Non-discrimination and migrant workers

Responsible recruitment of foreign workers
Maple Leaf Foods
Food and beverage
Canada, US, UK and Asia
Publicly listed
No. of employees:


Maple Leaf Foods is a Canadian food processing company with operations in Canada, the US, the UK, Asia and Mexico. Maple Leaf operates more than 100 facilities globally and is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Maple Leaf employs more than 1,100 temporary foreign workers from China, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mauritius, Mexico, the Philippines, and Ukraine.

Further information:

Dilemma: Labour shortages and migration

A labour shortage in Canada, particularly in the sparsely populated agricultural area of Manitoba, prompted Maple Leaf to venture into foreign recruitment in 2002. Maple Leaf established an International Recruitment Office in 2007.

Good practice: Partnering with an international organisation to facilitate and capitalise on migration

Maple Leaf partnered with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in 2007 to facilitate the fair, transparent and safe migration of temporary foreign workers to work for Maple Leaf in Canada. For visa purposes “temporary foreign workers” enter on ‘low-skilled’ visas (as required under the Canadian government’s visa framework), but once settled and trained, they can participate in more skilled jobs.

The IOM assists in the identification of potential workers through advertisements in local media, processing and screening applications, pre-selection interviews and medical assessments. In addition, the IOM:

  • Provides temporary foreign workers with logistical support in obtaining and completing necessary travel documentation
  • Provides ongoing support in terms of questions regarding the workers’ employment contracts
  • Provides the workers with pre-departure orientation in the form of English language and cultural training
  • Escorts the workers and helps them settle into their new homes
  • Carries out monitoring and evaluation of the workers in Canada

Maple Leaf finds apartments to let in the city and pays the first month’s rent. The company also provide beds and bedding, a welcome package, a one month bus pass and grocery coupons to help the new temporary foreign workers until they receive their first pay check. They also receive complete training on arrival, including life skills, health and safety, language, and job skills. Likewise, Maple Leaf runs cultural sensitivity training for Canadian employees about the norms and cultures of the countries from which the temporary workers come from. The company also has a published policy forbidding discrimination and harassment.

The employees are hired for an initial two-year period under a temporary foreign worker programme. Following this, Maple Leaf Foods nominates those employees wishing to stay in Canada to the Provincial Nominee Programme. If approved, the temporary foreign worker is awarded permanent residence status and is able to bring their family to Canada.

Results: Safe and responsible facilitation for over 2,000 temporary foreign workers

Country Landed Current Retention rate %
China 424 408 96.2%
Columbia 308 282 91.6%
El Salvador 637 490 76.9%
Honduras 263 243 92.4%
Mauritius 150 120 80.0%
Mexico 38 10 26.3%
Ukraine 270 215 79.6%
Philippines 7 7 100.0%
Total 2097 1775 84.6%

The programme now includes Mauritius, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia and Guatemala (recruiting through the IMO), as well as China, Mexico the Philippines and Ukraine (recruiting independently). The table below shows recruitment and retention figures through the programme to date.

Participants in the programme have integrated well into local communities as active participants in local and cultural affairs. Likewise, they have been well received by local communities, with little or no pushback.