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 will, however, be required to self-isolate for 14 days, self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and comply with any instructions from public health authorities.
Anyone who violates the law is liable to fines of up to $750,000, and the penalties imposed may also lead to imprisonment.
The federal government published on March 27, 2020 guidance for employers of temporary foreign workers regarding COVID-19. Details are available in the Frequently Asked Questions Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program regarding COVID-19 page.
The Institut national de santé publique du Québec published on April 3 Public Health Recommendations that must be followed during the arrival of temporary foreign workers to support Québec’s agri-food industry in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financial assistance of $50 million has been established to help farmers, fish harvesters and all food production and processing employers to put in place the measures necessary to follow the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad.
Protocol for employers
As soon as their workers arrive at the airport, the employer must provide Spanish support services. This is necessary to provide support, answer questions and help complete the necessary health and safety steps.
Consult the Protocol for the arrival of temporary foreign workers to Québec from the bio-food industry in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF 344 Kb) document to get all the additional details. Spanish version (PDF 331 Kb) also available.
You can also read the answers to the most frequently asked questions on the Temporary foreign workers from the bio-food industry page.
Working conditions and wages
The worker’s period of employment begins as soon as the worker arrives in Québec. It includes the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period.
The employer must pay the worker during this period for a minimum of 30 hours per week, and at the rate of pay specified in the employment contract. Proof of salary paid must be kept. For details, see the Protocol (PDF 344 Kb).
The public health guidelines, including those outlined in the 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 Protocol (PDF 344 Kb).
See also the Aviation measures in response to COVID-19 page on procedures to follow before foreign workers boarding and at the time of boarding.
Comply with all Public Health Recommendations as well as the Travel Health Notices issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) intended for travellers on Travel restrictions and exemptions page.
Arrival at the airport
- Airport staff and customs officials will conduct health checks of all travellers.
- If a traveller is exhibiting symptoms of an infectious disease upon arrival to Canada, including coughing, fever or difficulty breathing (e.g. shortness of breath), the border services officers or the airport or airline staff must alert a quarantine officer from the PHAC.
- The quarantine officer will then conduct an in-depth health assessment. If necessary, the officer will make their decision based on the risk to public health. The officer can, for example, order that the traveller be taken to a hospital for a medical examination; alert the local public health authority of the new case; place the TFW in quarantine at the point of entry or send them to the hospital if they are exhibiting symptoms upon arrival, depending on the severity of their condition. Once the TFW has recovered, their admissibility to Canada will be assessed and, if applicable, they may be permitted to travel onwards to their final destination.
- The employer must provide Spanish support services to any worker that is actively exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival.
For details, see the Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program regarding COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions page.
Transporting to the place of isolation
The employer is responsible for transporting workers to their place of isolation. Details of the measures to be applied are specified in the Protocol (PDF 344 Kb).
Public Health Recommendations require health and minimum distance measures (minimum of two meters between people) be followed during transportation. The protocol provides more information about mandatory measures to be implemented to reduce the number of workers per bus.
The person responsible for the workers must call the COVID-19 line if they are unsure about the health of any of their workers during pick-up and transportation.
Mandatory registrations and insurance
- Mandatory registration with the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).
- Mandatory declaration to local health authorities (see Public Health Recommendations). Send in a photocopy of the TFWs CNESST registration and the address of the worker’s home.
- Registration with the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). Photos and signatures already in their file may be reused. Otherwise, their card will be printed without a photo. These streamlined procedures can be done through the mail and are already known to employers.
- SAWP workers who are waiting to be hospitalized following their COVID-19 screening must present their letter of confirmation of eligibility to receive free care.
- Employers who hire workers in the Agricultural Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program agree to provide free health insurance coverage equivalent to that of the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) to the employee upon arrival and until the employee is entitled to receive RAMQ benefits. In the current context, this private coverage must cover the costs of any COVID-19 treatment.
One of the conditions attached to the federal exemption to hire temporary foreign workers is a 14-day self-isolation. Workers must not work during their 14-day self-isolation period. This is a necessary measure despite the significant constraints and inconveniences this causes for employers.
Consult the Protocol (PDF 344 Kb) for all the details concerning the following:
- 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 self-isolation 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 Quebec and Canada.
The general measures to be followed after the isolation period apply to all places of accommodation within the context of the pandemic. Follow the main recommendations, including:
- Social distancing and other health measures that will be in effect in Québec.
- Daily body temperature and symptom monitoring. If a worker is exhibiting symptoms compatible with COVID-19, the employer must immediately take the appropriate measures to isolate the TFW and then reach out to the public health officials.
- The employer must establish an intervention plan in the event of a subsequent COVID-19 contamination or outbreak.
The foreign workers must be notified daily of the health measures that must be followed, particularly outside of the workplace (e.g. transportation, grocery store, religious events and social engagements, if allowed).
If transportation is required, the employer must follow the same guidelines for transporting the workers between the airport and the place of isolation.
After the self-isolation period has ended, the foreign workers must follow the same workplace rules as all other agricultural workers.
The Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) has published information sheets on the rules that need to be followed in order to ensure a safe working environment for all workers:
- Agriculture : COVID-19 : Mesures pour les travailleurs agricoles des productions maraîchères et animales ;
- Marine Products Processing Industry: COVID-19: Recommandations intérimaires à l’attention des travailleurs de l’industrie de la transformation des produits marins ;
- Food Processing Industry: COVID-19 : Mesures pour l'industrie de la transformation alimentaire ;
- Fishing Industry: COVID-19 : Recommandations intérimaires concernant l’industrie de la pêche .
Orders from health authorities and stringent recommendations made directly to the temporary foreign workers and their employer take precedence over this Protocol (PDF 344 Kb). The terms of the Protocol 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 21, 2020