As international trade continues to grow, so does the number of people crossing borders. And I am not referring to tourists. Instead, I am talking about the increasing number of workers relocating between an organization’s various global offices.
This is happening because, as companies expand to new markets or have their production needs satisfied across countries, they need staff to work in various jurisdictions in order to attend to market specific issues.
This global phenomenon has taken root in Canada. This is verified when one looks at the number of temporary foreign workers entering Canada on an annual basis, which has exploded in recent years from 60,000 to over 250,000. This increase is largely explained by the growth in the number of companies transferring employees from various global offices to Canadian ones.
There is significant risk in transferring employees to Canada. This is because a company can find itself liable in the event that a conflict arises between the employee and the organization or if the employee’s employment is terminated while in Canada. Should this occur a company may find that an employee is entitled to significantly more in Canada than what may be the case in another jurisdiction. Employment laws in Canada are, for example, more generous to employees than they are in most jurisdictions in the United States, particularly with respect to termination pay. Other relevant laws, such as those relating to human rights and occupational health and safety, are often markedly different in Canada than in other jurisdictions.
Given these issues, employers may find that a “straightforward” and “simple” short term assignment to Canada results in significant unforeseen liability.
What to do?
The best way to avoid liability for employees transferred to Canada is to address all employment related matters in advance of an employee’s transfer. Specifically, employment and immigration issues should be address simultaneously. When thinking of relocating an employee to Canada, employers should be discussing at the same meeting immigration and employment matters. The following provides examples of questions which employers should be asking when planning for a transfer:
- What are the immigration options for having the employee work in Canada?
- What are the relevant employment laws for the jurisdiction(s) in which this employee will be working in Canada?
- How can we most effectively address these liabilities?
A systematic and efficient approach to the transfer of employees to Canada can help to significantly improve predictability of results while reducing risk of liability.
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