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Small businesses to pay for sick leave

Understanding tax write-offs for your small business.

Effective January 1, 2022, employees of British Columbia’s small businesses will receive a benefit of up to 10 days each year to call in sick.

The province of BC has spent months polling small business owners and employees with several options for amendments to be enshrined in the Employment Standards Act.

Both employers and employees have been asked if the sick leave benefit for employees should be: three days, five days, or 10 days a year?

As would be expected employees voted for 10 days a year.

What is not known is who will be paying for these days off and what guardrails under the Act will be in place to govern the use of this benefit?

Our opinion

We don’t think that most small business owners would object to adding a sick leave benefit to their employment polices, however, what they would object to is employees adding sick days to weekends each month due to abuse of the benefit.

Unlike larger employers that may have the capacity to cover the absent employee, smaller employers do not. Every hand on the deck plays an integral role in the machinery of that business.

Sure, employees get sick and may be able to simply inform the employer that they are unavailable and historically do so without pay. But adding the right to do that without any limitations or qualifications removes the ability of the employer to effectively manage their human resources.

Those in a union do get sick days. It is spelled out in the contract based on negotiations between the employer and the union. How that benefit is used is up to the employer.

For example, an employee has the right to have up to a certain number of days sick leave per year and can bank those days as an incentive not to use them. This helps the employer with scheduling resources and allows the employee to use the extra days for when they really need them. We have never heard of an employer telling an employee who has a cold to go home and use one of their sick days.

This change in the employment standards act also appears to be aimed at small business, who will in the end, in concert simply increase prices just as they do with all the other input costs.

While it would be prudent for small employers to have such policies voluntarily as a way of recruiting and retaining employees, much is not known from the highly secretive government currently in power in British Columbia.

We have reached out for more information from the province, but no one – even the employment standards branch has no knowledge of this program that could become effective in a few months.

Whatever happens, we feel that employers should have the right to ask for additional information about the reason for the claim and to limit the number of days without further asking for a medical opinion.

Having 10 sick days out of the gate in our opinion is simply vote buying.

If this were to take place, it should be for no more than three days a year without having to validate the reason. Two of those days should not be on a Friday or Monday.

If you own a small business, it is time to take stock as how you operate it has definingly changed.

You also need to be very familiar with employment laws and taxes especially around employee vs contractor.

At Shepherd 360 we stand ready to help our clients run their business with bookkeeping, marketing, and virtual help services. We are here to listen, research and to help with many aspects of entrepreneurship.

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