Canada temporary foreign workers rights
In Canada, temporary foreign workers rights are protected by law just like all other workers. Temporary foreign workers have the same rights and workplace protections as citizens and permanent residents.
Temporary foreign workers facing unsafe or abusive workplace may not make a report for fear of losing their work or being deported. Many migrant workers in Canada are leaving their job and working irregularly (that is, without authorization) as a result of abusive situations.
Canada remains vigilant against migrant worker abuse through its International Mobility Program.
What is migrant worker abuse?
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) states that any behaviour that scares, controls or isolates a migrant worker could amount to abuse. Abuse can be physical, sexual, financial or mental. It icludes placing migrant workers in unsafe work or housing environment.
Examples of migrant worker abuse include:
- physical harm
- forcing you to work in a way that’s unsafe or puts your health at risk
- unsafe or unsanitary living conditions in employer-provided housing
- sexual touching that you did not agree to
- making unwanted sexual comments to you
- controlling where you can go
- stealing from you
- stopping you from seeing friends or co-workers
- taking some or all of the money you are paid
- threats, insults and intimidation
- forcing you to commit fraud
During the COVID pandemic IRCC introduced the migrant worker abuse open work permit measure. The objective is to provide migrant workers who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse, with a distinct means to leave their employer and obtain work permit with other employers.
See IRCC’s Open work permits for vulnerable workers.
To report an abusive situation, contact Service Canada’s confidential tip line at 1-866-602-9448. If you need help right away, call 9-1-1 or your local police.
If you think you’re being abused or at risk of being abused, you may be able to apply for an open work permit for vulnerable workers to help you leave an abusive work situation.
Migrant worker health and safety at work
Your employer can’t force you to do work that is dangerous. They can’t refuse to pay you for your work. Your employer must look into any danger that is reported at work. You have the right to refuse to do the work until you and your employer agree that:
- the danger is removed
- you received the proper equipment and training
- the problem no longer exists
Your employer must:
- follow employment laws, and health and safety laws
- train you to do your job safely, including on how to safely operate any equipment or machinery
- give you equipment and training if your job requires you to use chemical products
Most provinces and territories offer workers’ compensation benefits (payments to make up for lost wages) when workers are injured or sick because of their work.
- Your employer can’t stop you from making a workers’ compensation claim.
- Contact your local employment or labour standards office to learn more about workers’ compensation benefits (see contacts below).
Temporary foreign workers employment agreement
Before you apply for a work permit, your employer must give you a copy of your employment agreement. It must be in English or French – your chosen official language while in Canada. Both you and your employer must sign this agreement. The employment agreement must refer to the same occupation, wages and working conditions as your job offer.
Your employer must
- give you information about your rights
- give you a signed copy of your employment agreement before you apply for your work permit
- pay you for your work as stated in your employment agreement (including overtime work if it’s included in your agreement)
- provide you with a workplace free of abuse, such as reprisals
- follow the employment and recruitment standards of the province or territory where you work
- help you access health care services if you are hurt or become sick at work
Your employer can NOT
- force you to do unsafe work or work that’s not in your employment agreement
- force you to work if you are sick or hurt
- force you to work overtime if it’s not in your employment agreement
- punish you for reporting mistreatment or unsafe work, or for cooperating with an inspection by the government
- take your passport or work permit away from you
- deport you from Canada or change your immigration status
- make you pay back recruitment fees they may have paid to hire you
Migrant workers access to health care services
You do not need your employer’s permission to seek health care.
If you are hurt or are sick at work, tell your supervisor as soon as possible, and get medical attention. Your employer must allow you access to a health care provider (like a doctor, nurse or pharmacist) by, for example:
- giving you time off to seek medical attention
- making a phone available to call emergency services (such as an ambulance)
- giving you information on how to get health care
- helping you get to the health care provider
You can speak privately with a health care provider, without your employer.
Your employer does not have to pay for you to get to a hospital, clinic, doctor or other health care service.
Migrant workers changing employers
You are allowed to change employers. However, your work permit may only allow you to work for your current employer, so you may need to apply for a new work permit before you can start working for a different employer. Your new employer may have to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment or submit a job offer through the Employer Portal.
You can use the Government of Canada’s Job Bank to search for jobs with Canadian employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers.
If you lose your job, you may qualify to receive employment insurance benefits.
Get assistance from a support organization for migrant workers
- British Columbia
- Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba
- Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island
- Kairos offers a variety of services to migrant workers and can connect you with support organizations near you.
- Immigrant Québec has a website for temporary foreign workers. A list of support organizations is included under the tab “Who can help?”