Some small businesses offer benefits to retain staff in a tight labor market

Ashley Cammisuli at her business Glow Beauty Bar in Etobicoke, Ont., on August 19.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Some small businesses are trying something new to attract and retain staff in a tight job market: offering benefits.

Workers’ compensation insurance coverage for physical and mental health services is not common in industries such as food services or personal care. But with workers leaving these industries in droves during the pandemic and vacancy rates still high – 11.9% for food services and 7.8% for industries that include personal care, compared to a national average of 5 .8% – some employers say they are getting creative to keep their staff.

Ashley Cammisuli, owner of Glow Beauty Bar in west Toronto, said she started offering benefits because she wanted to give her staff of five the same or better benefits she would get. in a large company.

She said coverage of services such as massage therapy is important for staff to meet the demands of the job.

“This job is physical,” Ms. Cammisuli said. “Even if we rub our faces all day, it puts a strain on your back, your shoulders. We just want to keep them healthy and show them that we care about their professional longevity.

She said mental health services have also been important to her team. “We kind of act like therapists to a lot of our clients,” she said. “It can be heavy sometimes.”

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The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says it has seen an increase in interest in workplace plans, especially among smaller employers, since the initial shock of pandemic layoffs subsided and companies have started to rehire workers.

The association says it is still analyzing its 2021 data but estimates two to three thousand more employers are offering first-time benefits.

“Based on what we hear from our member insurers, we know that employers have adopted new occupational health benefit plans, or enhancements to existing plans, to cover therapies like mental health support during years,” said association president Stephen Frank. in a report.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said he’s also heard about it from its members, especially small businesses in sectors where vacancies are highest.

“With labor shortages being what they are, small businesses need to venture into new territory they’ve never trod before in order to attract or retain workers,” he said. he declares.

He said working for a small company can have many benefits, such as greater influence over its management, but small employers generally lag behind larger companies when it comes to compensation and benefits.

He said many small-business owners will need to consider their own circumstances to determine whether salary increases or benefits such as RRSP-matching contributions might be more effective strategies for retaining staff.

Of course, the cost of providing benefits can be a challenge for some companies.

“It has been difficult for small employers to find benefits that are proportionate and affordable to them,” Kelly said.

Cammisuli said she shopped around and worked with an insurance broker to find a plan that cost her around $850 a month and covered 80% of her team’s service costs. She said she also provides an annual training budget of $1,000 for each staff member.

Thania Mukaddam, receptionist and spa manager at Glow, said she appreciated having access to dental and vision coverage, which she did not have in her previous jobs.

“It’s a lot easier to know it’s covered,” Ms Mukaddam said. “Because yes, glasses are expensive.”

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