Guide for Seasonal Agricultural Workers: Living and Working in Prince Edward Island

Work Conditions and Benefits

Work Contracts

To obtain your work permit, you must sign a work contract, which is a legal document that outlines the conditions that you and your employer have agreed to.

It is your right to have a copy of your work contract. If you do not have one, ask your employer to provide it.

Information covered in your employment contract includes details about the following:

  • Your job duties
  • Deductions from your paycheque
  • Conditions of employment – including the number of hours you will work, break times, days off, and rate of pay per hour when you work more than your regular hours (overtime)

If you have not received a work contract, or, if you have asked for one and your employer has refused to provide it, you can ask for help at Cooper Institute, PEI Employment Standards, or Community Legal Information.


Your employer can pay you in cash, by cheque, or by direct deposit into your bank account.

Pay Stub

Every time you are paid, your employer must give you a paper or electronic statement. This pay stub shows the dates of the pay period for which you are being paid, the number of hours you worked, your hourly wage, your total earnings and any deductions, with an explanation of what they were for. After your job ends, you must receive one final pay cheque for any wages that are still owed to you. This final pay cheque must be paid either on the next scheduled payday or after 7 days.

Standard (Prevailing) Wage

You are entitled to receive the standard hourly wage for work in your occupation. Your employer cannot pay you less than other workers with similar experience, performing similar duties.

The standard or prevailing wage is different depending on your job and the province in which you are employed. To find out more about the prevailing wage for your occupation, go to Job Bank and enter the name of the main task you are doing. For example, you can enter “general farm worker” and search the location. The report shows you the median wage for the type of work you are doing. More information

Minimum Wage

As of July 2020, the minimum hourly wage for workers in PEI is $12.85; your employer must pay you at least $12.85 per hour. If you have questions about minimum wage, you can call the PEI Employment Standards Branch. More information

Pay Frequency

It is up to the employer to decide how often they will pay you, but it must be distributed according to a regular schedule. In PEI, it is common to be paid every 2 weeks.

Pay Deductions

Your pay stub must show all money that is deducted from your wages. By law, employers must take certain deductions from your pay. Your pay stub will show an amount for Gross Income, your total pay before deductions were subtracted, and an amount for Net Income, your total pay remaining once the deductions were subtracted. Here is the list of general deductions:

  • Income tax – the provincial and federal government taxes based on your income
  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP) – a monthly benefit workers contribute to, and later collect when they are seniors
  • Employment Insurance (EI) – contributions to a plan that may provide temporary financial help if you lose your job

You must contribute to Employment Insurance and the Canadian Pension Plan, even if you don’t use these programs.

If you are from Mexico, your employer will make the following additional deductions from your paycheque:

  • $0.90 per day for health insurance
  • $6.50 per day for meals (only if you agree to receive this service, in a written statement that you provide to your employer, prior to the first deduction)
  • $2.33 per working day for utility costs
  • up to $633.00 for travel costs (no more than 10% of your earnings per pay period. The employer may deduct up to 50% of the actual cost of air travel)
  • a total of $155 for the cost of a work permit over your first 6 weeks of work

If you are from a Caribbean country, your employer will make the following additional deductions from your paycheque:

  • $10.00 a day for meals
  • $2.33 per working day for utility costs
  • up to $5.11 per day for travel costs, but no more than $638.00 total
  • 25% of your wages will be deducted by your government agent. Some of these funds are used for administration, while the rest is returned to you once your contract is complete

Trinidad and Tobago only: You have to pay $155 for work permit fees to your employer within 30 days of arriving. This is paid through weekly deductions from your wages.

Most of these deductions increase each year. The amounts above were updated in August 2020.

Deductions that are not allowed

Your employer cannot deduct management or recruitment fees from your wages. It is their responsibility to pay the costs related to hiring you and helping you to settle in Canada.

Employers cannot deduct wages for uniforms unless you have given your employer written permission to do this.

Your employer should not deduct money from your wages for your living quarters. They have to provide this for you free of charge.

Even though it is not allowed, some employers make additional, illegal, deductions. If you believe employer has made illegal deductions, get help by contacting Employment Standards Branch.

Hours of Work

Generally, a work day is 8 hours, but could extend to 12 hours if the work is considered urgent. Generally, contracts within the agreements between Canada and Mexico, as well as Canada and Caribbean countries establish a minimum of 40 hours per week.

Even though it is not allowed, some migrant workers are asked to work extra hours that they are not paid for. Because of this problem, it is a good idea to keep a record of how many hours you work each day. This will help you in case you have a conflict with your employer.

Time Off

Although the Employment Standards Act does guarantee agricultural workers time off or rest breaks, all contracts should contain these provisions.

For every 6 days that you work, you should receive at least 1 day off. Your day off may be any day of the week. Most often in PEI, your day off will be Saturday or Sunday. Your employer may ask you to work more than 6 days in a week, but it is your choice as to whether or not you do so. It is unfair for your employer to penalize you in any way if you choose not to work extra.

Each day, you are entitled to one 30-minute meal break and two 10-minute rest breaks. One rest break is to be held mid-morning and the other mid- afternoon. You may not get paid for these breaks.

Overtime Pay, Vacations, Vacation pay, and Public Holiday pay

The only provisions of the PEI Employment Standards Act that apply to agricultural workers are related to being paid, pay records, and making a complaint. Under the Act, SAWP workers do not have the right to vacation time, vacation pay or overtime pay. If, however, vacation time or pay is included in the worker’s contract, the employer does need to honour that commitment.

Employment Insurance (EI)

Seasonal Agricultural Workers are not usually eligible to receive EI, because when they finish their contracts they immediately return to their countries of origin. To apply for EI, the person must remain in Canada as the main requirement. And they must have a current work permit.

You and your employer both pay into Employment Insurance while you are working. Workers in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must meet the same eligibility requirements as Canadian workers. Within the SAWP, it is not possible to meet the eligibility requirement of remaining in Canada because workers return to their countries of origin once work has finished.

Employment Insurance (EI) can provide temporary financial help for people who:

  • Have lost their jobs through no fault of their own – EI Regular Benefits (must reside in Canada) – SAWP workers are not eligible
  • Cannot work because of sickness, childbirth, parenting, or because they are caring for a loved one

Barriers for migrant workers:

  • Regular Benefits, it can be difficult to fulfill the requirement of being immediately “capable and available” for work when you must apply for a new work permit before work can commence. You must be able to show the ability to obtain a work permit with a new employer upon securing employment.
  • For workers without status – if you are paid cash your pay is likely undocumented, and no contributions made to EI. Without documented employment and contributions to EI, you will not be eligible for any related EI benefits.
  • You must have worked between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment during the "qualifying" period (usually one year).

You and your employer both pay into Employment Insurance while you are working. Workers in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must meet the same eligibility requirements as Canadian workers. Within the SAWP, it is not possible to meet the eligibility requirement of remaining in Canada because workers return to their countries of origin once work has finished.

EI Regular Benefits (Job Loss)

To qualify for "regular" benefits a migrant worker must:

  1. Be unemployed through no fault of their own
  2. Be in Canada

You may be eligible to collect Employment Insurance benefits if you worked and accumulated at minimum number of hours of work before you lost your job. The number of hours you must work to qualify for EI benefits depends on where you live in PEI and can range between 400-600 hours.

Look up the hours you must work using your postal code on the Government of Canada website.

You cannot receive EI benefits from outside Canada.

You are not eligible for EI if your work ended because:

Employment Insurance (EI) – Special Benefits

Special benefits provide temporary financial help to people in specific situations where they are not working. Each type of benefit has different eligibility criteria and application processes. You can receive maternity, parental, and compassionate-care benefits in your own country. However, you need to be in Canada to receive sickness benefits. You must have worked 600 hours during the qualifying period.

Maternity Benefits: Eligible mothers can receive benefits for up to 15 weeks off work to care for a newborn. This time off can begin up to 12 weeks prior to the expected birth date, and as late as 17 weeks after the baby is born. If living outside Canada, you must have a current Social Insurance Number.

Parental benefits: Either parent can receive parental benefits for up to 35 weeks within 52 weeks of the child being born or adopted. Parental leave benefits typically commence once maternity benefits have completed. One or both parents can receive parental benefits while off work to care for a newborn or newly adopted infant. If both parents receive this benefit, they must share the weeks (i.e., 17.5 weeks of benefits for both parents instead of 35 weeks for one parent). If living outside Canada, you must have a current Social Insurance Number.

Compassionate care benefits: Eligible individuals who have a family member who is at risk of dying within 26 weeks can receive benefits for up to 6 weeks so they can take care of that person. If living outside Canada, you must have a current Social Insurance Number.

Sickness benefits: Eligible individuals who cannot work because they are sick can receive benefits for up to 15 weeks. You must be in Canada to receive this benefit.

You can get more information about Employment Insurance coverage for the various types of leave by calling Service Canada or visiting the Service Canada website. More information

Social Assistance

People who are working in Prince Edward Island through the SAWP are not eligible for Social Assistance.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

CPP Retirement Benefits

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is a monthly retirement benefit for eligible applicants.

You can apply for and receive a full CPP retirement pension at age 65, as early as age 60 with a reduction in monthly benefit, or as late as age 70 with an increase in monthly benefit.

If living outside Canada:

  1. The applicant must be 65 years of age or more.
  2. The applicant must be a Canadian citizen OR a legal resident of Canada on the day before the applicant stopped living in Canada. However, SAWP workers are not required to prove this.
  3. In general, Retirees must have resided in Canada for a minimum of 20 years after the age of 18. But SAWPs may be eligible after participating in the program for 10 or more seasons.

Maximum of $563.74 monthly (based on length of residence – maximum pension at 40 years of working in Canada.

More information

Disability Benefits from the Canada Pension Plan

According to Service Canada, to qualify for a disability benefit under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a disability must be both "severe" and "prolonged", and it must prevent you from being able to work at any job on a regular basis.

Severe means that you have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work.

Prolonged means that your disability is long-term and of indefinite duration or is likely to result in death.

Both the "severe" and "prolonged" criteria must be met simultaneously at the time of application. There is no common definition of "disability" in Canada. Even if you qualify for a disability benefit under other government programs or from private insurers, you may not necessarily qualify for a CPP disability benefit.

To qualify for a Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit, you must:

  • Have a severe and prolonged disability;
  • Be under the age of 65; and
  • Meet the CPP contribution requirements

More information


Every year that you work in Canada, you must file an income tax return. You may owe additional taxes (i.e., if you did not have enough tax deducted from your pay in the previous year), or, you may be entitled to a tax refund (i.e., if you overpaid taxes during the previous year).

If you are eligible to apply for permanent residency, filing your taxes is especially important. Filing taxes can be complicated. You can call the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) if you have questions, toll-free. Low-income people who have simple tax returns can visit a free tax clinic, but many of these clinics are open only from February to April. To find out about Free Tax Clinics in PEI between February and April, visit the CRA website. If you can afford it, another option is to get help from a private tax company.

To file your taxes, you will need a T4 slip. A T4 slip is a statement of all the money you have earned in a year for one employer. Your employer must send your T4 slip to you by the end of February.

First Tax Return

If this is your first time filing taxes in Canada, you must file them by mail. Exception: If the Canada Revenue Agency has your birth date on file, you may be able to file online. To file a paper application mail them to the Canada Revenue Agency. You can pick up paper tax forms at a local post office between February and early May each year. Alternatively, you can download them from the CRA website.

Subsequent Tax Returns

You can file your taxes by mail or online. Your taxes will be processed much faster if you file them online. To file your taxes online, use NETFILE. This is a tax-filing program from the Canada Revenue Agency. Alternatively, you may use software that is NETFILE-certified, which is software that is approved by the CRA. More information

Before coming to Canada, your country’s liaison officer must fill and certify both a Federal and a Provincial TD1 form (Quebec workers only need the Federal form). The form must be filled by the officer considering your expected income, your spouse’s net world income, and the number of eligible dependents you may have. These factors will determine your total non- refundable credit for the year.

If you are expected to have a total income above the total non-refundable credit, your employer should set up payroll tax deductions from the beginning of your contract in Canada to avoid large tax deductions at the end of your stay. If your total income is expected to be similar to the total non- refundable credit, you should only be subject to tax deductions from the moment you surpass your total non-refundable credit. No tax should be deducted from your salary if your total income is below the thresholds established at provincial and federal levels.

More information

Community Legal Information

Community Legal Information

Contact Community Legal Information


Cooper Institute thanks the individuals and groups that provided information for this document. This Guide was made possible through the generous support of the Law Foundation of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Canada's Emergency Support Fund, Atlantic Region Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies (ARAISA), Employment and Social Development Canada, and Community Foundations of Canada.

Special credit is due to the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) whose comprehensive migrant worker guides have served as inspiration for this one.

This guide covers most of the key issues that affect migrant workers employed through the SAWP as of August 2020.