Letter from Ministers to employers – Temporary Foreign Workers – COVID-19

April 1, 2020

Dear Employer,

We are writing to you in your capacity as employers of temporary foreign workers.

As you may know, temporary foreign workers have been exempted from the prohibitions on entry into Canada that were imposed under the Quarantine Act to prevent the risk to Canadians of the introduction and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Our Government has taken many steps to facilitate your access to this important labour supply, in recognition of the vital role these workers play in supporting food security and other industries critical to the Canadian economy. At the same time, our Government has and will continue to do whatever it takes to protect the health and safety of Canadians during this unprecedented public health crisis.

In this regard, we want you to be fully aware of the obligations that will be imposed on temporary foreign workers arriving in Canada pursuant to the Emergency Order PC number 2020-0175 made under section 58 of the Quarantine Act, and the associated obligations that you have as an employer. It is important that you know that penalties of up to $750K can be levied against a temporary foreign worker for non-compliance with an Emergency Order made under the Quarantine Act. Further, a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening this Act or the regulations could be liable for a fine of up to $1,000,000 or to imprisonment of up to three years, or to both. We are also assessing options for penalties for employers of foreign nationals under other regulatory regimes, such as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, given the severity of our concern for the health of Canadians.

As of March 25, 2020, it is now mandatory for all persons who enter Canada to self-isolate for 14 days. Self-isolation is a critical step in limiting the introduction and spread of COVID-19. It is intended that a temporary foreign worker’s period of employment will begin upon their arrival to Canada, will include any mandatory self-isolation period and that they will be paid during this period.

Note that some work performed by temporary foreign workers is exempted by the enclosed Emergency Order or has been deemed essential to maintain the health and welfare of Canadians by the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) of Canada and they are therefore exempt from the self-isolation period. These include people who:

The exemptions mentioned above are the only categories of employees exempted from the mandatory 14 days self-isolation requirement of the Emergency Order. Essential services determinations by the provincial or territorial government level (as informed by other sources, including Public Safety Canada) are not relevant to the requirements pursuant to the federal Quarantine Act.

It is important that employees and employers monitor themselves for the development of any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and contact local public health authorities should they develop symptoms.

As an employer of temporary foreign workers, you will be responsible for facilitating your employees’ self-isolation according to the following public health requirements, and those employers required to provide housing under program policy must ensure it meets these minimum standards:

Surfaces in the accommodations should be cleaned and disinfected regularly and workers should have access to facilities that enable them to wash their hands often with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Employers are also expected to follow any unique guidelines established by the province in which they operate.

During and following the 14-day self-isolation period, we expect that all employers will continue to support efforts to minimize the introduction and spread of COVID-19 by following the latest public health requirements and/or guidance from the Government of Canada and the province in which they operate. As the situation regarding COVID-19 is evolving rapidly, we encourage you to consult these resources regularly.

Please access these resources to help answer any questions you may have if you are concerned about your or your employees’ ability to adhere to these public health requirements. We cannot stress enough the importance of your role in helping to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19.

While recognizing many employers, especially those in the agriculture and agri-food sectors, have traditionally had difficulty recruiting and hiring Canadians, these are exceptional times and many Canadians find themselves out of work. Employers are strongly encouraged to continue to recruit Canadians in available jobs as part of a comprehensive approach to supporting Canada’s food security.

We understand the vital role that your business plays in supporting the economy and bringing food to the tables of Canadians, and recognize that these are challenging economic times. We invite you to consult the resources and programs the Government has made available for businesses affected by COVID-19.

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Enclosure: Measures in place for Temporary Foreign Workers

Temporary Foreign Workers arriving by air will undergo mandatory health checks prior to boarding and an assessment upon arrival in Canada. If your employee has symptoms before boarding, they will not be permitted to travel to Canada.

If they have symptoms upon arrival, they will be placed in quarantine at the point of entry or be sent to the hospital depending on the severity of condition. Once they have recovered, their admissibility will be assessed and, if applicable, they may be permitted to travel onwards to their employment.

If they do not have symptoms upon arrival (referred to as asymptomatic) and meet the entry requirements, they will be permitted to travel onwards in a private vehicle to their housing where they must self-isolate for 14 days.

If they become symptomatic following arrival at their Canadian residence, they must be isolated from others and local public health should be contacted immediately for direction. Your local public health authority will provide advice for the individual as well as any close contacts. This obligation continues following the end of the mandatory self-isolation period.

Please note: Employers are responsible for monitoring the health of employees and reporting to local health authorities anyone who becomes symptomatic. This includes temporary foreign workers as well as others that you may employ.

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