Employers, start the damage control.
As we all know, 2020 saw unprecedented repercussions in the job market. From temporary work stoppage to layoffs, delayed contracts, and more, almost every industry shut down in some way during the month of April. To help compensate for those losses, the government quickly put financial support into place to provide Canadians with basic revenue. Six months since the start of this crisis, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is still helping some 4 million Canadians to make ends meet.
As commendable as this measure is, CERB has had a devastating effect on employers whose workers generally earn minimum wage. The service and agriculture industries have been hit especially hard, as well as industries who hire employees for seasonal work. By making the qualifying criteria for CERB easier than Employment Insurance, many Canadians opted to stay home rather than go to work. While some employers were content to wait out the CERB period for the situation to improve, the federal government opted to prolong CERB until fall by relaxing Employment Insurance conditions.
Those within the Liberal caucus are also leading us to believe that the government will provide Canadians with a guaranteed minimum income. The caucus is asking for priority political resolution on this to be adopted by November.
This measure will have a significant impact on Québec employers through the considerable loss of minimum-wage employees. Even before the pandemic, the province was facing a labour shortage. Prolonging CERB—in any form—will impact the pool of potential employees looking for minimum-wage work. Employers will no longer be able to find the candidates they need to continue operating at their current payroll.
What solutions will be available so Québec companies can continue their operations? Employment in the service industry will be replaced by the automation of a range of tasks. Automated chatbots and the use of AI will be used to enhance the customer experience, all mainly without the need for employees. And make no mistake: Solutions like this are already in operation at most of the places you do business. SMEs will also begin to take a closer look at automation, as they’ll be left with no other choice. The manufacturing industry currently uses automation and robotization, and has been outsourcing production to other countries where cheap labour has been available for years.
Our agricultural sector needs to increase immigration for temporary workers if producers are to avoid losses (like this summer’s milk and blueberry losses, to name a few). But we must first find support from federal and provincial governments.
What should you be doing? Start planning today for impacts on your human resource capital—especially if CERB is extended into 2021 or the government implements guaranteed minimum income.