1) No Recruitment Fees
It is illegal to charge a worker a fee for work in B.C. Yet, TFWs almost always pay thousands of dollars to work in B.C. and face barriers to recovering these fees after they arrive. B.C. should take steps to stop recruiters and employers from charging unlawful fees and to help workers to recover these fees more easily.
- Require recruitment agencies to be licensed in BC and to provide financial security at the time of licensing with the Employment Standards Branch, and allow workers to recover fees from the security;
- Hold employers liable for repayment of fees to workers where the employer has used or required the worker to use an unlicensed recruiter or immigration consultant and provide that employers are vicariously liable for actions of their agents;
- Extend the limitation period for recovery of recruitment fees and other rights violations to 3 years.
2) Proactive Enforcement
Effective enforcement is necessary to make rights meaningful for workers. The existing system for enforcement of rights is inadequate because it depends upon workers making complaints against recruiters and employers despite barriers that prevent workers from making such complaints. B.C. should create a proactive system so that workers do not bear the burden of bringing forward complaints in order to uphold their rights.
- Require recruiters to disclose to the Director names and addresses of partners, affiliates or agents operating inside or outside of the province and hold recruiters liable for their actions;10
- Require employers to register and provide pertinent information to the Director before hiring migrant workers;
- Implement a proactive enforcement regime that would allow for investigations of workplaces and housing as well as anonymous and third party complaints; and
Increase penalties for recruiters and employers who violate the prohibitions against charging recruitment fees, misrepresenting availability or conditions of employment, and other provisions of the legislation. Penalties should align with those in other provinces, such as Saskatchewan.
3) Access to Information and Advocacy
Laws that protect migrant workers in B.C. will not be effective unless workers know and understand their rights. Yet, migrant workers are often unaware of their rights due to lack of information, language barriers, isolation and insufficient services. B.C. should take steps to facilitate migrant workers’ access to information about their rights in order to prevent abuse.
- Require employers to facilitate access to free orientation sessions for workers about their rights within 3 months of arrival in B.C. Sessions should be delivered in the worker’s first language and at the employer’s cost; and
- Establish and fund independent migrant worker advisory offices to help with filing complaints and provide services and access to other resources, including a 24-hour information and help line for migrant workers.