How to Stay Out of Hot Water!

Hiring a nanny is not as easy as it used to be.  Employers often get into hot water by not knowing what the laws are or assuming they just don’t apply to them!  Nannies and live in caregivers are becoming very educated about their rights as caregivers and your responsibilities as employers

To really understand the Live in Caregiver Program, you need to understand how the Live in Caregiver Program came to be.  The program actually evolved from the Foreign Domestic Movement (FDM) which allowed workers to come to Canada to do live in domestic work.  Nannies were given the opportunity to immigrate to Canada following 24 months of employment.  Canada was the only country in the world to offer foreign nannies such an opportunity.  There were far fewer restrictions as to job duties and qualifying requirements than there are today. Foreign workers could come to Canada to be housekeepers or in those days “maids”.   In 1992 the Live in Caregiver Program (LCP) replaced the FDM.  The objective was and still is “to bring workers to Canada to do live in work as caregivers when there are not enough Canadians to fill the available positions”.  Caregivers now need training and/or experience, grade 12 equivalency and a valid job offer to come to Canada as live in nannies.  The job was redefined as caregiver and not domestic worker, thus an individual requiring care must live in the home.  You may not hire a live-in caregiver to care only for your pets. Many families were served by incredible live in caregivers during this time.  The program provided families in rural areas or those requiring flexibility, an opportunity to hire a competent nanny to provide quality care for children and elderly or special needs loved ones.  The program became widely used, but there were serious problems.

The Live in Caregiver Program was ripe for fraudulent activity.  Foreign nannies had a back door into the Canadian immigration system by asking relatives to provide job phony offers.  Many came to Canada and surreptitiously avoided working as live in caregivers.  Many employers took advantage of foreign nannies by ignoring labour laws and mistreating their employees.  However, many families and caregivers did have wonderful experiences and opportunities as a result of the LCP.  The success stories rarely made it into the media.

Many nanny recruitment agencies sprung up to meet the needs of families searching for caregivers.  Professional, ethical nanny agencies provided families with recruitment services but unethical agencies far outnumbered the compliant ones.  It was not uncommon for caregivers to be charged exorbitant fees by rogue agencies to obtain a job offer.  Often, the job did not exist when the nanny arrived.  

In 2010, the Live in Caregiver Program underwent several changes geared to protect the caregivers from unscrupulous placement agencies and abusive employers.  Now, employers must go to great lengths to prove to the Canadian government that there are no Canadians available to do the job.  Employers must prove income sufficient to pay a live in caregiver and provide evidence of the individual requiring care.  The most significant changes are the ones regarding who pays what.  Caregivers cannot be charged any fees related to securing their employment in Canada.  Employers must also pay the airfare for the foreign caregiver to come to Canada from their home country.   Employers must provide interim health insurance and pay WSIB remittances.  

What does this mean for the employer?  If you hire a live in caregiver, you are responsible for all fees.  In fact, you are responsible to reimburse your caregiver for any fees she paid to obtain her job in Canada whether you knew about them previously or not.   Nannies and caregivers abroad have been known to pay up to $5000.00 for a job in Canada.  The new laws have forced the rogue agencies underground, but they continue to operate.  Employers who feel they are getting a good deal by paying little or no fees to recruit or hire a live in caregiver will eventually be held accountable for all fees paid by the caregiver.  You cannot deduct the costs you paid for recruitment or for her airfare from her pay.  It only takes one disgruntled employee to file a claim and create a difficult situation for you.  The nanny can file a claim against an employer for up to four years after she has left her employment.  The employer must reimburse the caregiver’s expenses and any overtime owing.  They will also be fined and placed on a black list no longer eligible to hire through the program.  In some cases the employer may even face criminal charges!  The laws are clearly stated on the Federal Live in Caregiver website and the Ontario Ministry of Labour website.  Ignorance of how your agency conducts business will not protect you!  As the employer you are responsible to document work hours and make all payroll deductions and remittances.  You cannot say ” I wasn’t aware or I didn’t know I had to do this”. 

If employers work with ethical, compliant recruitment firms, such as Diamond Personnel, they are protected against illegal recruitment activity and surprise charges to their caregivers.  Your first clue as an employer should be how much the agency charges for the service provided.  A typical placement fee from an ethical recruitment firm is approximately $3,000.  It’s quite costly to screen, test and personally interview overseas candidates.  Agency owner Audrey Guth says “Why would you cut corners with the most important hire you will ever make?”  Agencies such as Diamond Personnel conduct intensive personality screening, background checks, and in depth face to face interviews to ensure the right fit candidate.  Diamond provides families with the confidence and security that their children will be safe by selecting only those live in caregivers who rank in the top ten percent.  Choose your agency wisely. 

Hiring a nanny or live in caregiver from overseas through an online database is risky.  Sourcing and screening the best candidate is time consuming and frustrating.  It’s best to leave this process to the experts.  There is a tremendous amount of paperwork that must be submitted in order for a family to qualify to hire a live in caregiver.  The employer must advertise the position, provide recruitment summaries, and various supporting documents, not to mention the onerous task of filling out the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) application.  Most families who have attempted to do it on their own submit their application, only to find out weeks later that they have done something incorrectly or have received a denial letter. 

Find a professional, ethical and compliant live in caregiver or nanny agency.  If an agency does not clearly outline the laws regarding the live in caregiver program, choose another agency.  If the agency says there are ways around paying for the airfare, find another agency.   Ask the agency if they charge fees to caregivers. Ask the caregivers you interview if they have been charged fees.  Interview the caregivers personally before you make a job offer.   Ask the agency about their guarantee policy.  Top agencies such as Diamond Personnel are so confident in their screening and matching they offer a one year replacement guarantee on nannies from abroad.   The age old saying “you get what you pay for” is certainly true in the nanny and caregiver placement industry. 

The Live in Caregiver Program is a wonderful opportunity for both nannies and families.  Families are able to secure high quality, caring, trustworthy nannies in an era where child care and eldercare options are scarce.  Nannies are invited to work in Canada, earn decent wages, and have health coverage and the option to immigrate with their own families.  The program is wonderful for all parties when everyone plays by the rules.

Audrey Guth

President

2 Responses

  1. I really want to work in canada for my family.what are your requirements.thank you

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