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The Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company and The Canada Life Assurance Company have become one company – The Canada Life Assurance Company. Discover the new Canada Life

The Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company and The Canada Life Assurance Company have become one company – The Canada Life Assurance Company. Discover the new Canada Life

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Supporting newcomers to Canada in the workplace

Key takeaways

  • Most newcomers to Canada choose to leave their home countries for a better future, but many face employment-related difficulties once here.
  • Common challenges including difficulty getting Canadian experience, recognition of foreign credentials and/or over qualification, and a lack of networking opportunities.
  • For employers, there are many steps you can take to support new Canadians as they join your workplace. There are also many tools and services available if you offer a workplace plan through Canada Life.

The importance of supporting employees new to Canada

According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 4 Canadians began as a landed immigrantOpens a new website in a new window, and immigration accounts for almost 100% of our country’s labour force growth. Newcomers have an undeniable impact on our country’s progress. Yet, most face employment-related difficulties.

Most newcomers to Canada choose to leave their home countries for a better future. They may feel hopeful moving to a new country, but the changes may feel overwhelming.

They may face language, financial, legal and political system differences. They may lack Canadian credit history or workplace experience in Canada. They may have to figure out housing, healthcare, transportation, schooling, family care and progressing in employment.

Understanding their unique challenges better helps to have the strategies in place to support them.

What challenges do new Canadians face?

Most newcomers face challenges in getting jobs that make full use of their skills and experience; here are the top 5 challenges ranked by newcomersOpens a new website in a new window:

Difficulty obtaining Canadian experience

Many newcomers find themselves in a “Catch 22” when applying for jobs. They can’t get hired without experience in Canada - but without experience, they can’t get hired. This cycle can cause frustration, and ultimately lead to experienced candidates working minimum wage roles just to add some local job market “experience” to their resume.

Difficulties with the recognition of foreign credentials

Similarly, many new Canadians face a barrier commonly known as “Credential recognition.” This means that professional designations, qualifications and training received overbroad may not be recognized by the equivalent governing body in Canada. As a result, many internationally trained professionals in regulated fields like accountancy, law and healthcare are faced with either retraining – often at great expense – or accepting roles outside of their skillset.

The Government has launched the “Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP)Opens a new website in a new window” to better understand the challenges new Canadians face, and to look for ways of improving the recognition of qualifications, skills and experience gained overseas.


As a result of qualifications not being recognized, many newcomers are forced to take roles that don’t require certifications despite the fact they have them. A study carried out by non-profit organization CERIC found that 28% of newcomer transport truck drivers had Bachelor’s degreesOpens a new website in a new window, even though their role didn’t require it. When looking at Canadian-born transport drivers, this figure to fell to just 1.6%.

Perceived employer bias

A panel on the Employment Challenges of New Canadians found that many immigrants felt that employers were biased towards hiring applicants born in Canada, even if they were less qualified.

Lack of social and professional networks

You’ve likely heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know” when it comes to job-hunting. For those new to the country without knowing anyone at all however, this can make it especially hard to find work. In today’s competitive job market, a social or professional network can be a huge tool when it comes to finding employment, and it’s a tool that newcomers aren’t able to use.  

How you can help your newcomer employees

Access to healthcare

Sometimes, newcomers or Canadians returning from living abroad must wait to get government health care.

This can take 3 months or even longer, a period during which they may have to pay out-of-pocket for healthcare expenses.

As an employer, in addition to your Canada Life group plan you may want to offer your employees a temporary provincial or territorial replacement plan to bridge the gap in coverage until they receive their provincial coverage.

It’s also important to make sure they understand their benefits. Consider adding a benefits discussion during your new employees onboarding process. Knowing how to use the services available can help them adjust to and succeed in their new life in Canada.

Be aware that different cultural backgrounds may impact people’s views on healthcare. Some cultures may prefer alternative approaches to medicine (for example, Indigenous healing practices or Chinese medicine) than what’s offered in the Canadian health care system.

Knowing your plan members’ background may help you identify the specific support they need.

Access to mental health services

An important reason to offer healthcare benefits is to enable new Canadians to access mental health services.

Returning home from living abroad or moving for the first time can create a lot of mixed emotions, from excitement and hope to homesickness to isolation. If they’ve struggled to find work during that process, they may be experiencing frustration and fatigue as well.

Coverage to help individuals seek help through a family doctor as well and additional benefits that allow them to speak to someone virtually can make all the difference in a period of immense transition.

Understanding cultural changes

For newcomers to the country, a new job means more than just a professional change. Someone starting a new role in Canada may be navigating a learning curve at work while also undergoing significant change in their personal life, too. Finding accommodation, setting up bank accounts, getting a driver’s license, settling children into school and navigating their new hometown or city can be very overwhelming. All of this can be especially difficult if there’s a language barrier and/or culture shock to contend with as well. It’s important to understand what newcomers may be experiencing beyond the workplace to find ways to best support them within it.

Helping to save for retirement

Relocating can be an expensive undertaking. Some newcomers may have invested significantly in travel to Canada and getting established here, parting with a lot of money upfront while waiting to find work and start earning. Other newcomers such as refugees may have very little in the way of savings at all. It’s here that offering a group retirement plan can really help people establish savings for the future as they earn.

Similar to the different cultural views around healthcare, it’s important to remember this may also apply to savings. For instance, some individuals may not choose to participate in a registered retirement program if it doesn’t align with their religious beliefs on investment practices.

How Canada Life can help to support newcomers

We have many products and services to help newcomers on your team.

My Canada Life at Work™

Plan members can sign up for an online account to easily access their plan online and/or via mobile app. Through this account they can submit claims and check their benefits information, and access free tools and resources on wellness, mental health, savings tips. They can also find a healthcare provider in their area, which can be especially useful for newcomers who need help finding services and may not yet be familiar with their local area.

Health and wealth consultants

These consultants can provide plan members with personalized attention and advice in over 13 languages, making them accessible to newcomers who want to get expert help in their native language. Your employees can connect over the phone and video chat. Members can also have their dependants join these meetings.


Consult+ is a virtual health and wellness clinic in your plan members’ pockets. The app lets members and their dependants meet with medical professionals online, which is also helpful for newcomers who haven’t found a family doctor. There’s no need to worry about navigating streets they may not be familiar with to get to the doctor. They also spend less time in clinic waiting rooms. Consult+ has a chat feature that allows members to ask for clinicians who may speak their native language (subject to availability).

TELUS Health employee assistance program

TELUS Health (formerly LifeWorks) is a confidential, short-term counselling and wellness information service platform. For newcomers, having someone to talk to about the changes they’re navigating can be a big help. Services are available over the phone, in-person or online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Teladoc Medical Experts

Expert medical advice from the comfort of your employees’ homes. On top of trying to understand a diagnosis, newcomers may also be trying to navigate a health care system and understand the treatment plans available in a new country. Medical specialists can help them learn about treatment options or make complex medical decisions. Plan members can also get help finding a doctor. Plus, their parents and parents-in-law have access to the same expert medical services.

Member education program

You may want to consider offering a member education program, offering timely, up-to-date and relevant information sessions for your members. Communication and education managers hold classes to help your employees improve their financial knowledge and plan for their future. They also have sessions tailored for newcomers. As long as members agree to get communications from us, they’ll automatically get invited to these sessions.

Health Connected

Health Connected is an interactive health and wellness tool on My Canada Life at Work that offers health risk assessments. Sometimes, health becomes the least of a newcomer’s priority with all the changes they’re going through. Having a fun way to be engaged in their overall health helps. This includes a health tracking section which may be useful when you’re new to Canada and you’re trying to make sense of new medical records.

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health

Visit Workplace Strategies for Mental HealthOpens a new website in a new window to better understand how you can support the mental health of newcomers. It’s filled with free resources to support the well-being of your employees and their loved ones. It has tools for workplace mental health and psychological safety. It also features tips on inclusion strategies in the workplace.

What's next?

The information provided is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication, but rules and interpretations may change.

This information is general in nature, and is intended for informational purposes only. For specific situations you should consult the appropriate legal, accounting or tax advisor.

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