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Poll suggests small businesses in B.C. can’t afford paid sick leave

Global News logo Global News 2021-10-19 Jon Azpiri and Catherine Urquhart
B.C.'s paid sick leave program will come into effect Jan. 1, 2022. © Provided by Global News B.C.'s paid sick leave program will come into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Amid a provincial consultation on employer-paid permanent sick days, a new survey suggests they will dramatically affect small businesses in British Columbia.

A poll from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses found that small business owners say they can't afford to pay for a permanent sick leave program.

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Sixty-four per cent of small businesses say they do not support any permanent employer-paid sick leave program, according to the CFIB, with the vast majority citing costs as the main concern.

Read more: COVID-19: B.C. introduces sick pay legislation to fill gaps in federal program

"Only 46 per cent of B.C. small businesses are back to making normal revenues," CFIB senior policy analyst Seth Scott said. "They have record numbers of debt. We're talking upwards of $129,000, and recovery's not quite there. There's a lot of uncertainty."

The CFIB is critical of the consultation process, saying the province only asked employers if they could afford a three-day, five-day, and 10-day option, but did not offer an option for zero days.

The group also said 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.

Read more: Lack of staff sick pay, rapid testing contributed to COVID-19 deaths in B.C. long-term care: report

The province's permanent paid sick leave program will come into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

"We know that we're going to need sick days for workers," B.C.'s jobs minister Ravi Kahlon said. "The pandemic has taught us that we need to ensure that people have the security to be able to stay home when they're sick because it helps the business as well."

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