Canadian Manufacturing

More than one quarter of small firms report workers refuse to return to work: survey

Only one third of small firms report they are at normal staffing levels, according to CFIB

July 16, 2020  by CM Staff

PHOTO: iStock

TORONTO — New survey data on small business staffing issues reveal a challenge for employers in rehiring or finding the workers to safely reopen their businesses, reports the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Only one third of small firms report they are at normal staffing levels, and one quarter report having a hard time in finding the staff they need to operate.

“Staffing is one of the many challenges for small businesses trying to get back to normal,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly, in a prepared statement. “More than a quarter (27%) of small firms report that some of their laid-off staff have refused to return to work when recalled.”

Of those who have had staff refuse to return to work, top reasons reported by small business owners are:

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  • They prefer to stay on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) (62%)
  • They are concerned about their own physical health or that of their family (47%)
  • They are concerned about childcare obligations (27%)
  • They do not feel there are enough hours or work available (16%)
  • They prefer the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) (11%)
  • They are concerned about taking public transportation (7%)

“It is clear that CERB has created a disincentive to return to work for some staff, especially in industries like hospitality and personal services,” Kelly said. “CERB was created as emergency support for workers who had lost their job due to the pandemic, not to fund a summer break. This is why it is critical that all parties support the government’s proposed change to end CERB benefits when an employer asks a worker to return to work.”

CFIB has urged the government to make changes to the federal aid programs, to ensure Canadians can safely transition from CERB to work using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) as a step towards unsubsidized employment.

“While CFIB is pleased the government has extended the wage subsidy until December, details on how the program will work are desperately needed,” Kelly added. “It is crazy that employers do not even know if they will qualify for the July subsidy period while we are half-way through the month.”

To assist moving Canadians from CERB to CEWS and then towards unsubsidized employment, CFIB recommends:

  • Allowing more businesses to participate in CEWS by removing or reducing the 30% revenue drop test or by creating a sliding scale to allow those with lower revenue drops to access a smaller subsidy
  • Continuing CERB benefits for those who need them, but requiring recipients to be available and looking for work, and ensuring benefits stop if a worker is offered a new job or their old job back, unless they or a family member are sick
  • Allowing CERB recipients to earn more while retaining some of their benefit so they are not discouraged from working more hours