Since March 25, 2020, restrictions on air travel and border entry have been introduced by a federal emergency order. By this order, temporary foreign workers are allowed to enter Canada.
They are, however, required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and follow instructions from public health authorities. In addition, as of February 22, 2021, travellers entering Canada must comply with new testing and quarantine requirements.
Anyone who violates the law is liable to fines of up to $750,000, and the penalties imposed may also lead to imprisonment.
The criteria to be met by employers were released on March 16 by the federal government. Details are available in the Frequently Asked Questions Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program regarding COVID-19 page.
On October 27, 2020, the Québec Public health expertise and reference centre (INSPQ) published an update to its recommendations for the arrival of temporary foreign workers in Québec in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A financial assistance programs has been created to help farmers, fishers and all food production and processing employers put in place the measures necessary to follow the mandatory 14-day quarantine period required of all workers arriving from abroad. The federal government’s Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program may provide a contribution for each temporary foreign worker.
Checklist for Employers
As soon as a worker arrives at the airport, the employer must provide an escort service available in Spanish. This is necessary to provide support to the worker, answer their questions and assist them in completing the required health and safety steps.
See the 2021 Reminders About Temporary Foreign Workers in the Bio-food Industry Arriving in Québec in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF 353 Kb) document for additional details. Spanish version available (PDF 374 Kb).
You can also read the answers to the most frequently asked questions on the Temporary Foreign Bio-food Industry Workers page.
Working conditions and wages
A temporary foreign worker’s employment contract begins on arrival in Québec. It includes the mandatory 14-day quarantine period on arrival.
The employer is required to pay wages to its employees during the quarantine period. If the period of quarantine or isolation on arrival is extended for any reason, workers must continue to be paid accordingly by the employer. The compensation must correspond to 5 hours of work per day, up to a maximum of 30 hours per week, at a rate of pay at least equivalent to that specified in the employment contract. Proof of wages paid should be kept. For details, see the reminders (PDF 353 Kb) document.
The public health guidelines, including those outlined in public health recommendations, will be taken into consideration when assessing an employer’s level of compliance regarding occupational health and safety.
Preventive measures for the arrival of temporary foreign workers
At every step before and after the worker’s arrival, every intervener and every worker must follow the health recommendations, as well as the social distancing measures that have been put in place by the public health authorities.
Detailed information on the existing measures or to be implemented for the arrival of foreign workers can be found in the Reminders (PDF 353 Kb) document.
Public health recommendations and travel advisories from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) can be found on the COVID-19: Travel, testing, quarantine and borders page.
For more details, visit the Quarantine, testing and other COVID-19 measures for temporary foreign workers and employers page.
Transportation to the quarantine site
The employer is responsible for transporting workers to their place of quarantine. Links to information about the measures to be taken are located in the reminders (PDF 353 Kb) document.
Public health recommendations require health, minimum distance (two meters between people) and mask wearing measures be followed at all times during transportation.
The person responsible for the temporary foreign workers must call the COVID-19 phone line or 811 if they are unsure about the health of any of their workers during pick-up and transportation.
Mandatory registrations and insurance
- Mandatory declaration of employment with the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).
- Mandatory reporting to local health authorities, according to public health recommendations. The employer must send, among other documents, a photocopy of the registration to the CNESST and provide the worker’s address.
- Registration with the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). Photos and signatures already on file may be reused. Otherwise, cards will be printed without a photo. These streamlined procedures can be completed through the mail and are already known to employers.
- For Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program workers who are waiting to be hospitalized following their COVID-19 testing must present their letter of confirmation of eligibility and will receive free care.
- For Temporary Foreign Worker Program (agricultural stream) workers, the employer agrees to provide the employee with free health insurance coverage equivalent to that of the RAMQ from the time of the foreign worker’s arrival until such time as the worker becomes entitled to RAMQ benefits. In the current context, this private coverage must cover the costs of any COVID-19 treatment.
Instructions for Mandatory Quarantine on Arrival in the Country
A 14-day quarantine is one of the conditions attached to the federal exemption allowing employers to hire temporary foreign workers. Workers must not work during this period. This is a necessary measure despite the significant constraints and inconveniences this causes for employers.
See the reminders (PDF 353 Kb) document for information on the following items:
- General measures for all places of 14-day isolation for people without symptoms of COVID-19.
- Special measures for all people who are in contact with workers in self-isolation.
- General isolation measures for a person who is suspected of being infected with COVID-19 or who has tested positive for COVID-19 during the self-isolation period.
After the Quarantine Period
Everyone in Canada, including employers, must follow the most recent public health requirements, applicable health and safety laws and the most recent directives issued by the governments of Québec and Canada.
The general measures to be followed after the quarantine period apply to all accommodation, taking into account the pandemic context. The main recommendations should be continued, such as:
- Social distancing and other health measures that will be in effect in Québec;
- daily checking of symptoms and taking of temperature. If a temporary foreign worker develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the employer should immediately take steps to isolate the worker from other workers and contact public health officials;
- The employer must establish an intervention plan in the event of a subsequent COVID-19 contamination or outbreak of the disease.
Foreign works must be notified daily of the health measures that must be followed, particularly outside of the workplace (e.g. transportation, grocery store, religious and social activities, if they are allowed).
If transportation is necessary, the employer must follow the same guidelines for transportation between the airport and the place of quarantine.
After the quarantine period, temporary foreign workers must follow the same rules in the workplace that apply to all workers.
You can consult the CNESST and INSPQ information leaflets on the rules to follow to ensure a safe work environment for all workers:
Orders from health authorities and stringent recommendations made directly to the temporary foreign workers covered and their employer take precedence over this reminders (PDF 353 Kb)document. The procedures in this document may need to be revised if the public health measures that have been ordered or recommended by the governments of Québec or Canada need to be strengthened depending on how the situation evolves.
Last update: May 12, 2021