage is determined based on the median average wage by province. High-wage positions are those paid above the median provincial wage and low wage positions are those paid below the median provincial wage.

Province/TerritoryWages prior to May 31, 2023Wages as of May 31, 2023
Alberta28.8528.85
British Columbia26.4427.50
Manitoba23.0023.94
New Brunswick21.7923.00
Newfoundland and Labrador24.2925.00
Northwest Territories37.3038.00
Nova Scotia22.0022.97
Nunavut36.0035.90
Ontario26.0627.00
Prince Edward Island21.6322.50
Quebec25.0026.00
Saskatchewan25.9626.22
Yukon32.0035.00

Low-Wage Worker Rights

While it is expected that temporary foreign workers hired through the high-wage stream will be able to financially support their lifestyles in terms of housing and transportation, this is not always the case for low-wage workers. For this reason, there are three specific areas where low-wage workers can expect certain rights to be afforded by their employer.

Housing: Employers must ensure that low-wage temporary foreign workers have access to suitable and affordable housing. In some cases, the employer may provide these accommodations, while in other cases the employer will simply ensure the employees are able to access this. The total cost of the housing cannot exceed 30% of the worker’s income before taxes.

Transportation: Employers must cover the cost of transportation for any low-wage temporary foreign workers to travel from their country of residence to Canada, as well as to travel back to their country of residence at the end of the employment period. This cost cannot be deducted from an employee’s income.

Health Insurance: Employers must ensure that low-wage temporary foreign workers have proper health insurance. In some cases, workers may be covered by provincial or territorial health insurance policies, but in many cases this will require the employer to arrange the purchase of private health insurance.

Study: With a new three-year temporary measure, implemented on June 2023 and ending in June 27, 2026, workers can study full-time or part-time while their work permits are valid or until the expiration of the policy. There are no restrictions on the length of the program. This temporary measure applies to those who hold a valid work permit or have submitted an application to renew their work permit on or before June 7, 2023, and are authorized to work. If a foreign worker wishes to study for a longer duration than their work permit allows, they will still need to apply for a study permit.

Job Duties and Working Conditions

All workers in Canada are protected by law against exploitation, this includes temporary foreign workers. Most occupations are covered at the provincial and territorial level to protect workers’ rights regarding hours of work, employment conditions, compensation, and termination of employment. Any employee who feels they have been treated wrongfully in their employment can consult the Ministry of Labour to get information about how to take action against their employer.

As well, all temporary foreign workers must be covered by a provincial or territorial workplace safety insurance plan, or a private insurance equivalent.

How to get a work permit

If you feel that you would make a strong addition to an employment team in Canada, you should consider the possibility of getting a Canadian work permit. There are two types of work permits: open work permits (you can work for any employer) and closed work permits (you can only work for one employer).

As well, if you are considering making Canada your permanent home, you may want to consider immigration programs designed for skilled workers to become Canadian permanent residents. For example, the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program, contained within the Express Entry system, allows foreign workers to move to Canada and gives them the right to live and work anywhere in the country!

To learn more about your options for Canadian immigration, simply complete our free online assessment and a member of the Canadim Team will contact you to discuss your options!

Free Assessment
Free assessment

Discover your Canadian immigration options. Get your free assessment now!