Understand your rights as a foreign worker

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Canada’s labour laws

As a temporary foreign worker, you are protected by Canada’s labour laws.

Your employer:

  • must pay you for your work
  • must make sure that your workplace is safe
  • can’t take your passport or work permit away from you.

Each province and territory has an employment or labour standards office that deals with labour and employment laws. They can talk to you about fair pay, hours of work, rest periods, working conditions and provide other services.

Features

You don’t need your employer’s permission to contact these offices or go to their websites. You also can’t be punished or deported for contacting them.

Most occupations are covered under provincial and territorial laws. However, federal labour and employment laws may apply if you work for:

  • the federal government
  • a bank
  • a company that transports goods between provinces
  • a telecommunications company
  • most businesses owned and run by the federal government

Employment contracts

For some jobs, you have to sign an employment contract. If you have a contract, it should include the:

  • details of your job
  • conditions of your employment
  • the highest number of hours you will work in a week
  • how much you will be paid for your work

The laws on hours of work and overtime (extra time or time worked after regular hours) depend on the province or territory you are working in.

Your contract will also have details about any money coming out of your pay for programs like Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance.

Always keep a copy of your contract for your records. You and your employer must always follow the contract. If you disagree about work details in the future, having a copy may help you.

Contact your local employment or labour standards office to learn more about employment contracts.

If you lose your job

In most cases, your employer needs to give you written notice before your last day of work or pay you for that time instead. This is called termination pay.

Your employer does not have to warn you when you are being let go for a “just cause.” For example, you can be let go for serious misconduct or missing work without good reason.

If you have a contract for a specific period or a specific job, your employer does not have to give you notice when your contract ends.

The rules about notice of termination are also set by each province and territory.

If your employer does not follow the law when they dismiss you, you can complain to the local employment or labour standards office. If you are covered by a union contract, you may have to make a formal complaint through the union instead.

Housing

Your employer does not have to give you a place to live unless you are a temporary farm worker in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.

If you are given room and board, your employer may take part of the cost from your pay. In most provinces, the amount they can charge for meals and board is limited. All pay deductions must be noted in your contract.

Health and safety

All workers in Canada have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. There are laws to protect workers from danger.

Provincial, territorial and federal governments each have their own laws and ways of looking into health and safety matters.

Is your work safe?

To help you decide if your workplace is safe, ask yourself:

  • Have I been properly trained for the job I am doing?
  • Have I been given the right safety equipment to do the job?
  • Do I feel unsafe when doing my job?
  • Do I work close to dangerous materials?

To report an unsafe workplace, contact your local employment or labour standards office.

Refusing dangerous work

Most of the time, you have the right to refuse work if you believe the work is dangerous.

You must be paid until:

  • the danger is removed,
  • you feel the problem no longer exists, or
  • a government official tells you that it is safe to do the work.

You can’t be punished for refusing dangerous work.

If you are hurt at work

Most provinces and territories provide workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation plans give you help (medical or wage benefits) if you are hurt on the job or if your job causes you to get sick. Your employer is not allowed to take any money from your pay for these plans.

If you have an accident at work, talk to your supervisor right away. See a doctor if you need medical help.

In some provinces and territories, employers don’t need to offer you workers’ compensation benefits. If so, this must be clearly written in your employment contract.

Contact your local employment or labour standards office to learn more about workers’ compensation benefits.

Farm workers’ rights

Some farm workers in Canada have special rights under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Report abuse

If you suspect that your employer has not been respecting your rights as a temporary foreign worker or has been misusing the program, report it to us.

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