Understand your rights – foreign workers

Canadian laws protect every worker in Canada. This includes foreign workers like you.

Your employer:

  • must pay you for your work
  • must make sure that your workplace is safe and
  • cannot take your passport or work permit away from you.

Every province and territory has an office that deals with labour and employment laws. A person at your local employment or labour standards office can talk to you about fair pay, hours of work, rest periods, working conditions and provide other services.

You do not need your employer’s permission to call this office or visit its website. An employer cannot punish you or have you deported for contacting an employment standards office.

To find your local office, see Provincial and territorial employment standards offices.

Federal labour and employment laws cover:

  • the federal government
  • banks
  • companies that transport goods between provinces
  • telecommunications companies and
  • most businesses owned and run by the federal government.

Most other occupations are covered under provincial and territorial laws.

Employment contracts

You may have signed an employment contract, depending on your job.

If you have a contract, it should include:

  • details of your job and
  • conditions of employment.

The conditions state the highest number of hours you will work each week and how much you will be paid. Both you and your employer must follow the contract.

The laws on hours of work and overtime (extra time or time worked after regular hours) are different depending on the province or territory you are in. Contact your local employment or labour standards office if you need more information about contracts.

Keep a copy of your contract. If you and your employer disagree about work details in the future, the contract may help you.

The contract also has information about the money that may be taken out of your pay (for example, the amount paid to the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance, which you may be eligible to collect).

To find out if you are eligible for benefits, see eligibility for Employment Insurance.

If you lose your job

Usually, your employer must give you written notice or pay you instead (this is called termination pay) before telling you to leave your job.

Your employer does not have to warn you when you are being let go for a “just cause” (for example, serious misconduct or missing work without good reason).

If you have a contract for a specific period or a specific job, your employer does not have to give you notice when your contract ends.

The rules about notice of termination are different in each province and territory.

If your employer does not follow the law when they dismiss you, you can complain to the local employment or labour standards office.

If you are covered by a union contract, you may have to make a formal complaint through the union.

Housing

Employers do not have to give you a place to live in Canada, unless you are:

  • a temporary farm worker in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program or
  • a live-in caregiver under the Live-in Caregiver Program.

If you are given room and board, your employer may deduct this take part of the cost from out of your pay. In most provinces, the amount charged for meals and board is limited. The amount must be noted in your contract.

Health and safety

All workers in Canada have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. There are laws to protect workers from danger.

Provincial, territorial and federal governments each have their own laws and ways of looking into health and safety matters.

Refusing dangerous work

Most of the time, you have the right to refuse to work if you believe that the work you are doing or have been told to do is dangerous.

You must be paid until

  • the danger is removed
  • you feel the problem no longer exists or
  • a government official tells you that it is safe to do the work.

Your employer cannot punish you for refusing dangerous work.

If you are hurt at work

Many provinces and territories provide workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation gives you help (medical or wage benefits) if you are hurt on the job or if your job causes you to get sick.

In some provinces or territories, employers do not have to sign their employees up for the plan.

If employers do not have to take part in the workers’ compensation plan in the province or territory where you work, your employment contract must say this.

Your employer must not take any money from your pay for the plan. Contact your local employment or labour standards office if you need more information about workers’ compensation benefits.

Note: If you have an accident at work, talk to your supervisor at once. See a doctor right away if you need medical help.

Is your work safe?

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Have I been properly trained for the job I am doing?
  • Have I been given the right safety equipment to do the job?
  • Do I feel unsafe when doing my job?
  • Do I work close to dangerous materials?

To report an unsafe workplace, contact your local employment or labour standards office.

Farm workers’ rights

Some farm workers in Canada have special rights. For more information, contact your local employment or labour standards office. To find out more about these rights, see Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) jointly manage the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

 
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