Staffing challenges stifling small-business recovery, says CFIB

Poll reveals over one fourth of small firms trying to reopen face challenges in hiring or re-hiring

Staffing challenges stifling small-business recovery, says CFIB

Good help is hard to find, they say. And if the findings of a new poll are anything to go by, the challenge might have just gotten even harder for Canada’s small businesses trying to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.

In a new survey of small-business owners conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), only one third of participants said they had returned to normal staffing levels, while one in four reported having a hard time finding the staff they require to operate.

“Staffing is one of the many challenges for small businesses trying to get back to normal,” CFIB President Dan Jelly said in a statement. “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.”

Among those whose have received such refusals, the top reasons cited by employees were:

  • Prefer to stay on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) (62%);
  • Concern about their own or their family’s physical health (47%);
  • Concern about childcare obligations (27%);
  • Feeling that there aren’t enough hours or work available form them (16%);
  • Prefer to collect the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) (11%); and
  • Concern about taking public transportation (7%).

“CERB was created as emergency support for workers who had lost their job due to the pandemic, not to fund a summer break,” Kelly said, noting its unintended consequences on staffing among hospitality and personal-services businesses. “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.”

Kelly added that while CFIB is pleased with the government’s decision to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) until December, business owners desperately need details on how the program will work moving forward.

“It is crazy that employers do not even know if they will qualify for the July subsidy period while we are half-way through the month,” he said.

To assist the gradual weaning of Canadians from CERB to CEWS, then on to unsubsidized employment, CFIB urged the following measures:

  • Expand small-business eligibility for CEWS by scrapping or relaxing the 30% revenue drop criterion, or through a sliding scale that would offer a smaller subsidy for those with smaller revenue drops;
  • Maintaining CERB benefits for those who need them, but adding provisions requiring them to be available and looking for work;
  • Ensuring CERB is stopped for recipients who get a new job offer or get invited back to their old job, unless they or a family member are sick; and
  • Increase CERB recipients’ willingness to work more hours by letting them earn more while retaining some of their benefit

“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,” Kelly said. “There is no recovery without getting Canadians back to work.”


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