The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce says B.C.’s new paid sick days mandate fails to strike a balance between the needs of employees and employers.
The province announced on Wednesday that workers will be entitled to a minimum of five paid sick days each year starting in January. The new legislation includes part-time workers.
“There is no question that employers in both the private and non-profit sectors want to do what is best for their employees as a healthy workforce is critical to success. In fact, many employers already invest significantly in their workforce, including Employer Health Tax, WorksafeBC, vacation pay and extended health benefits,” said Dan Proulx, chamber general manager.
But the chamber is concerned the paid sick leave initiative will put more pressure on already tight financial margins for employers who are still reeling from the pandemic’s effects on business.
“It’s important to remember that the vast majority of businesses in B.C. are not large corporations. Ninety-eight per cent are small businesses,” Proulx said. “When all of the employee-related costs are combined, the impact is more than 30 per cent above wages. We had hoped the government would embrace a compromise that benefits both employees and employers.”
Chamber members and other members from various sectors took part in a virtual meeting with Labour Minister Harry Bains and Vernon-Monashee Harwinder Sandhu on Oct. 14. It was recommended to the government that it reimburse employers up to $200 a day for permanent paid sick leave, similar to what is currently available for COVID-19 related paid sick leave for up to three days per employee.
“We had even suggested the government cover the cost of permanent paid sick leave for a fixed period of time so businesses and non-profits could adjust their financial plans to reflect this new cost,” said Proulx.
“As we have previously indicated, businesses and non-profits are committed to a healthy workforce but significant challenges arise from the cumulative impact of government taxation, employee benefits and the rising cost of living for utilities, rent, fuel and food. With fixed expenses climbing, employers may have to make tough decisions regarding equipment purchases, hiring new staff or providing raises. If employers can’t cut expenses elsewhere then this will create inflationary pressures as those costs will have to be passed on to consumers.”
The chamber said it will contact Sandhu regarding the government’s paid sick leave initiative.