End of Year Advice for the Small Business in Canada

It’s that time of year again. With the holiday rush quickly approaching, don’t forget to take time for yourself, acknowledge how your year went and how you can get off to a great start for the new year. You could be looking to set a higher sales goal, launch a new product or trade with other provinces or country. Or maybe, you’re looking to expand your business and hire a new employee.

If that’s the case, I want to take a quick moment to provide you some  advice based on the three main recurring calls I received this year as a business counselor,  calls from small business owners just like you.

1. Employment Standards

Each province has a Ministry of Labour that enforces their own Employment Standards Act. The minute you hire an individual to work for you, you must be familiar with your provincial obligations to your employees. Some provincial information includes templates, guides and information – make sure you try to take advantage of that information. Understanding your employee entitlements allows you to prepare accordingly for break time, overtime, and public holidays.

Recommendation: Documentation and record keeping is crucial to operating your business. Records on things like vacation time/pay or who has clocked in or out from a meal break, or taken a sick day. Furthermore, it is crucial to provide each of your employees with wage statement that outlines government deductions, overtime pay, public holiday pay, vacation pay or termination pay etc. If you ever have to face inspection, having this information at your fingertips can help.

Steps to take:

If you are a member of the CFIB, contact your regional business counsellor.

2. Workers Compensation

If you are a new business owner and have at least one employee, consider calling your regional business counselor or your regional workers compensation board. Workers compensation is a no-fault compensation that allows for employees to receive wages, benefits and medical assistance while they are recovering from a work-related incident. Workers compensation in Canada also prohibits the right to the employee to sue their employer for work-related accident.  As a small business owner you may not be familiar with your obligations or where to even start, allowing this item to fall to the bottom your to-do list.

Recommendation: Do not delay. Take all necessary time to investigate and determine if you are required in registering your business with workers compensation. Ignoring or leaving this for another day will not work to your favor. Remember that workers compensation conduct random inspections and if you are not registered, you can face retroactive premiums, fines or penalties that cannot be avoided in some cases. This is significantly important when you have hired a sub-contractor. If you do not have clearance certificates or proper documentation that support they are their own entity, you may also be liable for your contractor’s premiums.

Steps to take:

If you are a member of the CFIB, contact your regional business counsellor.

3. Internal Employment Policies and Procedures

As a small business owner, you may feel that since you only have fewer than 10 employees you do not need an employee handbook. You’re right, you may not need an entire policy handbook; however, I recommend you take time to establish some documentation at your place of business. Even if you are working with family, friends or “casual employees,” ensure that you are following the necessary steps to protect your business.

Recommendation: Take the right amount of time to thoroughly asses your business and the areas you feel you need to have a policy in place. It is difficult to discipline an employee’s actions, especially where there is no documentation of what is expected of your employees. Check with your local business counselor to receive guidance; and if necessary, seeking legal advice from a labour lawyer can help as well. Each employee should have a copy of an employment contract or job description, as well as knowledge and copies of your policies regarding the scheduling time off, code of conduct, social media policies etc.

If you are a member of the CFIB, contact your regional business counsellor.

We  want your business to succeed. Take the necessary time to identify any possible risks that are involved in your business. This is a great way to eliminate any undesirable attention and ensure you can reach even greater heights.

I have been a business counsellor for over four years, and have  spoken to more than 10,000 members. I understand it is never a dull moment running your business. Let’s ensure that together we keep you compliant so that you can continue to realize your entrepreneurial dreams!

Consider signing up for membership through the My StartUp program. If you have been in business for less than two years, you qualify for six months free membership, details at www.mystartup.ca.

***

CesarCesar Gomez-Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar via LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @josuegomezg.

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