Restaurants Canada Urges Reduction in EI Premiums

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TORONTO — Restaurants Canada, together with other national business associations, is urging the federal government to act on the findings of a pivotal report titled On the Precipice – Help is Needed, authored by Ian Lee, PhD, associate professor at Carleton University. This report delves into the profound impacts of employment insurance premiums on small businesses.

As restaurants and small-business owners navigate an affordability crisis, this report shines a spotlight on the challenges posed by higher EI premiums amidst unprecedented cost pressures. It issues a compelling call to action to the federal government to address the escalating costs of running a small business in today’s challenging economic climate. Bankruptcies among restaurants and accommodations, construction and retail doubled from 2019 to 2024.

This data underscores the urgent need for the federal government to lower the Employment Insurance Premium rate to 1.58 per cent, for small businesses and their employees, from the current rate of 1.66 per cent.

“Restaurant operators, representing a $114-billion industry, as the fourth-largest private employer, affirmed their commitment to re-investing government-provided payroll tax relief into their businesses and workforce. This re-investment would immediately take the form of improved wages, investments in training and development, or expanded hiring efforts,” says Kelly Higginson, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada. “The foodservice industry is a powerhouse employer for Canadian communities and has demonstrated remarkable resilience. The livelihoods of countless employees, especially youth and newcomers, depend on the success of these establishments.”

In 2020, the government necessitated a freeze to EI premiums for two years so Canadian businesses would not face increased costs while also dealing with additional expenses resulting from the pandemic. 

“Lower EI premiums will channel more funds into the hands of the significant number of young workers, particularly in accommodation and foodservice roles, who make up a large portion of this industry, and rely on this income to fund their education,” says Lee.

Restaurants Canada is backed by stakeholders who agree reducing EI premiums not only bolsters disposable income for employers and employees but offers an immediate support that will ensure small businesses can continue to operate, boost consumer confidence, and contribute to the economy.

“The cost of doing business continues to increase sharply, impacting the viability of many small businesses,” says Corinne Pohlmann, executive vice-president, Advocacy for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “Payroll taxes, like EI, have an impact on small business’ hiring decisions and their ability to grow their business. CFIB is aligned with Restaurants Canada that the federal government must introduce policies that will effectively reduce EI premiums, such as an EI tax holiday for smaller firms or moving to a 50/50 split in EI premiums, which would help many small businesses invest more in their businesses and employees.”

“TIAC supports Restaurants Canada’s negotiations with the Government of Canada in the pursuit of a re-balancing of payroll taxes,” says Beth Potter, CEO, Tourism Industry Association of Canada. “Such financial burden should not fall upon the shoulders of small businesses and fledgling employees, who require these earnings to aid in post-pandemic recovery and combat high inflation. They are essential to the nation’s tourism industry and contribute to its competitiveness as an international destination.”

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