Government lays out quarantine expectations of temporary and seasonal worker program

Many temporary foreign workers are still in their home countries waiting for the green light (and an available flight) to come to Canada.

Once here, the Government of Canada has laid out added measures and precautions for a mandatory 14-day isolation period. There are also new guidelines and rules in relation to seasonal workers, as well. All workers arriving to Canada will be first be assessed for any symptoms of the virus. If they do not show any signs, they will be permitted to travel to the farm/place of employment and immediately start their 14 day isolation.

To clarify some of the biggest questions, as in how much workers are to be paid upon arrival and while in isolation and on to what health care coverage is available to temporary foreign workers, the Government of Canada has compiled a Frequently Asked Questions site for reference. (You can find that here.)

Of note, employers are responsible for paying their temporary foreign workers for a minimum of 30 hours per week during self-isolation, and at the rate of pay specified on the Labour Market Impact Assessment. The government also clarified that this applies to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). The 14-day period of paid self-isolation will be in addition to the minimum of 240 hours of pay, as specified in the SAWP contract.

Employers can, during this isolation period, withhold standard contract deductions (for example, Employment Insurance, housing, transportation, etc.) as per applicable program stream requirements. The employer is not allowed to deduct any additional amounts due to the self-isolation period.

As for health care, temporary foreign workers should receive coverage equivalent to other residents of Canada. For workers in the low-wage and primary agriculture streams, including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, if provincial/territorial health care is not provided from the first day the worker arrives in Canada, equivalent private health insurance must be provided by the employer until the worker becomes eligible for the provincial/territorial plan.

Some private insurers may no longer cover COVID-19 related issues, and some provinces are waiving typical waiting periods for provincial coverage. The government says it is continuing to “assess the situation and will work with provinces and other partners to address gaps. In the meantime, existing employer obligations still apply.”

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