Tips for the Farmer Who’s Hiring: Canadian Edition

A Sampling of Canadian Agricultural Employment Regulations

By James M. Allen

Agricultural employers in Canada, too, must navigate a complex web of statutes and regulations. Many of the laws governing the employer-employee relationship in Canada arise, in large part, through provincial—rather than federal—legislation. Listed below is only a sampling of those regulations and links to additional resources.

Federal Labour Standards

Worker’s compensation benefits statutes and regulations are largely governed and vary by the provinces. Federal Labour Standards (FLS), established under the Canadian Labour Code, govern such things as hours of work, wages, vacation and paid holidays for federally regulated employees. Farm workers are not considered “federally regulated employees” under the FLS, but some provinces have considered expanding this protection to farm employees.

“Manitoba, in 2008, was dealt a pretty severe blow with expanding mandatory worker’s compensation to agriculture and expanding employment standards to apply to most farm workers,” says Marilyn Braun-Pollon, Vice-President, Prairie and Agribusiness at the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. “We all know Ag is not a nine-to-five business, especially during periods of peak production (e.g. harvest, calving season). Therefore, laws like Labour Standards that apply to workplaces in urban settings can’t be easily applied to Agriculture firms. Ag businesses have been exempted from these laws in the past, and we believe that they should continue to be exempted,” says Braun-Pollon.

For more information about the Federal Labour Standards, go to:;

For a list of territorial and provincial Ministries of Labour, go to:

Temporary Foreign Agricultural Workers

When Canadian citizens are not available to fill farm positions, agribusinesses can hire temporary foreign agricultural workers (TFWs) under four different streams that cover both lower- and higher-skilled jobs: the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, the Agricultural Stream, the stream for lower skilled occupations and the stream for higher skilled occupations.

Each of these streams has its own set of requirements and limitations, some of which are unique to the agriculture sector. All are important to fill a vital workforce need for Canadian agriculture, which frequently struggles to find qualified individuals to do the work.

“We don’t have Canadians lined up and down the street to apply for these positions,” says Braun-Pollon, “and that’s why the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and the Ag component of that, have been a lifeline for many producers. Some of the producers have got only so many hours in a couple of weeks to get their main crops off the field and to market, and they need the people to do it.”

For more information regarding the employment of TFWs, go to: and

Employment Discrimination

The Canadian Human Rights Commission regulates equal employment opportunities for all employers regulated by the federal government, which for the most part exempts agricultural employers. Each province and territory, however, has its own anti-discrimination laws that apply to activities that are not federally regulated.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, for example, defines an employer as any person employing one or more employees and prohibits employment discrimination against persons “on the basis of a prohibited ground.” Prohibited grounds include, but are not limited to, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, race and gender identity. Ontarians enjoy similar protections from discrimination in the workplace, with the additional protection to those having a “record of offence” and gender expression. Alberta includes in its list of prohibited grounds, “source of income.”

For more information on the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, see:;

For information on the Ontario Human Rights Code, see:

The Alberta Human Rights Act can be found at:

If you have questions regarding compliance—especially given the variations in the provincial laws and regulations regarding the employer-employee relationship in Canada—take a look at the information provided by your province. If all else fails, seek legal advice.

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