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Cost of New Employer Paid Sick Days Will Hurt BC Small Businesses

Vancouver, October 18, 2021 – As the BC government wraps up its consultation on employer paid permanent sick days, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey results show local businesses are in no position to afford this new program set to come into effect on January 1, 2022. The majority of BC small businesses (64 per cent) are not supportive of any permanent employer-paid sick leave program, with 84 per cent sighting cost as their main concern.

“We need to remember that for small business economic recovery remains uncertain and on average will take 21 months to achieve. Our local businesses are carrying a ton of COVID-related debt, have yet to see sales return to a normal level, and are still under restrictions.” said Seth Scott, CFIB senior policy analyst. “Small businesses are sending a pretty clear message, they cannot afford a government imposed employer-paid permanent sick leave program, it’s too much”.

In April 2021 Premier Horgan said, “we’re looking at how to do it (paid sick leave) in a seamless way without putting more burden on businesses at a time when businesses can least afford it.” Small businesses are still in that “can least afford it” position, and yet the government is quickly proceeding with a major policy change that will directly impose costs on local businesses that are in a very fragile state. Businesses are still facing restrictions in some parts of the province, consumer confidence has not returned, and the federal programs are set to end soon.

A “seamless way” of introducing permanent sick leave needs to include a proper consultation with businesses, not this rushed government consultation that only asked if employers could afford a three-day, five-day, and ten-day option - there was no option for zero days. The government’s initial consultation did not state clearly whether paid sick leave would apply for full-time employees, part-time employees, and temporary employees, which significantly affects the cost.

Additional survey data shows mixed support for other models of permanent paid sick leave:
 

 

Strongly Agree

Somewhat agree

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Don’t know/

unsure

Not applicable

If the associated costs were fully taken on by the government and reimbursed on time, we would support any of the models

30%

33%

11%

22%

3%

-

We do not support any paid sick leave programs (i.e. employer paid or government subsidized)

39%

14%

20%

16%

6%

5%

We would be more inclined to support the paid sick leave program if the government paid half of the costs associated with providing paid sick leave in my business

15%

27%

16%

38%

3%

1%

Our business can afford to take on new costs to pay for this program, starting in January 2022

5%

11%

15%

66%

2%

1%

 

BC small businesses understand the importance of providing sick leave for their employees, with 63 per cent supporting it if the costs were fully funded by the government. However, that level of support drops drastically when the costs are only partially subsidized, or not at all.

“These survey results show BC small businesses care about the health of their employees, but they cannot afford to take on these costs fully in 75 days. Not when only 46 per cent of BC small businesses are making normal sales and the pandemic is hardly in the rear-view mirror,” concluded Scott.

CFIB is strongly urging the BC government to hit pause on the implementation of this fully employer-funded paid sick leave program. In the absence of that pause, the provincial government needs to go back to the drawing board and ensure the costs of its paid sick leave program are not fully taken on by small businesses.

 

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:

Seth Scott

CFIB Senior Policy Analyst, BC and the North

236-878-3818

[email protected]

 

About CFIB

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 95,000 members (9,300 in BC) across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.

 

Source for CFIB data

Preliminary results for the BC Employer Paid Sick Leave survey. The online survey started October 12, 2021, n = 1,051. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of +/-3.0%, 19 times out of 20.

 

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