Canada launches Recognized Employer Pilot for Employers of Temporary Foreign Workers

The Government of Canada announced the introduction of the Recognized Employer Pilot (REP) on August 8, 2023.  It was the first major policy announcement made by Edmonton Centre MP, Randy Boissonnault, in his new role as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages.

The Recognized Employer Pilot is designed to reduce the red-tape and administrative burden associated with hiring temporary foreign workers and will apply to a subset of those employers who have demonstrated a good track-record of compliance with the requirements of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

A Labour Market Impact Assessment is often required for an employer to be authorized to hire a worker from abroad. While exemptions to the LMIA requirement exist, when there is not a specific exemption that is applicable, an LMIA must be obtained by the Canadian employer prior to the worker being able to apply for a work permit.

An LMIA approval signifies that the government is satisfied that the opportunity is genuine and that the employment of a foreign national would not have a negative impact on the Canadian job market (usually because there are no Canadians or permanent residents available to fill the position).

While obtaining an LMIA approval is a critical first step for an employer who is looking to fill a vacancy with a foreign worker, the LMIA application process is complicated and can be difficult for employers to navigate. In addition, processing times for LMIAs are unpredictable and can be lengthy – making it difficult for employers to plan for their future workforce needs.

The Recognized Employer Pilot is intended to reduce the administrative burden currently involved in the LMIA process. In order to qualify for the pilot an employer must have received at least 3 positive LMIA decisions in the last 5 years for positions on the REP occupations list, must have met the highest standards for working conditions, living conditions and worker protection through their history with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and must commit to adhering to the TFWP’s requirements (including agreeing to participate in random REP check-ins, undertaking regular wage review to ensure foreign workers are receiving an up to date prevailing wage for their occupation and location, continuing to make reasonable efforts once per year to hire Canadians or permanent residents, and completing annual housing inspection reports of any employer-provided accommodations).

While the existing LMIA assessment requirements will not change (including recruitment requirements and the requirement to pay temporary foreign workers the regional prevailing wage for the applicable occupation), employers who qualify for the Recognized Employer Pilot can expect a simplified LMIA application process with fewer touchpoints with ESDC officers.

Under the REP, employers will also benefit from longer validity periods for their LMIAs, for example high-wage LMIA’s will have a duration of 36 months (up from 18 months) allowing them to use the LMIAs to bring in foreign workers for a longer period of time and reducing the number of applications required.

Finally, REP employers will receive a special designation on their postings on the Government of Canada Job Bank, showing that they have recognized status as a means to improve interest from potential workers.

The REP only applies to a limited number of occupations and is being rolled out in two phases. The REP occupations list is based on occupations that are designated as “in-shortage” under the Canadian Occupational Project System.

Phase 1 relates to agricultural occupations and intake of REP applications from agricultural employers began this week.  The Phase 1 occupations list contains the following occupations deemed to be in-demand and to have an insufficient domestic labour supply: livestock labourers, harvesting labourers, specialized livestock workers and famer machinery operator, and nursery and greenhouse labourers.

Phase 2 will start on January 1, 2024. The Phase 2 occupations list contains an additional 84 occupations covering a wide range of sectors, including certain trades (e.g. carpenters, cabinetmakers, welders), many healthcare occupations, the restaurant industry (food service supervisors, chefs, cooks, servers, food counter attendants etc.) and more.

For eligible employers, applications to be recognized by REP will be made as part of a standard LMIA application. Applications for recognition of the REP is scheduled to close on September 16, 2024.

Since REP will only be available to employers who have made multiple LMIA applications for occupations on the REP occupation lists, only a small subset of responsible, fully-compliant employers will be eligible.  As a result, it is important that an employer’s ineligibility for REP should not be seen as indication that they have somehow fallen short of their obligations to their foreign workers.

This article first appeared in the September 2023 edition of the Millwoods Mosaic – the Multicultural Voice of Southeast Edmonton (www.mwmosaic.ca) and is intended to provide general information only and should not to be relied on as legal advice or opinion.  We invite you to contact one of the members of our experienced immigration group for assistance.

Immigration & Citizenship Lawyers

Breanna L. Case
Associate

Megan L. Dawson
Partner

Eric J. Mahood
Associate

Hadeel Othman
Student-At-Law

Nathan A. Po
Partner

Klarissa Rivero
Student-At-Law

Olivia Wang
Associate

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