6% of employers non-compliant with Temporary Foreign Worker Program rules: Federal government

The Canada Customs building between St. Stephen, N.B., and Calais, Maine. Photo: HR Law Canada/Canva

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) revealed that 6% of employers were found non-compliant with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) rules in inspections carried out in the last fiscal year. These findings come as part of the Canadian government’s efforts to ensure the health and safety of foreign workers in the country.

ESDC completed over 2,100 inspections from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023. Out of these, 116 employers were found to have violated TFWP conditions. Administrative monetary penalties levied against these employers amounted to $1.54 million. Seven employers were banned from using the program for up to five years. Among those penalized were employers in the transport and construction sectors, who faced fines ranging from $53,000 to $258,000 for failures including not providing adequate wages and safe working conditions.

The penalties come after new regulations were implemented in September 2022 to bolster the TFWP’s inspection capabilities and increase overall compliance. These measures add to other initiatives like the Migrant Worker Support Program and the TFWP Workforce Solutions Road Map.

In a public statement, the Government of Canada expressed its commitment to the safety of temporary foreign workers, saying it “takes its responsibilities to protect temporary foreign workers very seriously and continues to take steps to improve employer compliance with the TFWP.”

The data shows that TFWP is a small but significant part of Canada’s labor force. In 2022, 204,700 temporary residents held work permits through the program, constituting roughly 1% of Canada’s labor force.

Three primary categories of violations can result in administrative and monetary penalties and bans: jeopardizing the life or safety of a temporary foreign worker, failing to pay appropriate wages, and failing to provide safe working conditions. Some violations are specifically related to COVID-19 protocols and quarantines.

Further, ESDC has implemented an external referral protocol since April 1, 2022, designed to alert appropriate authorities within 48 hours when a temporary foreign worker’s health or safety is at immediate risk. Since the implementation, more than 47 such escalations have occurred, leading to referrals to provincial and federal stakeholders over concerns about unsafe and unsuitable living conditions for temporary foreign workers.

The government plans to continue updating the public on TFWP compliance efforts on a semi-annual basis.