Ontario paid sick leave plan 'inadequate, unfair,' small business group says

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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.