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Push for guaranteed sick pay praised by labour leaders but business groups anxious about extra costs

Last Updated May 25, 2020 at 6:10 pm PDT

(Source: iStock)

CEO of Surrey Board of Trade says any legislation allowing 10 days per year needs to be covered by federally funded EI

PM said he would push provinces to give workers 10 days of sick pay a year

BC Federation of Labour President says the sooner sick pay is implemented, the better

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A push for guaranteed sick pay has some employers nervous about their bottom line, but labour leaders say the move is long overdue.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday he would work with provinces to give workers 10 days of paid sick leave each year.

RELATED: Trudeau to seek 10 days paid sick leave for all workers

Anita Huberman, the CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, says any legislation giving every worker at least 10 days per year needs to be covered under federally-funded employment insurance.

“Senior governments should shoulder any costs associated with time away from work associated with the pandemic. Businesses themselves … they can’t afford to be covering sick pay. They’ve been hit extremely hard by the economic fallout from the pandemic,” she tells NEWS 1130.

Huberman adds she believes sick pay legislation could be implemented right away if given the green light.

BC Federation of Labour President, Laird Cronk says the announcement came as a surprise after years of pushing for sick pay at both the federal and provincial level.

“The sooner, the better,” he says. “At the end of the day, we need to make sure that workers don’t have to choose between doing the right thing by the provincial health officer’s recommendations and orders and being able to pay the bills.”

Cronk adds no worker should have to choose between taking time off sick and paying for groceries,

“Businesses that can afford to pay it, then should pay it. It’s a good business case. We simply need to get this done,” he says.

Extra costs for employers

Other leaders say the last thing small business owners need right now is more uncertainty at a time when many are facing bankruptcy.

If sick pay legislation were to go ahead, Huberman admits there could be a burden to employers to some extent. For example, if a person were to get COVID-19 and needed to self-isolate for 14 days.

“Looking at a 10-day time period – there is going to be some cost to businesses, absolutely, and some coordination mechanism by employers to cover workloads, bottom-line productivity, [and] all of those pieces that will be burdened.”

Muriel Protzer with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business worries about any extra burden on small business owners.

“Ten paid sick days is a really big change to employment standards anywhere across Canada. It’s important that, going forward, we recognize that it may be needed and called for during times of the pandemic while we are in a state of emergency, it’s not something we should look lightheartedly upon,” she says.

Protzer argues that it doesn’t make sense for small businesses to increase their payroll costs just to make sure they can pay their employees during “incredibly difficult times.”

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan has already suggested he’s prepared to make this happen –with or without support from the federal government.