Vernon chamber says new sick leave rules in BC will lead to businesses passing extra expense on to consumers

Sick leave 'balance missing'

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce says B.C.'s new paid sick leave program fails to strike a sufficient balance between the needs of employees and employers, and will lead to additional expenses being passed on to consumers.

The province announced on Wednesday a minimum of five paid sick leave days a year will be available to workers in B.C. starting Jan. 1, including part-time workers.

"There is no question that employers in both the private and non-profit sectors want to do what is best for their employees as a healthy workforce is critical to success. In fact, many employers already invest significantly in their workforce, including employer health tax, Worksafe BC, vacation pay and extended health benefits," says chamber general manager Dan Proulx.

"It's important to remember that the vast majority of businesses in B.C. are not large corporations. Ninety-eight per cent are small businesses. Our concern with the government initiative is that it puts additional pressure on already tight financial margins for employers in the private, non-profit and public sectors. When all of the employee-related costs are combined, the impact is more than 30 per cent above wages. We had hoped the government would embrace a compromise that benefits both employees and employers."

Chamber directors and members participated in a virtual meeting with Labour Minister Harry Bains and local MLA Harwinder Sandhu last month.

The chamber recommended government reimburse employers up to $200 a day for permanent paid sick leave, similar to what is currently available for COVID-related sick leave for up to three days per employee.

The chamber also suggested government "cover the cost of permanent paid sick leave for a fix period of time so businesses and non-profits could adjust their financial plans to reflect this new cost," said Proulx.

"Significant challenges arise from the cumulative impact of government taxation, employee benefits and the rising cost of living for utilities, rent, fuel and food. With fixed expenses climbing, employers may have to make tough decisions regarding equipment purchases, hiring new staff or providing raises. If employers can't cut expenses elsewhere, then this will create inflationary pressures as those costs will have to be passed on to consumers."

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