More and more businesses in Canada are hiring foreign workers. In fact, the number of temporary foreign workers has ballooned in recent years to the point where they now outnumber new permanent residents. There are many reasons for this trend, including a rapidly aging labour force, skills shortages for specific sectors of the economy, as well as federal government policy which has increasingly prioritized temporary foreign workers over permanent residence applications.
The greater emphasis on temporary foreign workers has led to recent regulatory changes to the rules surrounding the hiring of foreign workers. The changes, in force since April 2011, has resulted in significant changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
What does this mean? Employers are increasingly under scrutiny with respect to the process followed in hiring foreign workers. Specifically, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is watching to ensure that employers act in a manner consistent with their applications with respect to factors such as the wages and working conditions. Employers are also now subject to heightened inspection with respect to the genuineness of any job offer and the past compliance of an employer.
Employers also face serious consequences for non-compliance and/or for any perceived misrepresentation to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, including denial of any further work permits, fines, imprisonment, and/or public listing for companies on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website declaring an employer’s inability to hire foreign workers.
So, how are employers to deal with this greater scrutiny? There are several practical steps which can be taken, including establishment of an internal audit process which keeps records of ongoing work permits, details of work conditions of all foreign workers, including expiry dates of all those working under work permits. Employers should also consider taking steps to ensure ongoing compliance and drafting of clear policies relating to foreign workers.