Providing employees with leave and job protection so they can take training could be a disaster for small businesses, warns the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
Dan Kelly said the federal government’s recently announced Canada Training Benefit may be misguided in that it doesn’t take into account the needs of small businesses.
Most notably, he said employers would be required to provide leave and job protection to employees, regardless of the type of training an employee wishes to pursue.
“Providing government funding to allow a worker to study Latin or interpretive dance is one thing, but forcing an employer to hold open a job while they do it is a step too far,” he said.
CFIB does not support the training benefit as it stands, but has suggested some key changes that will make it more palatable to independent shops.
Among the changes, CFIB would like to see:
Increase the amount of the EI premium rebate so that employers only pay the employee rate on the first $20,000 of EI premiums paid for all firms, regardless of size.
Require a joint application involving both the employer and employee for anyone requesting training that would involve a leave of absence.
Suspend the one-week EI waiting period for the benefit so employees can benefit from the EI payment as quickly as possible.
Allow employers the option of topping up their employee’s pay during the training period without the employee losing access to their EI benefits.
Minimize red tape associated with receiving the employer rebates by automating the process based on the previous year’s tax filings.
“Canada’s skilled labour shortage is getting worse, and small firms are the hardest hit,” said Kelly. “Providing a training benefit to workers is a positive step, but the needs of employers need to be factored into the equation.”
Kelly presented these recommendations and the perspective of CFIB’s members to the Senate of Canada May 29.