This blog is part of our Employer Resource Guide series.
As wage expectations continue to rise, businesses may struggle to recruit employees, especially in our competitive labour market. As of the second quarter of 2021, the average offered hourly wage in the Vancouver Island and Coast region was $23.95, up from $19.70 in the second quarter of 2019 (Statistics Canada, Sep 2021). Wage subsidies are one tool businesses can use to reduce wage costs, allowing them to staff up to meet growing demand and take advantage of new opportunities.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for employers who had seen a decrease in revenue. This program wrapped up on October 23, 2021. A similar federal program, the Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP), concluded on November 20, 2021. Both programs are currently under review for possible change/extension. Given this uncertainty, this blog post will focus on other programs. UPDATE: The federal government has extended select pandemic support programs, including the CRHP. Find out more in this article: https://www.hrreporter.com/focus-areas/compensation-and-benefits/ottawa-extends-pandemic-support-programs/362772.
A key program is the WorkBC Wage Subsidy, which is open to most BC businesses to hire new employees or rehired staff who have previously been laid off. In 2020, job seeker eligibility was expanded to include not just EI-eligible persons, but all BC residents who are unemployed. Employers can apply either with a worker already in mind, or they can request to be matched with a WorkBC Client. Most subsidies last for 24 weeks, and employers can have up to 5 active wage subsidies at one time, to a maximum of 10 per year. Increased funding is available for priority groups, including youth aged 16 to 30 and individuals with disabilities. Disability supports are also available to reduce work-related barriers to employment.
WorkBC Wage Subsidy Rates
- For WorkBC Clients
- First 8 Weeks: 50% subsidy (up to $500 weekly)
- Second 8 Weeks: 25% subsidy (up to $250 weekly)
- Final 8 Weeks: 15% subsidy (up to $150 weekly)
- For Priority Clients
- First 8 Weeks: 75% subsidy (up to $750 weekly)
- Second 8 Weeks: 50% subsidy (up to $500 weekly)
- Final 8 Weeks: 25% subsidy (up to $250 weekly)
Cowichan has one of the highest participation rates in the WorkBC Subsidy in BC, and many success stories. The subsidy can facilitate business expansion by freeing up capital that would otherwise be used for human resources.
“WorkBC was an amazing resource for RavenStone Construction when we were expanding our business,” said Kathy Parkinson of RavenStone Construction. “The team was very efficient and made the whole process easy to navigate. The wage subsidy program allowed us to reduce our overhead costs for wages, while we built up our team. Their services also allowed our potential employees to obtain necessary work tools and PPE to be successful in their job.”
Similarly, the program has helped companies rehire workers and scale up despite the uncertain business climate created by the pandemic.
“What a boon in dubious times! Having the support of the WorkBC team, as well as the financial aid was a game changer,” commented Dustin Carlson with CountrywideOrnaments.com. “The wage subsidy program was an incredible alley-oop during a time when uncertainty reigned high. By bringing back side-lined personnel, we leveled up production to meet surging demands from customers who wanted it ‘now or sooner than that’. 10/10 – would do again!”
The wage subsidy can also help divert an organization’s funds away from wages and into training.
“Cowichan Green Community is grateful for the opportunities the wage subsidy program has provided for our non-profit,” said Leela Hamilton from Cowichan Green Community. “The financial support means we can focus our funds on our mandate of Food Security in the Cowichan Valley. The program has granted job opportunities to participants who have lacked the skills required for the plethora of positions we have used the funds for. I love watching these subsidized employees flourish where they may have not been given the opportunity to without the program. I myself was a recipient of this subsidy and am forever grateful for that opportunity as working for CGC is an amazing organization.”
The WorkBC Team is available to support your business in achieving its goals and finding the right staff.
“I love connecting employers to our Wage Subsidy Program,” said Johnna Puusa, Labour Market Information Specialist with WorkBC. “With the changes that were implemented by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction last year, we are able to connect more employers and job seekers than ever to the program, putting thousands of dollars back into the pockets of businesses during an extremely challenging financial landscape.
“I especially love to think about the program in it’s whole. When you really think about it, accessing the subsidy benefits the whole community. By reducing the financial burden of training the labour force, small and medium sized businesses help to contribute to an inclusive economy – the playing field becomes more even, and increased opportunities present themselves to job seekers, particularly folks who may have barriers to entering the workforce.”
For more details on the WorkBC Wage Subsidy Program, visit the website at https://www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Wage-Subsidy.aspx.
Other wage subsidies to consider for your business include:
- Experience Matters, a negotiated wage subsidy for hiring mature workers aged 55+
- Get Youth Working, a negotiated wage subsidy for hiring eligible youth aged 17 to 29
- Innovator Skills Initiative, a grant of up to $10,000 per candidate for eligible BC-based tech companies and non-tech companies hiring for a tech role. Candidates must self-identify as belonging to an under-represented group
The Government of Canada’s website is a great resource for wage subsidies and other hiring assistance programs, including the Canada Summer Jobs program and the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit. Visit the website here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/business/hire/wagesubsidiesotherassistanceprograms.html