Don’t Succumb to Voluntary Slavery:Understand Your Rights & Responsibilities When Working Abroad


So you just received confirmation that you’ve been approved for a work visa – do you have any idea what that means and how it may not work in your favor?

Moving to a different country to work, with high hopes of being granted resident status or citizenship is an exciting venture, but it can become disheartening in a hurry if you don’t know your rights or labor laws – so please, do your research!

I can’t tell you how many times I have met new arrive-es, the spark of excitement gone from their eyes as they realize they’re being exploited – usually by an immigrant employer from their own country who has decided to sponsor them.

I whisper they have rights, that Canada has laws and they tearfully explain their fear of exercising them at the risk of being sent back home. At this point, they have just succumbed to voluntary slavery.

If you find yourself in this situation please understand that another opportunity will arise, you can change employers and, your well-being is more important than a dollar to your family –  if you disagree, then you can’t be helped and I have no sympathy because you are enabling a problem that, without your participation and courage, will never be corrected!

If YOU don’t take action and exercise your rights because you selfishly envision “signed papers”, YOU are part of the problem, NOT part of the solution!

In the province British Columbia we have laws that address health and safety  – *as an employee you are legally protected from working in an environment that is unsafe and is a hazard to the environment or your mental or physical well-being.

*You have the right to refuse to work (3.12 Procedure for refusal) and your employer must continue to pay you until the problem is corrected. Working Alone is a consideration as well.

Just as an employer has responsibilities to you, YOU have responsibility to yourself, your co-workers and the health and safety of the general public; so please familiarize yourself with WorkSafeBC Regulations – study the entire site because laws that pertain to your situation aren’t in one specific place.

*You will also find some excellent literature you can print and keep on hand such as this  hospitality brochure and the safety on the job brochure. Find more interesting reading here.

Problems arise most often in the hospitality industry. Be cautious of the employer who offers you a management position at a campground or a motel, especially if you have no training in that field!

Make no mistake! Your employer will make mistakes whether intentional or otherwise – so keep a written record of your hours worked and verbal conversations you may have had relating to those concerns.

They will likely tell you you have all authority to run the business as you see fit and your contract may even read so BUT, if your employer never allows you to exercise that authority, you are NOT a manager! You are simply an employee that has rights which are being neglected, ignored and over-looked.

If this is your situation you are entitled to *over-time for working excessive hours, pay for statutory holidays, government regulated time off after 40 hours per week, extended leave of absence, a regulated wage and you are entitled to holiday-pay!

Don’t worry if your employer tells you you are not entitled to these things because you are on a manager’s salary – this is not true – and please, study this brochure: the Definition of a Motel Manager .

For information related to Labor Laws please read The Employment Act and Employment Standards Regulation – it is your duty to your country and ours to know these laws and help enforce them!

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