Will proposed legislation banning Canada work experience solve long-standing problem for immigrants?

'They're hoping to encourage employers to consider foreign-trained workers now'

Will proposed legislation banning Canada work experience solve long-standing problem for immigrants?

Ontario’s decision to propose legislation to restrict businesses from demanding job candidates to have work experience in Canada before offering them jobs is a positive way forward, according to one lawyer. 

The provincial government made the announcement about the legislation earlier this month. And while everyone is still waiting for the government to release the legislation itself, the idea behind the proposed rule can be a start to solving a real-world problem for immigrants, says Henry Chang, a partner at Dentons, in talking with Canadian HR Reporter

“Employers are slow to consider foreign-trained workers as viable candidates. And this has been a problem for a very long time… You've heard the story about the taxi driver who has a medical degree – these are all situations that happen. And the problem is that the job market doesn't absorb the immigrants that we bring in under these economic categories based on their educational, work experience in certain high level fields.” 

Internationally-trained immigrants who hope to gain employment in the province will benefit from the proposed legislation, according to the Ontario government. 

“For far too long, too many people arriving in Canada have been funnelled toward dead-end jobs they’re overqualified for. We need to ensure these people can land well-paying and rewarding careers that help tackle the labour shortage,” says David Piccini, minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development, in the government’s announcement of the proposed legislation. “When newcomers to Ontario get a meaningful chance to contribute, everyone wins.” 

‘Change the mindset of employers’ 

The legislation will be an expansion of a previous statutory amendment, which banned the requirement of Canadian work experience for foreign-trained professionals hoping to be licensed in their field in the province, says Chang.

While the language of the new legislation is yet to come out, Chang believes it is geared towards changing the mindset of employers. 

“By requiring employers to not state Canadian work experience in their job postings, they're hoping to encourage employers to consider foreign-trained workers now. The intention here is to try to change the mindset of the employers to start to accept that good, viable candidates don't necessarily need to have Canadian work experience.  

“It's a step in the right direction. It's not a solution to the problem. And I don't think the government thinks it's necessarily a solution to the problem.” 

Will this restrict employers’ choice in hiring? 

In no way will the proposed legislation on Canada work experience in job posts force employers to make errors in judgement when it comes to hiring, says Chang. 

“[The] legislation doesn't prevent you from considering all factors…So you are going to have to consider other factors.  

“I think what [employers] need to do is consider foreign experience in the same manner that they [consider] Canadian work experience. They should look for reference letters, they should assess the credibility [of] the employer providing the reference, I don't think it's necessarily any more difficult to do.” 

Practically speaking, however, this is not going to cause much of a change, he says. 

“[If] the companies [referenced by the applicant is] down the street, [employers] could probably go in, call them or drop in and verify everything. But nobody ever does that. Even if the former employer is in the same city. So from a practical point of view, I don't think it's going to change things that much.” 

Ontario has also introduced legislation that will mandate employers to publicly include expected salary ranges in job postings, and let job candidates know if AI technology will be used during the hiring process. 

Best practices for employers 

While it is not mandatory, for now, for employers to eliminate the Canada work requirement in job postings, Chang suggests that employers start abiding by the proposed rule now. 

“If I were an employer, I would actually start doing that now, in anticipation that this is going to happen… 

“Because there are many foreign-qualified candidates who are having trouble finding employment because of the inherent bias that employers have in terms of foreign education or foreign work experience. 

“I think they should start taking this seriously now before it becomes mandatory.” 

Job seekers from outside Canada have shown far greater interest in coming to work in the country, according to a previous Indeed report. 

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