Guest Blog

Support available for small businesses to pay a Living Wage

Chris Lamden

In this guest blog, Chris Lambden, owner of Gnome and Gardens Organic Landcare, shares his top tips on grants that are available to help small businesses who may be struggling to pay a Living Wage.

“At Gnome and Gardens we believe in both the value of caring for both people and plants. We’re passionate about organic horticulture and ecologically-sound landscaping practices, while keeping our clients and staff at the heart of everything we do.

We firmly believe that our staff are the key to our success, and that’s why we’re committed to paying everyone at least a Living Wage. In fact, we pay well above a Living Wage, because we know that in a city as expensive as Victoria, with rent often taking up more than 50% of one's income, a full-time worker earning $24.30 an hour is only just scraping by. We’re committed to having a team of workers who can thrive, not just survive.

However, as costs to doing business have gone up across the board over the last few years, it's become increasingly difficult to maintain a Living Wage for staff while also keeping the business financially solvent. To address this, I’ve found several Government grants and programs that are available to help small business owners hire, pay and train their staff, while freeing up business revenue in order to redirect it to staff wages. Here are 3 that have helped my business:

1.) The Get Youth Working! and Experience Matters! programs offer eligible employers in BC a negotiated wage subsidy as an incentive to hire eligible workers age 29 or under, or age 55 and up. The subsidy is paid after the completion of at least 3 months of consistent employment. We received $3600 from them for each of several hires over the last few years, which is a great help for the initial training expenses of new employees. They also offer up to $1000 of additional funding for short-term certificates and training to help new employees meet job requirements, such as forklift or backhoe operator tickets, occupational first aid, etc. We've used it to help one employee get their Integrated Pest Management Certificate.

2.) The BC Employer Training Grant provides funding for support skills training for
workforces, including new hires. The program will cover 80% of training costs, up to a maximum of $10,000 per year per employee. We've used the program to pay for several levels of employee technical training in Landscape Horticulture, as steps towards Red Seal certification. We're also aiming to use it to cover various other programs soon, such as project management training, landscape design courses and driving lessons for prospective crew supervisors. Paying for employee training has meant that I've been able to attract and retain a highly skilled staff, building a great team who have been able to handle tasks without as much supervision and freeing me up a bit to develop and grow the business. In addition, any training or development that an employer offers (that is not a requirement to do the role) helps lower an employer’s Living Wage certification requirements.

3.) The Canadian Apprenticeship Services grant program incentivizes employers to hire and sponsor Level 1 apprentices in 39 Red Seal-designated trades. Small and medium-sized employers can receive $5,000 for each eligible level 1 apprentice hired and sponsored, or $10,000 if the apprentice hired is from an equity-deserving group, up to a maximum of $20,000 per employer. The program is slated to end in March 2024, and was a great help this season. It incentivized me to take a chance on hiring someone who was taking her level 1 Horticulture Technician training and was looking to get into the industry but had no actual experience in the field. She's turned out to be an incredible worker and a real benefit to my business. The funding provided by the program in turn encouraged me to provide across-the-board raises to my staff.

Applications for the Canadian Apprenticeship Services grant closed in March 2024. Visit their website for more details.

Hiring and sponsoring apprentices also has significant tax incentives available for businesses, which can free up more revenue for use in paying staff the wages they need and deserve. Look into the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit and the Completion Tax Credit for more information.

In addition to these three grants, the Canadian Government website lists all the grants that are available for small businesses across Canada. There are currently over 750 grants available for businesses in BC alone.

As well as providing grants, I would urge the Federal and Provincial Governments to look at providing grants specifically to support businesses to become a certified Living Wage Employer.

It's clear that paying a living wage benefits workers, businesses and the local community, and is a means through which Government can deeply invest in the economic and social well-being of it's citizens.”

Chris Lamden is Owner of Gnome and Gardens, an organic landcare firm in Victoria, BC

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  • Anastasia French
    published this page in Blog 2023-10-19 16:46:38 -0700