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Canadian small businesses struggle to find workers as many receive CERB

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 9:11 am PDT

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Only one-third of small businesses are at pre-pandemic staffing levels, the CFIB says

Two-thirds of people apparently don't want to return to work because they would rather receive money through CERB: CFIB

To get more people back to work, the CFIB has urged the government to make changes to aid programs

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Small business owners continue to struggle as the economy reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only one-third of small firms report they are at normal staffing levels, according to a survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“Staffing is one of the many challenges for small businesses trying to get back to normal,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “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.”

Of those refusing to return to work, about two-thirds, or 62 per cent, say they would rather receive money from the federal government through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

“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 says. “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.”

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Meanwhile, close to half — 47 per cent — of workers surveyed by the CFIB say they’re refusing to return to work because they’re worried about their health or the health of family members.

Twenty-seven-per-cent say they’re concerned about childcare obligations, while fewer people — 16 per cent or less for each of the following — cite not enough working hours, preference for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, or concerns about taking transit as reason.

To get more people back to work, the CFIB has urged the government to make changes to aid programs. That includes changes that would help Canadians “safely transition from CERB to work using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.”

The federation is calling on the government to allow more businesses to take part in the CEWS by removing or adjusting criteria. It’s also asking Ottawa to continue helping those in need through CERB benefits but requiring people 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.”

It also wants those receiving CERB to be able to earn more while retaining some of their benefits so people aren’t worried about losing them if they work more hours.