Hiring a domestic worker and related accreditation program
Last update: May 24, 2016
These guidelines supersede the Department's 2012 guidelines on domestic workers
- Employment Contract Template v. 07-2014 form HDWEA (PDF Version, 176 KB)Footnote *
- Mandatory Increase of the Minimum Wage Rate in the Province of Ontario Effective June 1, 2014
Table of contents
The Domestic Worker Accreditation Program allows certain foreign representatives to employ a domestic worker who will live and work in their private household during the posting period. Accreditation must be sought via the head of the diplomatic mission, international organization or special representative office (hereinafter referred to as “head of mission”). Employers must meet all legal, policy and program requirements, which includes the preparation of an employment contract that must be signed by both the employer and the employee.
As accredited domestic workers have the same labour rights, human rights and social protections as all Canadians and temporary foreign workers in Canada, it would not be appropriate for prospective employers to sign a contract when they are financially unable to pay the wages specified in the employment contract and otherwise meet all conditions of employment set in the contract. In this regard, the Department considers that it is the joint responsibility of the head of mission and individual employers to ensure compliance with the provisions of the accreditation program and the minimum provincial labour standards applicable to the domestic workers’ working conditions. Matters related to the domestic worker accreditation program should be discussed directly between the head of mission or an appropriate designate and the Office of Protocol.
The exploitation of a domestic worker may violate Canadian law and human rights. The Government of Canada condemns all acts of labour exploitation, including human trafficking. Human trafficking is the most extreme form of exploitation, and a serious crime.
- Learn about Canada's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
- "How to prevent human trafficking for domestic servitude in diplomatic households and protect private domestic workers": a Publication from the Office of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the OSCE
- Implementation of the OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings (PDF Version, 22 KB)* Warsaw, September 28, 2012
It should be noted that the Domestic Worker Accreditation Program is meant for domestic workers who will be living with the Employer for the duration of the Employer’s posting in Canada.
Heads of Mission
Individuals posted to Canada as:
- Ambassador or High Commissioner
- Chargé d’affaires en pied
- Career Consul General
- Head of an international organization or special representative office
- Permanent Representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
are entitled to a maximum of 2 domestic workers per household.
Deputy Heads of Mission
Individuals posted to Canada as:
- Deputy Head or Chief of Mission
- Career Deputy Consul General (or Vice-Consul General)
- Deputy Head of an international organization or special representative office
- Deputy Chief of Mission of a Permanent Mission to ICAO (i.e. the most senior Alternate Representative)
are entitled to a maximum of 1 domestic workers per household.
Other accredited foreign representatives do not qualify.
Prospective employers are strongly encouraged to make a reasonable effort to first fill the position with a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or a live-in caregiver already in Canada.
In addition, prospective employers must:
- have sufficient income to pay the domestic worker in accordance with the prevailing wage set in the province of residence and the method of payroll payment set by the Office of Protocol, and further agree to ensure complete, accurate and timely payroll;
- ensure that the potential employee is at least 21 years old, has successfully completed the equivalent of Canadian high school education, has received at least six (6) months of training, and has worked as a domestic worker or caregiver or in a related occupation for at least 2 years during the past 4 years;
- ensure that that potential employee has the ability to speak, read and understand English or French so that they can function on their own in an unsupervised setting;
- pay up-front the transportation costs from the employee’s country of current residence to Canada;
- pay the transportation costs from Canada at the end of the posting or upon termination of the employment, whichever comes first;
- submit, through the head of mission, a written contract (called a Household Domestic Worker Employment Agreementor HDWEA) signed by the employer and employee, which includes a description of:
- wages, including overtime
- hours of work
- job duties
- suitable accommodation arrangements and workplace safety
- holiday and leave entitlements
- a commitment to allow the domestic worker to attend, at the request of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), mandatory training, outreach, or information sessions from DFATD at the employer’s expense and without loss of wages
- health insurance coverage
- termination, resignation, and repatriation terms.
The Department requests that all payments to the employee be done by either cheque or bank transfer. Cash payments are not permitted. In addition, the employee should receive a payroll statement. The Department may, at any time, request a copy of such statement as proof of payment from the employer.
Minimum Wage Rates Per Province
Based on Current Locations of Domestic Workers
British Columbia: $10.45 per hour
Alberta: $10.20 per hour
Ontario: $11.25 per hour
Quebec: $10.75 per hour
Potential employers are encouraged to use the employment contract model developed by the Office of Protocol. If an employer chooses to develop his/her own contract, such contract does not have to look exactly like the Canadian model, but it must contain fair terms and conditions of employment, and information and clauses to ensure that domestic workers receive all the protections owed to them under Canadian laws and regulations, which include provincial labour standards. The use of an alternative contract format may delay processing as the Office of Protocol will be required to determine if the contract complies with statutory labour standards. The use of an alternative contract does not exempt the employer from the requirement to pay the employee by either cheque or bank transfer, as stated in the above paragraph.
The employer must not confiscate the passport, identity card, employment contract or other personal property from the domestic worker. A domestic worker has the right to keep his or her passport, identity card, employment contract and personal property in a safe and accessible place at all times. A domestic worker also has the right to leave the residence of his or her employer when their contract stipulates the domestic worker is not on duty.
A foreign representative who fails to respect the terms and conditions of the employment contract, including those relating to the method of payroll, will be prohibited to employ domestic workers in the future. Other restrictions may be imposed on the mission.
An employer may, however, substitute the domestic worker during the course of a normal posting if the previous domestic worker has completed his/her contract, transferred to a new employer or has effectively left Canada.
The Office of Protocol may request that certain countries demonstrate that they have developed and implemented an outreach and education program, or code of conduct, for their employees posted to Canada regarding the labour protections owed to domestic workers in Canada.
The domestic worker cannot be a blood relative of the employer or the employer’s spouse. A blood relationship means a first degree relationship with the employer and/or the employer’s spouse (this includes grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, sons or daughters or grandchildren).
Pre-arrival in Canada
Assuming that the Office of Protocol has accepted in principle the employment of the potential domestic worker in the household of the foreign representative and approves the related employment contract, he/she:
- is strongly encouraged to obtain detailed information about labour protections and rights enjoyed by domestic workers in Canada
- must apply for and obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), even if his/her country is visa-exempt
- undergo a medical examination, as well as an interview with a Citizenship and Immigration Canada officer
- appear in person for an interview with a Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officer in the mission serving his/her nationality or country of residence at the employer’s expense;
- cannot be accompanied by dependents
- should keep a signed copy of his/her employment contract in a safe and accessible place
A visa will not be issued to a domestic worker who is inadmissible to Canada for medical reasons.
Post-arrival in Canada
The domestic worker:
- promptly opens a bank account with ATM card in his/her name
- cannot not agree to sign another employment contract with terms and conditions that are less favourable without the express consent of the Office of Protocol
- cannot work for more than one employer at a time or care for individuals not forming part of the accredited employer’s household
- cannot transfer employer without the express consent of the Office of Protocol
- is required to leave Canada upon termination of the employment contract, at the end of the employer's posting or after seven years, whichever is earliest (a domestic worker who has been in Canada for the maximum period of seven years and who wishes to find a new employer and return to work in Canada under an official acceptance will be allowed to do so only after a stay abroad of at least six months and if the domestic worker has respected the terms and conditions of the HDWEA with the previous employer(s)
- is required to attend any training or information session provided by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (without loss of wages)
A domestic worker who violates the terms and conditions of the contract and of Canadian rules and policy will not be allowed to change employers.
A domestic worker should also take steps to improve his/her English and French skills before or after arrival in Canada. Even if a domestic worker can speak English or French, he/she may have difficulty understanding people and making himself/herself understood in Canada because of the different accents, the fast rate of speech, expressions used and communication conventions in Canadian society and workplaces.
When a potential employer wishes to hire a domestic worker, the head of mission must submit on his/her behalf an official request to the Office of Protocol of Foreign Affairs and International Trade with the following documents:
- A note verbale or letter signed by the head of mission, which contains:
- An explanation of what steps were taken to secure a domestic worker who is a Canadian Citizen, Permanent Resident, or a member of the Live-in Caregiver Program already in Canada, as well as why an alternative arrangement through the Department’s Domestic Worker Accreditation Program is warranted
- A statement that the potential employer has the financial ability to pay the wages and the ability to otherwise meet the working conditions required in the Province of employment
The Office of Protocol will assess the employment application submitted by the head of mission and related documentation to ensure that the employer and employee meet the program requirements.
Once the assessment is complete, the Office of Protocol will notify the head of mission of the final decision and further relay such decision to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
If the assessment is positive, the potential employee must submit a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) application through the Canadian mission abroad. The mission responsible for the issuance of the Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) will subsequently:
- Interview the potential employee, namely to evaluate the applicant's expertise and/or a possible blood relationship with the employer, and to ensure that he/she has been properly informed about workplace rights in Canada and understands the terms and conditions of the employment contract
- Ensure that a medical examination is done
The Canadian mission will inform the Office of Protocol of the results. If there is no adverse information, the Office of Protocol will provide a no objection to the Canadian mission for the issuance of the appropriate Temporary Resident Visa (TRV).
Upon arrival in Canada, the domestic worker will be granted admission as a temporary resident. The mission should quickly seek the domestic worker’s accreditation following the same procedures as those applicable to all foreign representatives. The Office of Protocol will then issue the official acceptance and matching identity card to the domestic worker as a reliable proof of status in Canada.
The domestic worker will be required to attend, in person, a meeting with Government of Canada staff in Ottawa or the nearest Provincial Capital prior to receiving his or her accreditation documents. Such interviews may be required as well when these documents are subsequently renewed or at other times during their stay in Canada. The cost of appearing for such interviews must be borne by the employer; in addition, the employee is entitled to leave with pay to attend these meetings. Domestic workers already in Canada must now be made available to comply with these requirements.
The employer must agree to review and adjust the domestic worker’s prevailing wage to ensure it meets or exceeds, at all times, the requirements of the provincial labour standards.
See the Department's Circular Note XDC-0406 of April 2, 2004.
- Date Modified: