Canadian News Jul 17, 2020 5:07 PM EST

Survey: 25 percent of Canadian small businesses report employees refusing to return to work

Roughly 25 percent of employers say staff at their organizations have refused to return to work after being asked, according to a recent survey.

Survey: 25 percent of Canadian small businesses report employees refusing to return to work
Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta
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Roughly 25 percent of employers say staff at their organizations have refused to return to work after being asked, according to a recent survey. The group says that a major reason for this is the desire of employees to continue with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, reports Global News.

The survey—completed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business—found that 62 percent of those businesses say employees turned down work to continue with the CERB. About 47 percent turned it down for health concerns and 27 percent for child care challenges. The survey was conducted from July 3 to 6.

Government figures from 2019 suggest that Canada has slightly less than 1.2 million small/medium sized businesses.

“Staff have said, ‘I’m a little bit worried about coming back to work, I’ve got some child-care challenges, my bills are being paid by the CERB, so I’m just going to stick out on the CERB for the rest of the summer and give me a call in September,” said president and CEO of the CFIB, Dan Kelly in an interview.

“That’s a very typical response that we’ve had from members.”

Recent survey results from the group show that when respondents were asked if any staff refused to return to their jobs—3,389 answered and 27 percent of them said “yes,” according to the CFIB.

The CFIB says the results show that 14 percent of businesses have seen employees refuse to return because they wish to remain on the CERB.

Kelly acknowledged that employees have other reasons besides the CERB for not immediately returning to work.

What it says to me is that CERB … certainly is, for some, tipping the balance in favour of remaining off and for others, is the reason that they’re remaining off,” Kelly noted.

Progressive economist Armine Yalnizyan says the fact that only 14 percent of businesses have had this problem shows that it is not “widespread.”

This isn’t a widespread phenomenon and CERB isn’t a huge disincentive to work. It does support people from having to return to unsafe work conditions,” said Yalnizyan.

The CFIB survey results show that the main industries experiencing difficulties finding enough staff include construction, hospitality and agriculture.

“This makes perfect sense,” Yalnizyan said. “These are issues that we have been reading about in the papers as unsafe places to work, places where contagion (is) happening again.”

“So is it reasonable that people are kind of iffy about going back and even in those cases, only a quarter of them? Yeah, I think that’s kind of reasonable.”

C.D. Howe Institute senior policy analyst, Parisa Mahboubi said that the type of work that is currently available may be part of the problem. She said that in many cases, businesses can only offer part-time work.

“This was something that I anticipated … even a few months ago, when we started talking about opening up the economy,” she said.

“The reason is that the individuals receiving CERB, they don’t have that incentive to look for employment, given (the) current features of this CERB program.”

Institute for Research on Public Policy research director, Colin Busby said they still don’t have enough data to “really suss out the full effect of the emergency response benefit as a potential disincentive to work.”

“But I think it’s probably, at the same time, fair to conclude that we need to be looking at how it was designed in a way that considers it a likely possibility for a number of workers, and think about how we go about the next iteration of it or whatever the future of the CERB looks like,” Busby said.

The government has now extended the CERB until late September.

Kelly noted that some current challenges facing businesses could have been better avoided if the government was faster in bringing in the wage subsidy program.

Unfortunately … because the CERB (happened) faster than the wage subsidy, employers were left with really no option but to lay off their workers at that time,” he said.

“And as a result, once we broke that employment relationship, it now takes a huge amount to try to tape up the egg here and get employees back to work.”

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