CANADA – Applications Under Temporary Foreign Worker Program Tightened
The government of Canada has announced significant reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which take effect immediately and which will impact employers directly. The reforms are in response to increased public noise around job security fears and are designed to ensure that available jobs are offered to Canadian residents first.
The first change is that, effective immediately, employers are required to pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage (set by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, or HRSDC) for their position.
In the past, employers had flexibility and were permitted to pay up to 15% below the prevailing wage for a highly skilled position or up to 5% below the prevailing age for a lower skilled position, provided they could prove that the wages paid were in line with ages paid to other employees in similar positions in the same company. However, since the requirement to prove this was very administrative, in reality, most employers offered at least the prevailing wage in any case.
Suspension of Accelerated Labour Market Opinion Process
Just over a year ago, Canada launched an “accelerated labour market opinion (LMO) process” (see our alert here) whereby eligible employers were able to receive labour market opinions (i.e. confirmation from HRSDC that proposed positions for temporary foreign workers could not be filled by resident workers) within 10 days of submission, as opposed to several weeks. The reforms announced this week suspend this process, immediately, meaning that LMOs will once more take several weeks to obtain.
Additional Powers to Suspend and Revoke Permits
The reforms will also give the government additional powers to suspend and revoke work permits and LMOs if an employer is misusing the program. However, further details of the kinds of infractions that could cause a suspension or revocation of a permit or LMO have not been given, and the date of implementation of these new powers is not yet determined.
Increased Scrutiny of LMO Applications
In addition to suspending the accelerated LMO process, all LMO applications will be scrutinised more closely, and additional questions will be added to the application forms, to ensure that employers are not attempting to deliberately avoid hiring resident Canadian workers. It is also likely that fees will be introduced for the LMO process.
Transition Plan For Hiring Canadians Required
Employers using the TFWP will be required to demonstrate their commitment to ultimately transitioning to a Canadian workforce. A detailed transition plan will be requested to support applications for temporary foreign workers.
English and French Language Only
Employers will only be able to advertise or seek employees using English or French, unless they have a very specific need for an employee to speak another language (e.g. for an interpreter position).
- Note the suspension of the Accelerated LMO Program and, if your company was using this, adjust timescales accordingly
- Note that the flexibility around paying the prevailing wage is no longer available and ensure that all upcoming applications meet wage requirements
- Note that likely introduction of fees for LMO applications (although fee amounts have not been announced yet)
- Speak to your immigration advisers about preparing a detailed transition plan to prove commitment to hiring Canadian workers