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Mixed reaction from Richmond businesses towards permanent paid leave

British Columbians will be entitled to five days of paid sick leave each year starting in January.
Richmond business owners have mixed reactions towards the province's decision to allow employees up to five days a year starting in January.
Richmond business owners had mixed reactions to the province’s decision to allow all employees up to five paid sick days a year starting in January.

Labour Minister Harry Bains announced the new sick leave policy Wednesday, saying it affects all workers covered by the province's Employment Standards Act, including part-time workers. 

The province's temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program, launched in May and set to expire on Dec. 31, offers workers three days of paid sick leave and reimburses employers up to $200-a-day per worker. 

No reimbursements, however, will be offered to businesses under the new permanent program.

Jackie Ka Man Lee, president of Garfield Productions, a Richmond entertainment company, praised the new policy, saying the new mandate will benefit female workers. 

"The majority of my staff are females and some of them aren't able to come into work due to menstrual pain. Now they can stay home to rest nicely without worrying about losing their job stability or security,” said Lee, adding it could boost morale at work.

For some companies or industries that have suffered from a shortage of labour, this new policy could help boost employees' confidence in business owners and industries hit hard by the pandemic, such as restaurants, he added. 

However, Lee noted the new policy might be more difficult for small business owners to stay ahead of the game while keeping costs down. 

Lucas Kong, who operates an I.T. business in Richmond, said this new legislation will put an extra layer of a financial burden on those running small businesses like himself. 

"From a business owner's perspective, it's getting tougher and tougher to operate a company these days. First, we had pandemic shutdowns, and then we had both rent and labour increases, now we have five days of paid sick leave. I feel like my life was just getting better, but now I am suddenly facing another challenge," said Kong. 

He added the new policy will also have many negative impacts, such as accelerating business automation process and higher costs for product. 

"Some companies might slowly consider purchasing more machines soon to replace employees due to cost. However, the vulnerable group of the community will be hard-hit by that change. Consumers are also going to see prices going up," said Kong. 

"But please don't get me wrong, I’m happy for employees who are going to get five days off soon. These hardworking and dedicated people deserve to be treated fairly."

Richmond nightclub owner Daniel Qi agreed with Kong. 

"I hope the government would also give us (businesses) some support as well. If we are dying, who is going to help families pay their bills and put food on the table?"

-With files from Canadian Press