U.S. recruiters are expected by their employers to hire for and from Canada, but professionals may be uninformed of the language barriers, cultural dissimilarities and different labour practices between the two neighboring nations. The following explores five important distinctions between recruiting in the U.S. and recruiting in Canada.
1. Pre- and post-employment drug/alcohol testing violates human rights.
In Canada, both pre- and post-employment testing are considered in violation of an employee’s human rights and therefore are not permitted. There are of course exceptions, however. If the employer can demonstrate that testing is necessary—to ensure compliance with other relevant policies and the protection and safety of others employees, customers and third parties—then testing may be permissible.
2. Approximately 23% of Canadians’ native tongue is French.
Although English is the predominant language in Canada, French is also an official language; approximately 23% (seven million) of Canadians’ native tongue is French. It is important for U.S. recruiters to be cognizant of and respect the French-speaking population, especially in the east-central Province Quebec and surrounding areas. This interactive map, developed by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News, provides an excellent breakdown and illustration of the languages of Canada and where they are most prevalent.
3. It is illegal to unilaterally dictate new terms into an employment contract without consent.
Employment terms in the U.S. are generally subject to change or modified at will. In Canada, however, it is illegal to unilaterally dictate new terms into an employment contract without first obtaining consent from the employee. According to Canadian legal firm Clark Wilson, LLP, an employer is first required to “provide new consideration” (e.g., a raise or one-time bonus) to be considered in compliance with law.
One would think continued employment could be thought of as sufficient; while it is sufficient in the U.S., it isn’t in Canada.
4. Severance plans or policies are uncommon.
According to an article published by Inorbit International Recruiters and Head Hunters, “Severance plans or policies are uncommon in Canada because they set a floor, not a ceiling, on severance since they do not override rights to statutory or reasonable notice.” Furthermore, without a collective agreement, termination and severance “entitlements” are determined on a case-by-case basis—and not at all impacted by severance amounts paid to other former employees of the same company.
Severance policies/plans are much more common in the U.S., as companies usually have formal written plans in place. Additionally, most plans in the U.S. require the severed employee to execute a release of claims before any severance payments can be provided. Employees in each country are likely to know these differences, but it’s important to understand the differences as it may impact previously uninformed candidates’ decision-making process, adaptability and even retention.
5. Reasonable notice of termination is implied by law.
In Canada, regardless of written agreement, contractual employer-employee relationships are “implied by law.” That is, minimum notice periods, or pay in lieu of such notice, are prescribed by statute in all Canadian jurisdictions, and reasonable notice is also implied in common law. Essentially, unless agreed upon at time of hire or as a component of a carefully drafted agreement, Canadian law mandates that employers give reasonable notice of their intent to fire an employee. According to the Canadian Labour Code, “reasonable notice” requires at least two weeks of wages at the employee’s regular rate.
Canadian Labour Laws vary greatly.
For recruiters making the shift from recruiting in the U.S. to also recruiting in Canada, these are some of the most important Canadian Labour Laws to get to know:
- Employment Standards Act
- Industrial Relations Act
- Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Act
- Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms
- Human Rights Act
- Employment Equity
- Privacy Act
For recruiters, the ultimate goal is to hire high quality talent in an efficient manner. To effectively do so abroad—and to truly become an extension of your client—recruiters need to be educated on cultural and lifestyle differences, as well as informed on how employment relationships are governed. This responsibility ultimately rests on the shoulders of the recruiter, but hopefully the information presented above provides a starting point for those seeking to build an international career.
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