Monthly Archives: December 2011

Canada’s New Caregiver Policy Raises Industry Concern

OTTAWA — The federal government is making it easier for foreign live-in caregivers to stay in the country once their contract is up, but an industry leader is warning the new policy could cause a serious caregiver shortage.

Immigrants with live-in caregiver visas will now be able to obtain an open work permit 18 months sooner, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Thursday.

Already, about 14,000 live-in caregivers have been given open work visas since the policy was changed, the minister’s press secretary confirmed Thursday.

Open work permits allow caregivers to seek another job, if they choose, when their two-year live-in caregiver contract is complete, without losing their permission to be in Canada.

“Too many live-in caregivers have completed their work obligations but must continue living in the home of their employer, waiting for their application for permanent residence to be reviewed,” said Kenney. “This is understandably frustrating.”

The Live-In Caregiver Program allows Canadian families to hire caregivers from abroad to live in their home and care for a child, an elderly person or a disabled adult when there are no Canadians available for the job.

Those in the program need to work for 3,900 hours or two years before they are eligible to apply for permanent-resident status.

Until now, however, they could not look for other work while they waited for initial permanent status approval — which, with the current backlog, typically takes about 18 months.

Kenney said the new policy accelerates the processing time by 18 months. Live-in caregivers now get their open work permit as soon as they can apply for permanent status.

The new policy is a result of consultations Kenney had with live-in caregivers on how to prevent them from being exploited, the minister’s press secretary said on Thursday.

“Minister Kenney is concerned with the treatment of live-in caregivers in Canada,” wrote Candice Malcolm in an email. “People in this program sometimes face difficult situations, such as those described in the front-page abuse allegations against then-Liberal-MP Ruby Dhalla.”

Two years ago, Dhalla made headlines when a former nanny alleged she “was mentally tortured and physically stressed” by long work hours and insults in the family household.

Since the program began, similar allegations have surfaced in other parts of the country.

The new policy is a welcome change to better protect live-in caregivers, said Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association for Caregiver and Nanny Agencies in Canada, a group that seeks to set ethical standards for the caregiver industry.

“It gives (live-in caregivers) a lot more freedom,” she said.

But Gruber Hersch said Canadian families will need to brace themselves for what she predicts will be a rapidly dwindling supply of foreign nannies.

“We will see and we already have seen a growing shortage of caregivers, live-in and live-out,” she explained. “Once they get their open work permits, the vast majority will move on to other industries . . . They’ve done their 24 months and they want to move on.”

The shortage is already happening, she said.

Gruber Hersch said she recently heard from a B.C. caregiver placement agency which already has received notices from six nannies.

The new policy is unprecedented, said Toronto immigration lawyer Rafael Fabregas.

Although he welcomes the change, Fabregas said he is suspicious of the federal government’s motivation.

“It’s bizarre,” said Fabregas. “It’s bizarre how they can announce this type of a policy after basically doing nothing for the past year-and-a-half and accumulating all these applications.”

Along with the massive backlog of permanent residence applications, the wait time for live-in caregivers crept up over the past year-and-a-half, to almost 20 months from six months, said Fabregas.

“Now they’re basically creating a policy to kill a backlog that they created, in a way making themselves look good,” he said. “I just think all of this doesn’t pass my smell test. It reeks, quite frankly.”

Fabregas said the policy raises a lot of other questions. He wonders what will happen now for other immigrant groups, such as sponsored spouses, who are still awaiting a decision on their permanent status without open work permits.

“Is the immigration department now going to . . . start issuing them work permits upon application?” he asked.

As for a mass exodus of live-in caregivers looking for jobs in other industries, Fabregas said it’s too soon to tell.

“Are caregivers suddenly going to start leaving that job for greener pastures in a climate where unemployment is slowly creeping up? I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not convinced that that’s what going to happen, but I could be wrong.”

If it does happen, Fabregas said Kenney will need to put on his thinking cap to figure out the government will fill the gap.

New Democrat MP and immigration critic Don Davies said the new policy is a step in the right direction.

But it still fails to solve another problem, he said — the fact that many live-in caregivers must leave their own children and spouses behind in their home country. They are only allowed to sponsor them to come to Canada once they receive permanent residency.

“It’s ironic because we’re bringing women . . . from around the world to come here and look after our children, separating many of them from their own children,” said Davies.

Since the vast majority of live-in caregivers end up getting permanent status, Davies said there’s no reason to delay the sponsoring process.

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If you would like to find a caregiver or nanny job in Canada, you can fill out this International Nanny Agency nanny caregiver application form.

 

Tips for Being a Good Employer

What ways can people be better employers to a nanny or caregiver?

As an employer, we always have expectations of our employees, for example: be punctual, be hard-working, and be reliable; but what about the other way around? In what ways can people be better employers? Ensuring a harmonious relationship with your caregiver does not fall solely into the caregiver’s hands. A positive employer-employee relationship involves give and take. In order to promote a mutually beneficial relationship, here are a few tips to make your employee feel valued:

1) Offer a fair wage: For live-in caregivers, the wage has already been determined according to government standards. However, for live-out caregivers, the wage is negotiable. When offering your caregiver a wage, truly ask yourself, “What is required from this individual and what is a reasonable wage”? How many children do you have? Is there housework involved? Driving the children? Meal preparation? Your wage should fairly compensate your caregiver for the job’s requirements.

2) Treat her like a professional: If you are confident in your caregiver’s childcare abilities, you should trust her judgement. If you have any concerns, these should be addressed in private and not in front of the children; doing so will only undermine her authority. Try to respect her childcare approach and be polite in making suggestions. We all have different ways of doing things and there may even be a cultural element to your caregiver’s approach.

3) Respect her privacy: You should respect your caregiver’s personal space, especially a live-in caregiver. Even though they live in your home, this does not mean your caregiver is available all the time. When the work day is done, your caregiver is free to enjoy their time off; whether that is in the comfort of their private room, or out with friends, be respectful of their personal space.

4) Establish rules and respect them: Your caregiver’s job description has been clearly detailed in the employment contract. If you require duties beyond what has been described in the contract, please consult with your caregiver first. Furthermore, if your work day finishes at 5, try and be home at that time so your caregiver’s workday may end. If it is necessary for them to work longer, be sure to compensate fairly.

5) Show your appreciation: Positive feedback goes a long way in fostering a harmonious relationship. If you are pleased with your caregiver’s performance – let them know!

6) Be flexible: Life doesn’t always go according to plan – maybe your nanny needs a day off and can only provide short notice. Or perhaps, you need your nanny to work on a weekend and it’s a last minute request. As much as we all like to plan ahead, sometimes you need to bend a bit.

7) Be welcoming: While arriving in a foreign country is an exciting experience, it can also be terrifying. Take the time to show your caregiver around the house and explain how everything works. At the same time, you may also want to point out bus stops, grocery stores, banks, cell-phone stores, etc. Your caregiver will appreciate the gesture and your assistance will help build their confidence.

If you would like to find a caregiver or nanny for your family, simply fill out this family application for a nanny or caregiver.

Being a Professional Nanny

What to expect when you are a professional nanny!

Being professional is  important,   regardless of the kind of work. As a nanny, you have a responsibility not only to your employers, but to the children you care for as well.

Taking pride in your work and acting in professional way will be beneficial to your current work relationship and to your future opportunities. Having a poor reference from a past employer will only harm your future chances of success.

That being said, here are a few general tips to follow in order to be a more “professional” employee.

Respect for Others

  • Be polite and have good manners.
  • Be punctual: if you start work at 7.a.m., you should be ready!
  • Keep your employer’s private affairs confidential.
  • Accept and listen to criticism – keep an open mind.
  • Apologize for errors or misunderstandings.
  • Do what is asked of you.
  • Speak clearly – you may not be understood all the time, it’s best to check!

Take Responsibility

  • Be honest!
  • Be reliable and dependable – this is your job!
  • Always give the best you can.

Of course, there are some tips which are more specific for nanny-work:

  • Nannies should be mindful of childhood development and plan age-appropriate activities.
  • Nannies should keep a journal to report any milestones in development or observations.
  • Nannies must supervise children carefully and use common sense when responding to emergency situations.

Remember, being a nanny is a professional job and therefore requires serious attention and effort! If you feel your nanny skills have been lacking, make it a New Year’s Resolution to try some of these tips to make your work relationship more harmonious!

If you would like to speak with us about finding a job as a nanny or caregiver in Canada, contact our Canadian International Nanny agency.