On April 25 2012 Diane Finley, minister of human resources and skills development, announced her intention to make improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Programme. In connection with this announcement, Human Resource and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has adopted a new wage structure that will apply to labour market opinion and accelerated labour market opinion applications.

Under the previous wage structure, employers were required to pay temporary foreign workers at least the average wage for the proposed occupation in the specific region where the employment was to occur, regardless of what they were paying their Canadian employees. In many cases, this resulted in employers paying temporary foreign workers more than Canadians. The method of determining the average wage was also inconsistent between regions.

The new wage structure is based on data from Statistics Canada to ensure consistency from region to region(1) and allows employers to pay wages that are below the average wage, within a set range, under certain circumstances. Employers can now pay wages that are:

  • up to 15% below the average wage for a high-skill occupation (skill type 0, skill levels A and B under the National Occupational Classification) in the region where the employment will occur; and
  • up to 5% below the average wage for a low-skill occupation (National Occupational Classification skill levels C and D) in the region where the employment will occur (although the wage for a low-skill occupation cannot be below the minimum wage).

However, employers that choose to pay a wage that is below the applicable average wage in accordance with the new wage structure will be required to provide documentation clearly demonstrating that the wage being paid to a temporary foreign worker is the same as that being paid to their Canadian employees in the same job and in the same location. In addition, if they participate in HRSDC's new accelerated labour market opinion initiative, they are likely to be flagged for post-labour market opinion compliance review.

According to HRSDC, the new wage structure does not apply to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programme, the agricultural stream of the National Occupational Classification C and D Pilot Project or the Live-in Caregiver Programme because employers participating in these programmes mostly hire temporary foreign workers.

For further information on this topic please contact Henry J Chang at Blaney McMurtry LLP by telephone (+1 416 593 1221), fax (+1 416 593 5437) or email ([email protected]).

Endnotes

(1) Available at the Working in Canada website.