TORONTO — A group of small business owners and advocates says Ontario's recently announced paid sick leave plan is "inadequate and unfair" for small businesses.
The Better Way Alliance, a group of businesses that advocates for higher wages and other labour rights, said the province's Worker Income Protection Benefit does not go far enough, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced Wednesday that the three-day sick leave policy will be retroactive to April 19 and will end on Sept. 25. Employers will be reimbursed for up to $200 a day for what they pay out.
"We are especially dismayed to learn that ... large companies who don’t need the help (will) be paid out of taxpayer funds for these days," the group said, adding that small business owners who already provide paid leave will not be similarly reimbursed.
The eligibility criteria does not differ with the size of the business, a spokesman for McNaughton's office clarified.
Ontario's program is meant to fill the gap for employees who do not currently have employer-paid sick days, said Richard Sookraj. That means employers that already offer paid leave will not be reimbursed by the WIPB.
The provincial plan effectively subsidizes corporations who choose not to offer such leave at the expense of small businesses trying to do the "right thing" by offering paid sick time, the Better Way Alliance argues, since the program doesn't cover them.
The group says targeted financial support should be available for small businesses, which have thinner margins and lower revenues than big chains making a profit during the pandemic.
It advocates for legislated paid sick leave, saying that would level the playing field for small businesses trying to compete with big corporations.
"The fact that small businesses like ours have been again sacrificed in order to prioritize the interests of corporate giants shows that it was never 'burden on small business' that this government was worried about," it said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press