On March 28, 2014 the Federal Government tabled Bill C-31 to implement the 2014 Federal Budget – including broad authority to impose cash penalties on employers that don’t comply with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Employers with temporary foreign workers currently or prospectively on the payroll must stay on top of, and comply with, the current – and constantly changing – Program requirements, or risk the growing consequences.

Penalties. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations impose large fines on employers who hire foreign workers without proper documentation – but Bill C-31 is the first legislation that would (if it becomes law) authorize the Ministers of Employment and Social Development and for Multiculturalism to impose penalties for specific Program abuses.  The Federal Government has not yet announced the specific monetary fines or what fine will attach to what contravention, but indications are that the more severe the contravention, the steeper the penalty – and some will be steep. The Government has announced that the conduct for which the Department could fine an employer includes:

  • Issuing false or misleading declarations on Labour Market Opinion applications forms
  • Hiring a foreign worker under false pretences
  • Hiring a foreign worker when it should have hired a Canadian or Permanent Resident
  • Firing a Canadian or Permanent Resident then subsequently hired a foreign worker for the same position
  • Paying a foreign worker less than the prevailing wage rate for the particular occupation in the particular region

Non-Payment. If an employer doesn’t pay an imposed fine, it could face legal proceedings and/or have its case referred to Canada Revenue Agency for prosecution if the employer was paying the worker in a way that evaded taxes.

Key Dates. If Bill C-31 becomes law, the Federal Government will likely finalize the specific fines in the next few months and the changes will likely become effective in early 2015.

More to Come. The Federal Government rolled out a number of changes to the Program over the past year, many in Spring 2013, and indicated more would come. Bill C-31 won’t likely be the last one – and employers will need to keep on top of these fast-paced changes or risk the new penalties.

Click here to read Bill C-31.