Small business braces for minimum wage hike: Bill 148 rollout has business community warning of unintended consequences.

Author:McKinley, Karen

Employees receiving minimum wage got a significant increase as part of sweeping reforms to workplace standards but employers are warning it is too much, too soon.

Many are warning they may have to make radical changes to meet that mandate.

As of Jan. 1, the minimum wage in Ontario went from $11.60 an hour to $14 as part of Bill 148, A Plan for Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act. It will jump to $15 an hour come Jan. 1,2019.

The average minimum wage had held steady between $11.50 and $11.60 an hour since 2010.

Besides the wage bump, there's expanded personal emergency leave to 10 days annually for all employees, and equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal workers performing the same job as a full-timer.

For Sudbury restaurant owners Sharon and Stelios Constantinou, the wage hike has made them nervous, but they are hoping for the best.

They want to pay their staff more and would welcome a rise in minimum wage, but it would be better if it came at a slower pace.

The couple purchased Vespa Street Kitchen in Sudbury's west end last September.

"I understand people want to make more money, and we want our staff to enjoy their job, so even though this is sudden, we are going to take this a day at a time and hope for the best," Sharon said.

Stelios added he hopes these changes truly benefit staff, as it will in turn benefit the business.

"It's like the old joke, happy wife, happy life. For us, it's happy staff, happy establishment," he said. "We are not making any major changes to hours, or staff, none of that. It's scary right now because we don't know die outcome. We can only hope this (wage hike) isn't a problem in the future."

Sudbury entrepreneur Tracy Nutt, who owns three businesses, said the sudden wage hike comes with unintended consequences.

"Businesses need to make a profit. If they can't profit, they can't stay open, they can't create jobs."

Nutt said it's too soon to tell the immediate impact, but she's preparing for some negative fallout.

She explained that many businesses are happy to pay their staff more, but it has to come at a slower pace to let them make adjustments to pricing.

Her other major concern is the changes being made to personal emergency leave days, sick days, and card-based certification that are not in current industries.

The spirit of the changes, according to the legislation, is to allow employees to take time off in the event of a personal or family issue, such as a sudden illness.

But Nutt is...

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