Small Businesses Support Legislated Paid Sick Days in Ontario

“Level the playing field between giant corporations and main street”

By Jess Carpinone
Co-Owner of Bread By Us

My name is Jess and I co-own and operate Bread By Us, a retail bakery and coffee shop in Ottawa that employs 14 people. We have provided paid sick days for our staff since opening in 2013. We currently provide 7 paid sick days per employee each year.

I think we can all agree that workers are the engines of our businesses. In recognition of their value, I made sure to bake safeguards into my business to ensure workers are safe, healthy, and that my business can be resilient.  When the government of Ontario introduced WIPB, I was disappointed. The program rewarded businesses who still did not have paid sick days programs in place – over a year into the pandemic. This includes large corporations that were boasting record profits. Public money is being used to reward businesses who refuse to put in place this basic benefit, but who clearly have the means to do so.

Furthermore, I think we can all agree that public funds cannot just be handed out to corporations. What will happen when this program expires? Have Loblaws and Amazon taken this grace period and designed an in-house program for front-line workers? Nothing, so far, has compelled them to do so. And now what? Will workers just go back to having no protections at all when they are sick?

To add insult to injury, the WIPB program excluded businesses who already had a paid sick days program in place, such as mine. Small businesses who are deeply invested in their staff and community could not access these funds. The program is unfair. Small businesses cannot afford to treat their staff as disposable –for us, in order to succeed, we need to invest in them and their well being. It is the foundation of our success.

On the other hand, because of this free government subsidy – large corporations with deep pockets have little incentive to raise the bar on working conditions for their teams. They can run revolving door operations. Without stronger employment standards, the playing field between us and them will never be leveled.

Legislated paid sick days is one way to level the playing field. Small businesses succeed when they invest in their team, but it is not fair that we are forced to compete with big corporations who can afford to treat their workforce with such little care.  The government of Ontario has an opportunity now to rectify this wrong and help small businesses compete. As a small business owner, I urge the government to legislate paid sick days, the economic and health benefits are real – and we need a fair playing field for the province’s small businesses like mine.