Even as we’ve been figuring out a “new normal” since the start of COVID-19, decent work businesses are thinking about how to be a good employer during a crisis. After all, when we open up again, we want our staff to be financially secure. And we want our customers to be able to spend a bit of money to support small businesses.

As many in the business community prepare for eventual reopening, this is an important time to reflect. What protections need to be in place to ensure our employees are not being forced to choose between their health and their livelihood? How can we help manage the impact of the ongoing deadly COVID-19 pandemic?

One of the best things we can do as employers is provide paid sick time. This policy is good for public health because people are more likely to stay home when sick if they are still paid. If they don’t have paid time off, people are not as likely to call in sick, even when that would be the best thing for our workplace and the community at large.

Here is a list of some things we business owners can do to be good employers during this crisis and beyond:


  1. Thinking longer term, embrace decent work practices such as paid sick days, higher wages, and fair scheduling for staff. The business benefits of decent work far outweigh the costs. Plus, better quality jobs for everyone will help our economy recover and mitigate future crises.
  2. Even if you’ve had to do layoffs, send messages to your staff every couple of weeks at least to keep them up to date with what’s happening with the company. Keeping staff in the loop will improve morale and help them plan out their next steps.
  3. If necessary, help your staff qualify for EI/CERB by properly classifying their records of employment.Help employees get EI/CERB - infographic
  4. Set up call times to debrief and help your staff if they need assistance filling out forms for EI/CERB.
  5. If you can, offer the option for some paid work while your staff is collecting CERB.
  6. If you don’t need to fully lay off staff but want to reduce hours, consider applying for the EI Work Sharing Program. The process has been simplified due to COVID-19, and the program can last up to 76 weeks.

 EI Work Sharing infographic - part 1

EI Work Sharing infographic - part 2

Making decent work the “new normal” beyond COVID-19

This time last year, the average business owner could not have foreseen that the country would be facing a lock-down for public health reasons. The financial difficulties that have followed – for small-medium businesses and our employees – have taken us all by surprise. Yet, we should not be surprised that the precarious working conditions faced by many mean we will continue to face economic challenges for some time to come. Unless we do something about it by improving minimum labour standards.

We are learning a lot throughout this crisis. We can only ensure economic stability if everyone has financial stability. And, we are now seeing the urgent need to help mitigate public health crises by at least ensuring that people can take paid sick days when they should be staying home.

As an organization of businesses for decent work and fair employment standards, we hope that every business who receives support during this time will step up and help employees navigate this crisis. Then thinking beyond COVID-19, as businesses start to prepare for eventual reopening, it’s time to make decent work the “new normal.”

The Better Way Alliance is a growing movement of businesses supporting decent wages, paid sick days, and fair scheduling laws. Decent work is good for business. Our members employ more than 30,000 Ontarians. Industries represented include services, retail, food and beverage, and manufacturing.