Better Way Business Bread By Us, a beloved espresso bar & artisan bakery in Hintonberg, Ottawa, shares their story about how paid sick days helped them stay open through the peak waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changing the culture around paid sick days in the restaurant industry
The restaurant industry is notorious for creating a culture of ridicule and guilt around staff staying home if they feel unwell.
Jessica Carpinone, co-owner at Bread By Us bakery in Ottawa, says she has had to explain to new staff that they can and should stay home for a few days when they’re ill. “Usually people make fun of you or are angry if you have to stay home. The pressure is so high. In my industry we have to truly encourage people to stay home when they’re unwell.”
Bread By Us offers paid sick days to all full-time and part-time staff. Jessica says the program has worked well to contain illness: one person getting sick doesn’t mean everyone gets sick.
Paid sick days plus an entrepreneurial mindset spells success
Faced with severe labour shortages during COVID waves, Jessica and her co-owners developed various strategies to cope with staff absences due to illness. They’ve established a labour cushion so they can replace sick workers and avoid running their team into huge overtime hours. At times they simplify their menu and reduce services offered, and drive buy-in from customers by communicating why they’re taking these measures. According to Jess, “it sometimes means small sacrifices in the short term, but that tends to pay off in the long term when issues are contained effectively.”
We love Jess’s story because it showcases the flexibility and resilience that Better Way Alliance members are known for. By necessity, BWA businesses are more innovative than their peers. They’re leaders in figuring out creative ways to deliver ethical employment practices, like paid sick days, fair scheduling, and higher-than-minimum wages, despite the ups and downs in the economy. Bread By Us is part of a growing contingent of ethical employers across the country who are opting to implement ethical employment practices as key components of their brand’s identity.