Many businesses that have hired foreign workers to help round out their labour force are being met with some complicated questions. What do I do with the star employee who just arrived from abroad? How do I proceed if an employee’s work permit is about to expire? Between the speed at which the situation is evolving and the daily announcements from both levels of government, it’s easy to get caught up in the confusion. We’re here with some guidance and advice to help you make clear, informed decisions.
Emergency wage subsidy
It’s important to understand that the emergency wage subsidy (some employers are eligible to receive an amount equivalent to 75% of their employees’ salaries) also applies to foreign workers’ salaries as long as they have legal status in Canada.
However, the subsidy does not apply to any foreign worker whose work permit has expired, and who did not submit a request to renew their work permit prior to the expiration date.
That being said, if the employer submitted a renewal request before the work permit expired, the foreign worker will have implied status in Canada. Eligible employers will therefore be able to benefit from the wage subsidy, and the foreign worker will be legally permitted to remain at their job until they receive a response to the renewal request.
Despite severe restrictions at the Canadian border, foreign workers can still enter Canada if they have a valid work permit and employment offer. They will, however, need to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon their arrival. During this period, their employer will need to make sure that they have adequate housing and food. These measures are not to be taken lightly, as the police can verify whether or not employees are respecting their quarantine. Both the employer and the employees in question may be subject to costly fines if they are found to be committing an offense.
Employers are also obligated to compensate foreign workers while they are quarantined, at the same salary level as is stipulated in the employment contract, for a minimum of 30 hours per week for full-time employees.
Permit renewals and implied status
Make sure to submit your employees’ work permit renewal requests at least 6 months before they expire. This timeline maximizes the chances that the permit will be renewed before the expiration date, allowing your employee to remain in Canada with implied status. It will also help the employee avoid administrative issues like the potential loss of their healthcare coverage, or having their social insurance number disabled.
For employees whose work permits are expiring very soon, you still need to make sure to submit a renewal request before the expiration date so they can obtain implied status. The employee will therefore be able to legally continue working while they wait for a decision from the authorities.
As always, employers need to respect all of their obligations associated with employing foreign workers. Virtual compliance inspections will continue to take place, and employers who are found to be in violation of the rules may face serious consequences, including severe fines and a ban on employing any additional foreign workers.
You must therefore ensure that you obtain the necessary government approvals before changing a foreign employee’s working conditions – even during the pandemic.