What are your rights as a Temporary Foreign Worker?

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All workers in Canada are protected by Canadian law. This includes temporary foreign workers. Being in a foreign land, you can be vulnerable to abuse or unsafe working conditions. This is why the Government of Canada ensures that temporary foreign workers have standard rights and protections to prevent such situations.

It is in your best interest as a temporary worker foreign worker to know your rights. Being aware ensures that you will not be taken advantage of or be placed in harm’s way. It will also help you become a more productive employee.

The rights of temporary foreign workers in Canada

Generally, under Canada’s labour laws, your employer

  • Must pay for your work
  • Must make sure that your workplace is safe
  • Give you break time and days off
  • Must respect the terms of your written contract

Your employer cannot:

  • force you to perform duties that you were not hired or trained to do
  • force you to work if you are sick or injured
  • take your passport or work permit away from you
  • have you deported from Canada or change your immigration status
  • make you pay them back for fees they paid to hire you

Your employer must meet all these conditions. These should also be contained on your employment contract. There can be specific conditions that you employer must meet depending on the type of work or program you belong to. For example, if you are hired as a temporary foreign worker in a low-wage position or under the Agricultural Stream, your employer must:

  • pay for all your transportation costs to and from Canada
  • provide you with private health insurance until you are eligible for the provincial or territorial health insurance plan, so that you will not have to pay to see a doctor or to go to the hospital if you are sick or injured
  • ensure you have a place to live.

Employment Standards

Your legal rights and protections are also ensured on a provincial level. You are covered by Manitoba’s Employment Standards on matters such as minimum wage, leaves, general holidays, overtime and hours of work, and more. These can vary depending on your industry/occupation. You can find more information about standards for specific occupations on this page: Employment Standards

Some specific concerns

Can you change employers?
Yes, you can change employers. But be aware of the limitations of your work permit. Depending on the program you belong to, you may need to apply for a new work permit and/or fulfill other requirements. Note that Live-in caregivers and International Experience Canada participants have different instructions for changing employers.

You should also know whether your new employer needs permission from the Government of Canada (they may need to get a Labour Market Impact Assessment – LMIA) to hire you as a temporary foreign worker.

What if you lose your job?
Your employer has to give you advance notice before you can be fired or laid off. The number of days for advance notice depends on the province where you’re working and how long you’ve worked for the employer. In Manitoba, if you’ve worked for the employer for at least 30 days but less than a year, you should be given one week notice. If you’ve worked for the same employer for more than one year but less than three years, it’s two weeks (see Employment Standards – Do employers need to give notice of termination?). Employers can either allow the employee to work out this notice period, or pay wages in lieu of notice for the same number of weeks, or a combination of both.

Employers do not need to give notice of termination when the employee has been employed for less than 30 days or if they were terminated for a cause. Employers may not give you notice or termination pay if they can prove that you committed a crime (e.g. theft, fraud, etc.) or if you lied about your qualifications when you were hired.

Some important words to know:

Employment Standards Code – The Employment Standards Code establishes the rights and responsibilities of most employers and employees in Manitoba.

Manitoba Employment Standards – The agency that enforces minimum standards and investigates disagreements between employers and employees.

Employment contract – This is a legal document that contains the details of the working conditions that both you and your employer have agreed to. Both of you must respect the conditions in this agreement. It should cover details about job duties, deductions from pay, and conditions of employment.

Period of employment – This is the length of time from when an employee starts working for an employer until the day the employment ends.

Minimum wage – This is the lowest per hour rate that an employee can be paid. Manitoba’s minimum wage is $11. 90/hr. (as of October 1, 2020).

Deductions – These are amounts that can be subtracted from your pay such as taxes, insurance premiums, or pension contributions.

Termination of employment – When an employer dismisses or ends your employment.

Lay-off – This is a temporary break in employment where employees are likely to return to work. Employers do not need to give advance notice. However, if the lay-off is longer than eight weeks in a 16 week period, the lay-off becomes a termination and notice is required.

Sources: Manitoba Employment Standards, Manitoba Government; Foreign Worker Rights, Government of Canada; Work permit: When you start working, Government of Canada; Canada to make major changes to temporary foreign worker regulations, Michael Schwartz, CIC News; Accessed January 17, 2022.

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Community Resources

Download the following helpful guides:

If you have a problem with your pay, hours of work, or if you are being treated unfairly, contact Manitoba Employment Standards.

If you have been asked to do dangerous work or if the conditions in your work are unsafe, you can report it to Manitoba Labour and Regulatory Services.

There’s help for victims of trafficking or abuse. Go to this page to know more: How to report abuse of temporary foreign workers.

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