March 28, 2020 By Fruit and Vegetable
The federal government released their requirements for employers of temporary foreign workers during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Some highlights from the federal government’s guidance document include:
- The employer must pay the worker regular pay and benefits for the self-isolation period.
- The employer cannot authorize the worker to work during the self-isolation period, even if requested by the worker, with the exception of those deemed as providing an essential service by the Chief Public Health Officer.
- The employer must house self-isolating workers in accommodations that are separate from those not subject to self-isolation.
In additional to federal protocols, additional requirements for employers may be coming from provincial governments as well. The Western Agriculture Labour Initiative (WALI) says they anticipate protocol requirements from British Columbia’s provincial government to be available early next week.
The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Grower Association (OFVGA) also published a list of employer resources to help growers implement COVID-19 protocols. Plus, the Manitoba Farm Safety Program and Keystone Agricultural Producers have developed a list of best practices to consider for on-farm sanitation. These best practices are good to keep in mind while employers await on additional requirements from provincial health authorities.
On March 27, exemptions for seasonal agricultural workers were formally in place. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said anyone who is exempt can now travel to Canada. However, for temporary foreign workers and Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (SAWP) workers, travel arrangements were not encouraged by industry groups until health protocols were put in place.
Now that the employer requirements have been announced, there’s still the question of chartering flights to bring the workers into Canada. WALI states there are no more commercial flights available from key labour supply countries, such as Mexico, Guatemala, and Jamaica, but they are currently working on accessing charter flights.
In addition to securing charter flights, there have been some delays on both sides when the Canadian Visa Administration Centre (CVAC) in Mexico City announced it would be closed from March 26 to April 19.
A list of Canadian government resources for temporary foreign workers and COVID-19:
- (April 7) British Columbia’s Protecting B.C. farmers and farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
- (April 5) Frequently asked questions: Changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program regarding COVID-19
- (April 1) Letter from Ministers to employers – Temporary Foreign Workers
- (March 31) Ontario Ministry of Health’s Guidance for Temporary Foreign Workers
- (March 27) Guidance for Employers of Temporary Foreign Workers Regarding COVID-19
- Temporary Foreign Worker Program information found within Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Employment and Social Development Canada
- (March 20 release) The Government of Canada’s original update on travel exemptions for temporary foreign workers and seasonal agricultural workers
- Canada’s home page for COVID-19 information and resources: canada.ca/coronavirus
- How to isolate at home when you have COVID-19
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