On behalf of the GNCC and its membership, I would like to express our concerns regarding the idea that all Canadians be granted ten paid sick leave days. The Prime Minister has announced his intent not only to grant this to federally-regulated workers, but to lead the provincial and territorial governments in search of legislation across the country that would deliver this to all working Canadians.
We have found ourselves in the worst pandemic and what will likely be the worst recession any of us have ever seen, and hopefully will ever see again. Businesses have been severely impacted by this. Statistics Canada data shows that 38% of Canadian businesses have had to reduce staff or hours already. 40.5% have laid staff off. Some industries have had it even worse. 55% of retailers have laid off staff, as have 67.5% of accommodation and food service businesses. Small businesses have felt the blow especially hard. 58.5% of those with 5-19 employees have laid some of them off, as have 61.7% of businesses with 20 to 99 employees.
No less than a 20% drop in revenue has been seen by 60% of micro-businesses (fewer than 5 employed), 56% of businesses with 5-19 employees, and even 32% of large firms with more than 500 employees. 20% of all businesses have lost revenue between 20% and 40%.
The problem is clear: most Canadian businesses cannot bear any additional financial burdens at this time. The cost of paying employees for an additional eight sick days will end up putting even more Canadians out of work completely. In a survey of the GNCC’s own membership, 85% of respondents said that such a move would mean cutbacks to operations or staffing.
The Government of Canada has already announced several generous programs to assist those who cannot work or cannot find work owing to COVID-19. If these paid sick days are implemented, we suggest that the governments of Canada and/or Ontario compensate businesses for the cost of the program. A cutoff similar to that used to establish eligibility for CEWS could be used to determine whether a business can receive compensation for paid sick days.
We are facing a critical health crisis, but the health of Canada’s business community has not been this poor for a very long time. Many of the economic measurements that Statistics Canada uses to determine economic health have been delivered with the notice that the identified change is the largest observed since comparable data first became available. We urge you to help, not harm, Canada’s employers and wage-payers during this crisis. The measures you have undertaken so far have fallen into the former category. We hope that you will not undermine the work you have done.