Ontario Employment Lawyer: Migrant Workers and COVID-19

Ontario Employment Lawyer: Migrant Workers and COVID-19

Migrant workers have been severely affected by COVID-19 because of travel and unsafe work conditions that have continued to expose them to the virus. Foreign workers have been continuously put at risk and in the first wave of COVID-19, the government was not proactive enough in creating safe working conditions.

In 2020, 8.7% of migrant workers tested positive for COVID-19 because of crowded working conditions, unsafe living conditions, a lack of communication due to language barriers, and a fear of asserting their concerns because their work visas are tied to their employer. As Canada is now in the third wave, the government is trying to implement COVID-19 restrictions so migrant workers stay safe. Ontario is focused on making changes regarding 50-60,000 migrant workers who will be entering Canada for temporary work.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program for COVID-19, laid out by the Government of Canada, states that temporary workers are permitted to continue travelling into Canada for work. Migrant workers are still expected to follow the health and safety guidelines that are outlined by the Government to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This program provides flexibilities for employers when submitting Labour Market Impact Assessment applications (LMIAs) to reduce the amount of burden that they have and will continue to face, to keep their employees as safe as possible.

Employer’s responsibilities

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers must inform workers about the safety risks that are at the workplace, how the employees can practice safety within these conditions (including how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19), ensure employees are wearing the correct personal protective equipment at all times, and explain and enforce the safety regulations that are currently in place (which includes the COVID-19 safety protocols). The employer’s responsibility is to take all reasonable steps within in their power to keep their workers from getting injured or sick while working.

More specific to COVID-19, the OHSA outlines that if the employer becomes aware that an employee has contracted COVID-19 on the job or has symptoms of the virus, it is the employer’s job to notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development within four days of being made aware of the sick worker.

What an employee can do when they feel sick

As much as the employer’s responsibility is to keep their employees safe, it is also important that the employee knows how to react when they are symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19 to keep the virus as isolated as possible.

If the employee has symptoms, the follow steps should be taken:

  • Tell your employer you have symptoms,
  • Isolate right away and do not go into work,
  • The supervisor will inform Public Health that the employee has symptoms, and a COVID-19 test will be arranged,
  • If the symptoms worsen and become severe, call 911.

Changes that are in motion

Ontario is trying to provide vaccines for migrant workers upon landing in Canada. Ontario asserts that they are attempting to work with the federal government, but that Ontario is ready to do what they can individually if necessary.

Ontario is claiming that these migrant workers who have been working in Canada for the past year will be vaccinated in the Phase 2 rollout.

If you have any further questions about how COVID-19 is impacting your work conditions, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.