Federal requirements released for employers of foreign workers
By Greenhouse Canada
By Greenhouse Canada
Federal requirements for employers of temporary foreign workers, including seasonal agricultural workers, during the current COVID-19 pandemic have been released.
The complete document was circulated by the Western Agricultural Labour Initiative (WALI) on Saturday March 28, 2020. “Please be sure to review the Government of Canada’s guidance document to ensure you are familiar with all new requirements and details,” notes WALI.
Chief among them, employers must continue to remunerate and monitor foreign workers during their 14-day self-isolation period upon arrival in Canada.
During the isolation period, the employer must pay the worker at the regular rate with benefits. The employer is allowed to withhold standard contract deductions such as employment insurance, housing and transportation as laid out in the requirements of the applicable program stream, however, the employer is not allowed to deduct any additional amounts due to self-isolation.
Further, the employer cannot allow the worker to take on any job-related or unrelated duties unless deemed essential by the Chief Public Health Officer. Any violations of this self-isolation period must be reported.
Employers must monitor the health of their employees both during and after the self-isolation period. Symptomatic employees must be isolated immediately and local public health officials must be contacted. Facilities must be available for workers to practise good hygiene, including soap and water hand-washing stations and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Criteria for accommodations
Self-isolating workers must be housed separately from those not in self-isolation, even if it means arranging for alternate accommodations. Workers in self-isolation must be housed two meters apart from each other at all times, and must allow them to avoid contact with at-risk individuals such as those over 65 years of age or with pre-existing medical conditions.
Surfaces are to be cleaned and disinfected regularly. This can be carried out by the workers as an essential duty.
Information on COVID-19 should be posted throughout and preferably in the language of the worker. Resources can be found at www.canada.ca/coronavirus, or by contacting the Public Health Agency of Canada at 1-833-784-4397, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take note of provincial regulations
As the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau noted in last week’s press conference, employers who do not follow these requirements could lose their rights to apply for TFW or SAWP workers in the coming years.
In addition to federal requirements, employers must also follow provincial/territorial public health requirements.
“We anticipate protocol requirements from the Province of British Columbia to be available early next week. New information will be shared as soon as it is available,” notes WALI.
In a release from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association dated March 27, 2020, the OFVGA notes that “There are a disturbing number of reports about essential services refusing entry to seasonal agricultural workers who have already been in the province for some time. There is no need to treat these workers any different than Ontarians practicing self- isolation during the COVID-19 crisis. Workers are being asked to follow social distancing requirements, monitor for symptoms, and ensure proper personal hygiene.”
About 8,000 seasonal and other temporary workers are currently working in Ontario, primarily in greenhouses.