Chamber, EDC host session on foreign workers

By Rob Vogt – Local Press Writer
Foreign workers have the same rights as other workers in Canada.
That was one of the themes of a presentation given by Mark Holthe, a Canadian immigration lawyer from Lethbridge, to about 40 people gathered at the new town office and multi-use community building on Nov. 21.
It was the latest installment of Opportunities for Growth, a public education series put on by the Claresholm and District Chamber of Commerce and Claresholm Economic Development.
Holthe’s presentation was geared for temporary foreign workers, but applies to all newcomers.
Holthe said temporary foreign workers have the same rights and protections as Canadians and permanent residents.
He said employers must:
• give the worker information about their rights;
• give them a signed copy of their employment agreement on or before the first day of work;
• pay them for their work as stated in their employment agreement, which includes overtime work if it is included as part of their agreement;
• make reasonable efforts to provide them with a workplace free of abuse, including reprisals;
• follow the employment and recruitment standards of the province or territory they work;
• make reasonable efforts to give them access to health care services if they are injured or become ill at the workplace.
The employer cannot:
• force the worker to perform unsafe work or work their employment agreement does not authorize them to do;
• force them to work if they are sick or injured;
• pressure or force them to work overtime not included in their employment agreement;
• punish them for reporting mistreatment, unsafe work, inadequate housing, or for cooperating with an inspection by a government employee;
• take their passport or work permit away from them;
• deport them from Canada or change their immigration status;
• make them reimburse recruitment-related fees the employer may have paid to hire the worker.
Holthe then discussed the employment agreement.
He said on or before the worker’s first day of work, their employer must give them a copy of their employment agreement; the worker and employer must sign this agreement; and the employment agreement must refer to the same occupation, wages and working conditions as those outlined in their offer of employment.
If a worker gets injured or sick they need to tell their supervisor or employer as soon as possible; and get medical attention as quickly as possible.
The employer must make reasonable efforts to provide access to a health-care provider such as giving the worker time off to seek medical attention; ensuring there is a phone available to call emergency services; give them information on what to do and where to go to get health care; and help them get transportation to the health-care provider.
If the worker gets injured or sick, most provinces and territories offer workers’ compensation benefits when workers are injured or sick because of their work.
It is against the law for an employer to stop a worker from making a workers’ compensation claim.
In some provinces and territories, employers must get and pay for workplace safety insurance. The employer must not deduct any money from the worker’s pay for this.
If the worker and employer disagree about a health and safety issue, the worker should report the situation to the workplace health and safety office in their province and territory.
Holthe said the worker has the right to refuse to do work until the worker and employer agree the danger is removed; the worker has received the proper equipment and training; and the problem no longer exists.
The employer cannot force the worker, fire them or refuse to pay for not doing the work they think is dangerous; and the employer must look into any danger that is reported in the workplace.
The employer must follow the employment laws; train the worker to do their job safely including how to safely operate any equipment or machinery; give the worker protective equipment and appropriate training if their job requires them to use pesticide or chemical products; and must not deduct any money from the worker’s pay for this equipment and training.
An employer or anyone acting on behalf of an employer cannot abuse a worker physically, sexually, psychologically, or financially.
If the worker loses their job, the employer should provide reasonable notice before laying them off. If they do not, the employer must pay the worker termination pay. This amount is based on how long the worker has been working and in which province or territory.
The worker may qualify to receive Employment Insurance benefits if they lose their job through no fault of their own, or they leave their job because they are being abused.
A worker is also allowed to change employers.
If they have employer-specific work, they may need to apply for a new work permit before they can start working for a different employer; and their new employer must get a Labour Market Impact Assessment or register a new job offer in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s employer portal.
If they are a seasonal agricultural worker, they may be able to change employers without getting a new work permit.
Holthe concluded by noting if an employer is breaking the rules, or is abusing their worker or someone they know, they are urged to report it by calling the confidential Service Canada tip line at 1-866-602-9448.