COVID-19 raises questions about access to health benefits, paid leave (2/2)

Canadian businesses face looming effects of COVID-19 as virus continues to impact a wide number of industries

COVID-19 raises questions about access to health benefits, paid leave (2/2)

In a recent article, COS explored issues surrounding paid leave and health benefits in the health care sector and amongst gig workers. Today, we shall focus on the service industry in general and the economic effects of COVID-19 on smaller businesses. The federal government recently announced a billion-dollar package to help curb the effects of the virus on the Canadian economy. Nevertheless, questions remain.

Service workers face difficult choice

According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, the lack of access to paid sick leave in the service industry could pose a potential danger to both workers and clients. Similar to the risks of gig work, there is both a health risk and the risk of being put in a financially precarious position.

This concern is not limited to the service industry but to any job which offers both few benefits and which requires to be consistently in contact with people such as cleaning staff, or those who work on public transport, delivery workers, cashiers, etc.

A recent report by The Associated Press has highlighted that large companies and national governments are attempting to reassure workers in this situation by providing, in some cases, financial compensation if the worker would have to be quarantined for 14 days.

Small businesses at risk

While the current pandemic poses a difficult choice for service workers, conversely there is also a growing concern among smaller business owners who are increasingly worried about losing custom. These businesses can not necessarily afford to run on a limited staff or even shut down.

It remains to be seen which businesses will take the largest hit.

Chinese-owned businesses are currently struggling throughout Canada as the public have largely deserted shops and restaurants in Chinatowns throughout the country, reports The Canadian Press. Some restaurants report a drop in business as high as 70 to 80 per cent.

Those in the arts will also likely be affected, with virus fears driving down business in museums, cinemas, theatres and other cultural spaces.

As schools may be shut down (and have already faced massive shut-downs in Ontario over the last few months due to teachers’ unions strikes), businesses both small and large could take a hit as parents will no doubt have to take time off work to take care of their children.

COVID-19 poses an important dilemma for both employers and employees.

So, what’s next?

Aside from the immediate health scare, the virus will inevitably have an impact on the Canadian economy. The long-term economic consequences of the virus are as of yet unquantifiable.

Some businesses in the OHS space will potentially even profit from the crisis -for example, PPE manufacturers (recent demand for protective masks has soared) or even e-learning providers.

Moreover, the global spread of the disease means financial and economic consequences will not be limited to Canada. COVID-19 and its consequences will likely dominate the news cycle for months to come.