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Temporary Foreign Workers Can Enter Canada Amidst COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

The Federal Government announced changes to the travel restrictions as they apply to Temporary Foreign Workers ("TFW") with some major caveats.

TFW’s who are coming to Canada for an "essential purpose" are exempt from travel restrictions if they do not present symptoms. Essential services include:

  • Necessary medical deliveries of cells, blood, tissues, organs and other similar life-saving human body parts
  • Trade and transportation sectors that deliver goods and people such as truck drivers, crew on planes, trains and vessels
  • Workers in the healthcare or critical infrastructure sector that regularly cross the border to work
  • Those that have to cross the border to provide or receive essential services including emergency responders

However, all other TFW’s on a work visa not considered "essential" will be subject to certain restrictions.

If flying by air, TFW’s will be required to pass a health check by the airlines before they are allowed to board the plane. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board the flight.

According to Section 58 of the Quarantine Act, Emergency Order PC number 2020-0175, TFW’s that do not fall under the exemptions are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival to Canada whether or not they have symptoms. If they have symptoms upon arrival, depending on the severity of their condition, they may be placed in quarantine at the port of entry or sent to the hospital. Once recovered they will be assessed by the hospital and deemed safe to continue to their final destination within Canada.

TWF’s can face hefty penalties for failing to report symptoms or to self-isolate for the mandatory 14 days, including fines of up to $750,000.

Employers cannot allow their TFW’s to begin work until the 14-day self-isolation period is complete, even if it is at the request of the worker. This 14-day period must also be paid time.

The Federal Government announced $50 million dollars to assist farmers and fish processers to offset the cost of 14 days of pay during the mandatory self-isolation period. These industries heavily rely on TFW’s for seasonal work. Employers are eligible for $1500 per TFW to help cover the cost.

Furthermore, if a TFW becomes ill while in Canada, they should receive health coverage equivalent to residents of Canada. And for workers in the low-wage and primary agriculture streams including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, their employer is responsible for ensuring health coverage until they are eligible for the provincial plan. The employer must also immediately notify their local public health authority and ensure proper conditions for self-isolation for the TFW.

Finally, TFW’s may be eligible for Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. TFW’s may also be eligible for paid or unpaid sick leave based on their specific employment contract and applicable employment legislation.

These policies aim to strike the balance between the urgent need of Canada’s agriculture and fishing industry for TFW’s while attempting to ensure the safety of the TFW’s and the general public.

Originally published by Devry Smith Frank, April 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

by Maya Krishnaratne and Janet Son, Devry Smith Frank LLP