Yesterday, Jan. 16, the Province of Nova Scotia released a discussion paper regarding proposed regulations for enacting amendments introduced last May to the Labour Standards Code ("Code") to protect foreign workers from employer exploitation and unscrupulous recruiters.
On May 19, 2011, Nova Scotia passed the Worker Recruitment and Protection Act, which amended the Code to prohibit recruitment fees from being charged to, or recovered from workers. Those rules are now in force. The amendments to the Code also prescribe a registration system for those who wish to employ foreign workers in Nova Scotia, and a licensing regime for recruiting foreign workers to Nova Scotia. Neither of these regimes is in force yet; they are expected to be created once the necessary regulations are finalized.
The discussion paper outlines what the Province proposes to include in the new regulations and makes it clear that these protections are intended for the most vulnerable groups of foreign workers. For example, Nova Scotia proposes to exclude from the class of foreign workers covered by these protections workers who do not require a work permit (or who qualify for a work permit without a labour market opinion ("LMO")) Under this proposal, employers of business visitors and LMO-exempt foreign workers (including open work permit holders, intra-company transferees, emergency repair personnel and professionals who qualify for work permits under international treaties) will not be required to register on the basis that these groups are less vulnerable (they are generally able to access their workplace rights and/or move more freely in the labour market). The discussion paper, however, does not indicate whether other high-skilled workers, professionals and senior managers working in Canada on LMO-based work permits would also be excluded from the Code's definition of a foreign worker. This appears to be an inconsistency that will hopefully be clarified through the consultation process.
Nova Scotia's proposed licensing regime for recruiters of foreign workers is also outlined in the discussion paper. Under the proposed regulations, only Canadian lawyers, Quebec notaries and members of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council will be eligible to apply for a licence to recruit foreign workers for employment in Nova Scotia. This proposal is said to reflect recent changes to federal immigration legislation regulating who can act as a paid representative to assist prospective immigrants and their employers with various types of immigration applications. However, it raises questions about whether lawyers and immigration consultants, rather than professional recruitment consultants, really ought to be performing recruitment activities. Moreover, it is not clear if this restriction will actually result in foreign worker protections since some overseas staffing agencies may simply partner with a licensed Nova Scotia recruiter to circumvent this rule.
The discussion paper is available online at http://www.gov.ns.ca/lae/. The deadline for making submissions is Feb. 3, 2012.
The foregoing is intended for general information only. If you have any questions, or for a detailed list and background of our Labour & Employment practice group, please visit www.stewartmckelvey.com.