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The Challenges Facing Temporary Foreign Workers and Their Employers

In these times of disruption and social distancing, many challenges loom for foreign workers and their employers.

1. Work permit applications

The pandemic has caused a slowdown of many business and government services worldwide. As a result, some temporary foreign workers are struggling to gather documents required for their work permit applications.

Passport renewals, police reports and official document translations are now difficult to obtain and may complicate entry into Canada for foreign workers. Making sure that workers have the documents required to apply for a work permit has become critical for employers.

2. Travel to airports

Confinement and travel restrictions in certain countries may make it hard for workers to get to the airport. Despite having all the authorizations required to travel to Canada, workers could have trouble leaving their country simply because inter-regional transportation is less frequent or limited. Employers will need to help manage departure logistics and provide their workers with documentary evidence to facilitate travel to the airport.

3. Self-isolation

Upon their arrival in Canada, temporary foreign workers are required to self-isolate for 14 days. In Québec, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec has issued highly restrictive recommendations in this regard. Employers are responsible for implementing measures prior to worker arrival, such as limiting occupancy to two per room, disinfecting facilities daily, posting health recommendations in the workers’ language and monitoring workers for symptoms.

4. Social distancing on work sites

Health recommendations continue to apply on work sites even after the 14-day self-isolation period. Workers must wash their hands frequently and stay at least two metres apart from each other. To allow them to respect social distancing requirements, employers may need to adjust their operations.

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5. Costs

The costs of transportation between the airport and work site, 14-day self-isolation with pay and sometimes even the plane ticket will be borne by the employer. The federal government announced $50 million to help farmers and food producers offset these costs.

COVID-19 has created a real headache for businesses awaiting the arrival of temporary foreign workers. Having a solid strategy to ensure a seamless immigration process for foreign labour is now more important than ever, and will help employers minimize administrative delays and avoid some of these challenges.

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