The government of Canada announced yesterday it is implementing stricter regulations with the aim of further improving the working conditions for temporary workers and live-in caregivers in Canada. According to the federal government, consultations held over the past two years revealed that employers were exploiting some live-in caregivers because the system made them vulnerable. To address this, the federal government is tightening the regulations affecting live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers, as well as the people who hire them. "The government is taking action to protect temporary foreign workers, including live-in caregivers, from potential abuse and exploitation," explained Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

New regulations came into effect in April 2010 that required employers to provide contracts that specify wages, benefits, accommodation, duties, hours of work, and holiday and sick leave entitlements.

Starting in April 2011, new rules will apply a more rigorous assessment to jobs for live-in caregivers and temporary foreign workers before the employers are given the authorization to hire. The assessment will address whether the employer has followed the rules in the past and has honoured their commitments to workers with respect to wages, working conditions and occupation. Failure to meet the commitments will result in a two-year prohibition on hiring foreign workers.

The new set of rules includes new limits on the length of time a foreign worker may be employed in Canada before returning home. There will also be more flexibility with respect to the amount of time given to meet the requirements needed for permanent residence status. Under the law, caregivers can apply for Canadian permanent resident status after two years of regular full-time employment. Now, it will be possible for a person who works a lot of overtime to apply earlier, or the deadline of two years may be extended if the person works less than full-time hours or needs time off due to illness, for example.

“We owe it to them, their employers and all Canadians to ensure that the program is fair and equitable. After all, they are an essential element of Canada’s economic success,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program helps address temporary labour shortages by allowing employers to hire foreign workers when sufficient numbers of Canadian workers are not readily available. Without access to temporary foreign labour, many small businesses in Canada would not be able to function and would be forced into insolvency.