Canada extends special measures to help employers hire more temporary foreign workers

Today the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, Randy Boissonnault announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Workforce Solutions Road Map, to help employers address key labour shortages through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

The Temporary Foreign Workforce Solutions Road Map is a continued measure to better enable employers to respond to labour and economic conditions in Canada as they occur, by adjusting the TFWP accordingly.

Today’s announcement has instituted or maintained the following changes to the Temporary Foreign Workforce Solutions Road Map:

  • Employers in seven selected sectors (Food Manufacturing, Wood Product Manufacturing, Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing, Accommodation and Food Services, Construction, Hospitals, and Nursing and Residential Care Facilities) may continue to hire up to 30% of their workforce in low-wage positions through the TFWP;
  • A duration cap of employment of two years will be upheld for positions under the provincial or territorial minimum wage;
  • Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) will now have a reduced validity from the previous 18-month maximum, to a 12-month maximum; and
  • Effective January 1st, 2024, employers will be required to perform annual reviews of their temporary foreign worker’s wages, to ensure that they are comparable to the prevailing wage rates for their given occupation and region of work.

All of these extended measures are set to be in place until August 30th, 2024—with the provision to adjust them according to labour market and economic conditions as needed.

While Canada has made important progress in addressing historic labour shortages after the COVID-19 pandemic, several sectors (like those mentioned above) continue to be plagued with a persistent lack of workers—which the country cannot resolve domestically. Reflecting this fact, the unemployment rate in September was 5.5% a figure which has held steady for the last three months despite record levels of immigration. In fact, employer demand for the TFWP has increased by approximately 40% compared to the same time last year, further indicating persistent vacancies.

What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)?

One of Canada’s two umbrella work permit programs, the TFWP is Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC’s) vehicle to address domestic labour shortages through immigration.

Under this program (which further contains agriculture streams, live-in caregiver streams, and high and low-wage foreign worker streams), foreign nationals may be hired by Canadian companies to work in Canada. Employers, however, will need a Labour Market Impact Assesment (LMIA), an official approval process and document which the government of Canada will use to assess whether a Canadian PR or citizen could have been hired for the same role. If an LMIA returns with a positive or neutral decision, a foreign worker may be hired—however if the decision is the hiring is not supported by the LMIA, and the work permit application will be refused. LMIA-supported work permits are tied to a specific employer, and one industry.

Employer compliance is a key part of the program. Not only does the government of Canada maintain online records of employers who have been found non-compliant to TFWP standards (relating to wage, working conditions, workers’ rights, etc.); it has also instituted a safety program for vulnerable workers who are part of the program. IRCC has additionally launched the Recognised Employer Pilot (REP), to streamline LMIA procedures for trusted employers who have an excellent track record with the program—further evidencing the importance that these workers play in filling persistent job vacancies.

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