'It is clear that CERB has created a disincentive to return to work for some staff, especially in industries like hospitality and personal services'
Many employers are having a hard time rehiring or finding the workers they need to safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
Only one-third of small firms say they are at normal staffing levels, and one-quarter are having a hard time finding the staff they need to operate.
"Staffing is one of the many challenges for small businesses trying to get back to normal," says Dan Kelly, CFIB president. "More than a quarter (27 per cent) of small firms report that some of their laid-off staff have refused to return to work when recalled."
For those employers that have had staff refuse to return to work, the top reasons are:
- they prefer to stay on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) (62 per cent)
- they are concerned about their own physical health or that of their family (47 per cent)
- they are concerned about childcare obligations (27 per cent)
- they do not feel there are enough hours or work available (16 per cent)
- they prefer the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) (11 per cent)
- they are concerned about taking public transportation (seven per cent)
"It is clear that CERB has created a disincentive to return to work for some staff, especially in industries like hospitality and personal services," says Kelly. "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."
The CFIB previously called on the federal 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. It is crazy that employers do not even know if they will qualify for the July subsidy period while we are halfway through the month," says Kelly.
The CERB program was introduced as part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan to support businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has previously expanded its coverage to include more workers and extended the program by another eight weeks.
To assist moving Canadians from CERB to CEWS and then towards unsubsidized employment, CFIB recommends:
- allowing more employers to participate in CEWS by removing or reducing the 30-per-cent 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 benefits so they are not discouraged from working more hours
"Many workers can't go back to work yet for valid reasons, but changes are needed to key support programs to help employers reopen and rehire their teams. There is no recovery without getting Canadians back to work," says Kelly.
The Manitoba government recently called on the federal government to change the CERB so it does not penalize Canadians wanting to return to work as the pandemic subsides.
Also, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the federal government will be extending the CEWS program until December.