Quebec business owner says several workers refuse to return to work due to CERB

In a recent survey by the CFIB, businesses reported that some of their employees refused to go back to work mainly because they preferred to keep their CERB benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

Manon Giroux, the owner of Belles de Nuit et Belles de Jour boutique in Trois-Rivieres, Que., says running her business has been a challenge this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic — all because she lacks workers.

Giroux says six of her employees — approximately 40 per cent of her workforce — told her they wouldn’t go back to their position because they preferred receiving the Canada Emergency Respond Benefit (CERB).

“They’re earning more money than if they’re (part-time),” she said.

“I understand they prefer staying at home than having a few hours to work.”

Giroux said finding new employees has proven “almost impossible” this summer, and says she’s had no choice but to work all the shifts her employees won’t.

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“It’s pretty hard because we have to work all the time. We have to be here six days a week,” Giroux said.

“That CERB is too easy. They need to stop giving money to people without working, it doesn’t make sense.”

According to a new survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Giroux is not alone.

As Global News previously reported, the survey shows that one-quarter of small firms in Canada reported that laid-off staff refused to return to work.

When asked what the reason was, 62 per cent of businesses who participated in the survey reported their employees said they preferred receiving CERB benefits instead.

The second reason was that they were concerned about their own health or that of family members (47 per cent).

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Child-care issues were also cited as an explanation (27 per cent).

“It is clear that CERB has created a disincentive to return to work for some staff, especially in industries like hospitality and personal services,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said.

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“CERB was created as emergency support for workers who had lost their job due to the pandemic, not to fund a summer break.”

The federation — which represents 110,000 members — is calling on the federal government to change how the CERB works.

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For example, they say people who are called back to work and refuse should lose their CERB benefits.

They would also like the government to allow CERB recipients to earn more while retaining some of their benefit so they are not discouraged from working more hours.

The CFIB said working with a reduced workforce is a growing and costly challenge for its members.

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“Not having all your staff back when you call them means often you have to seek out new employees,” said Jasmin Guenette, vice-president of National Affairs at the CFIB.

“Trying to find new employees often means that you often have to provide training, which is time-consuming and costly.”

The government has extended its Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), a program to subsidize wages in companies hard-hit by the pandemic, until December.

The CFIB says that’s a great step in transitioning Canadians from the CERB to work, but they need more details on how the program works.

“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,” Kelly said.

Global News reached out to Employment and Social Development Canada but did not hear back by deadline.

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