woman working in an open space while social distancing and wearing a mask

We are fortunate to live in a country that has met its citizens and industry halfway in trying to help them make ends meet through government-funded financial programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). These programs are meant to help employees and employers keep the economy afloat.

In a recent opinion piece published on CTV News, the author paints a grim picture about working in the times of COVID. Quoting a press release by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a few factors why employees refuse to return to work point to the financial programs the federal government has put in place to ease the financial burdens felt by citizens and businesses alike.

One of my key criticisms of this piece is that it fails to take into account a holistic look at a career journey as we navigate through the changing options before us. Although the landscape changes daily, certain truths remain and should not be neglected.

In my conversation with employers, 3 of those factors come up time and time again that I’d like to address. At the heart of it all, the burden of success rests with both employers and employees.

Employees collect more money through CERB than they do at their jobs.

First thing’s first. This is a temporary financial barrier. The CERB ends in October and the CEWS ends in December.

Secondly, in the basics of financial planning, we know that payroll is typically a month delayed, so if someone starts a new job, or returns to work, they won’t see that actual financial fruits of their labour for at least 2 weeks. Yes, there are unicorn employers, but for most this holds true.

Working back, by mid-September, employees holding on to the CERB while choosing not to work will need to be gainfully employed or risk a complete loss of income.

The dollars and cents of employment break down perfectly in Quebec. If this is truly the case, employers need to embrace the CEWS and make it worth an employee’s time.

Here’s how my basic math breaks down not taking into consideration deductions at source. 

Spoiler alert: Quebec’s existing minimum wage yields exactly the same monthly revenue as the CERB.

CERBFull-time employment

$2,000 per month            
$2,000 per month
$500 per week
40 hours/week
$12.50/hour (Quebec minimum wage)

If employers were to offer slightly more than minimum wage, of which 75% would be subsidized by the government until December, compensation would cease to be an issue.

If an employee’s salary is budgeted at $2,000 anyways, you could double their salary until December to make it worth their time. You would still get a portion of that original salary you budgeted for subsidized.

Granted, my math applies to employers willing to offer full-time employment. For employers who can only offer part-time roles, here are a couple of radical ideas.

  1. Temporarily double their hourly rate to compensate for the hours not worked and maintain the monthly income. Again, 75% is subsidized by the government.
  2. Consider a job-sharing structure. Employees possess many talents – see if they’re curious about other aspects of your business. If you can merge 2 part-time roles to make up one full-time income, it will offer some variety and an opportunity for the employee to grow within the organization.

Whatever route you choose to take, the dollars and cents concern both parties – and the government support is there to ensure a smooth transition to a viable income solution.

Students would rather collect the CESB than work.

Fair enough, if you’re only considering money here.

However, when you look at a career as a path and not just a rest stop, this is going to go down as more than just a bump in the resume. It will speak volumes about a candidate’s ethic, character and priorities. Moreover, experience gained while working is irreplaceable.

There will come a time when these students will be looking for work and the question will come up during an interview: what were you up to the summer of 2020? It will hardly be worth the $1,250 for a few months if it hurts their chances at future gainful employment.

If you know of any students opting out of work, speak with them about their career path. I can also speak with them and take them through the countless job opportunities I have open right now. Don’t let this be the summer of missed opportunities.

Employees don’t want to take the health risk associated with returning to work.

The anxiety and hesitation to return to a shared, closed space is understandable. Employees need to understand clearly the steps you’ve taken to make their workspace safe for them to protect their health.

In fact, a sick employee doesn’t benefit anyone. It costs the economy money when an employee’s health is not taken seriously by an employer. In the best of times, in 2019 Quebec full-time workers took just over 12 sick days on average. With a 14-day quarantine period, it wouldn’t make sense for employers to put employees at risk.

At the same time, employers can help themselves curb this perception. Consistent employee communications around the safety precautions the employer is taking to ensure a safe working environment can curb this sentiment significantly.

There are a few ways to make working during COVID profitable for employers and employees alike. Let’s take a human, empathetic approach and make the best out of this unprecedented situation.

If I can help you put programs in place to curb any of these issues, let’s have a conversation. I am ready and willing to bring all of my resources to the table to help my candidates and employers define success while working during COVID.