Do Temporary Foreign Workers Have The Same Rights As Canadian Workers?

Do Temporary Foreign Workers Have The Same Rights As Canadian Workers?

Written by Matthew Taylor
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated November 2, 2021

Many temporary workers come from outside of Canada to work. The culture and rules are different in Canada than in other foreign countries. In Canada, the rights of all workers, including temporary foreign workers, are protected by Canada’s labour laws. 

Your Employer’s Obligations

As a temporary foreign worker, you have rights, just like Canadian workers. Your employer is obligated to pay you for your work, ensure that your workplace is safe, give you break time and days off, and respect the terms of your written contract.

Each province and territory has its own employment standards for minimum wage, holidays, hours of work and rest, and so on. Check the government website for the province or territory you’re working in to learn more.

Provincial and Territorial Employment Standards Websites

What Your Employer Cannot do

Your employer cannot force you to perform duties that you weren’t hired or trained to do or force you to work if you’re sick or injured. They also cannot take your passport or work permit away from you, have you deported, change your immigration status, or make you pay them back for fees they may have paid in order to hire you. As a temporary foreign worker, you are protected by the same labour laws that protect Canadian workers, and your immigration and residency status is safe.

Each province and territory has other laws that protect workers. Contact the employment standards office in the province or territory where you are working.

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Your Rights as a Temporary Foreign Worker

As a temporary foreign worker, you have many of the same rights that Canadian workers have.

The Right to Change Employers

Your employer legally cannot penalize or deport you for looking for another job. Your work permit might only allow you to work for your current employer, so your new employer will have to get permission from the Government of Canada to hire you as a temporary foreign worker. You’ll also need to apply for a new work permit before changing jobs. If you’re under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, you do not need to get a new work permit if you change employers.

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The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

Your employer cannot force you to do any work you feel is unsafe. They cannot fire you, refuse to pay you, or penalize you in any way. Your employer must investigate any dangerous work, and you can refuse to do the work until you and your employer agree that the danger is gone, you have received the proper training, and the problem no longer exists.

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Job Termination Notice

Your employer has to give you notice before firing you or laying you off from your job. If they don’t, they have to pay you termination pay for the notice you should have been given. Keep in mind that If they can prove that they have a good reason to fire you, they may not have to give you notice or termination pay.

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If you’re in a low-wage position, your employer must ensure that suitable and affordable accommodation is available, provide you with affordable suitable accommodation, or offer you accommodation in their primary residence.

Employment Contract 

An employment contract is a legal document that contains the details of the working conditions that both you and your employer have agreed to. This contract protects both you and your employer. Low-wage temporary foreign workers are required to sign an employment contract, but high-wage temporary foreign workers are not.

Ensure that your contract has the following:

  • Details about your job duties
  • Deductions from your pay
  • Conditions of your employment, including the maximum number of hours you will work each day and week, your regular rate of pay, overtime rate of pay, break times, and days off.

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What to do if Your Rights Are Being Violated

Unfortunately, sometimes employers do not meet their obligations. They may ask you to perform a job or task that they are not legally allowed to ask you to perform.  

  • If you have been asked to do dangerous work or if the conditions in your workplace are unsafe, contact the workplace health and safety office in the province or territory where you’re working. 
  • If you have a problem with your pay, your hours of work, or if you are being treated unfairly at work, contact the employment standards office in the province or territory where you’re working. 
  • If you have been injured or are in need of urgent, life-threatening help, call 911 for emergency services.

As a temporary foreign worker, you are protected by Canada’s labour laws. Your employer has obligations to you, and there are things that your employer cannot do. Your employer must honour your employment contract, your rights, and any labour laws. If they don’t, you can get assistance to solve the problem. You should feel safe as a temporary foreign worker in Canada. 

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Matthew joined the Loans Canada writing team in 2021 while was finishing up a Bachelor's degree at the University of Saskatchewan. It was there that he discovered his love of writing. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Canadian Student Review and In his spare time, Matthew enjoys reading, geocaching, and spending time with his family and pets.

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