TBA – Labour & Wages 2020 (6th Annual)

For the past 6 years the association has issued a Labour and Wages report containing expert opinions and wages by job by province and major cities across Canada. Statscan advised that data for 2020 will not be available until March. 2020. 2020 wage data may not be helpful as the data uses averages. With all the stops and starts in the economy and closure of some businesses but not all businesses, it may be unclear what the data represents. Here are some comments to date. 

Headlines from Statistics Canada’s November 2020 

  • Payroll employment declined in November. (-0.5%).
  • Average weekly earnings up as lower-paid employees post a larger share of job losses. Hourly paid employees account for all of the payroll employment decline in November.
  • Payroll employment down in transportation and warehousing. (-0.9%). 
  • Health care and social assistance nearing the pre-COVID level of employment.
  • Payroll employment little changed in manufacturing. (4.8% below the level observed in February).
  • 4.6 million Canadians–worked from home in November 2020.

The main takeaway in November is that employment didn’t grow. If you were expecting a bump, after the summer lockdown and before the second shut down, it didn’t happen. Also, wages weren’t up there were simply fewer lower-paid employees (average).  

From the media 

Productive remote working was a surprise during lockdowns but has created considerable controversy in post-pandemic strategies. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Companies that appear similar from the outside appear to be going in opposite directions. A recent Gartner CFO survey (mostly Tech companies) revealed that over two-thirds (74%) plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the COVID-19 crisis ends. Other reports are less ambitious, with about 70% of the workforce working remotely at least five days a month by 2025.

“One lesson from the recession of 2009 is don’t do stupid things, “ said Alan Johnson, managing director of compensation consultants Johnson Associates in New York. “Be smart and plan. This is not the time for wishful thinking or pessimism. Don’t make promises or premature decisions.”

Many employers seem to take this wait-and-see approach. A survey of 662 employers conducted by consulting firm Mercer found:

  • 94% of surveyed employers went ahead with planned 2020 pay increases.
  • 79% made 2020 incentive and bonus payments as planned and on schedule.
  • Only 24% of employers were working on compensation plans for 2021.

Some Suggestions

Consider the future organization.

Where will people work? How will they get their work done? What will the overall organization look like, and how many employees will it need in the future?

Rethink established pay practices.

Facebook is planning to offer remote employees localized compensation commensurate with a lower cost of living.

Look beyond pay.

Employers may find that what workers value from the employment relationship has changed, but how do you offer more flexibility and security while markets continue to develop. In the US, they restrict employers from using EIDL (COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans) to pay bonuses or to pay annual salaries and wages above $100,000. If an employer that received a PPP loan (Paycheck Protection Plan) is already paying an employee $100,000 per year, it can’t add a bonus to that employee’s pay and have the loan forgiven.

Re-structure Departments and Jobs

Establish jobs that can be easily performed remotely. Expand hiring of remote positions to include lower cost locations. Train in-house staff to work with and supervise remote workers. What if highly skilled employees who are critical to the company’s recovery plan don’t want to come back to the office?


With the COVID-19 crisis, flexible work trends are on the rise, as employees and employers alike learn to roll with the punches. This may not be the time for hard and fast policies.

Fortunately, these changes are in an organization’s best interest. While unemployment benefit payments are at an all-time high, recruiters are having a hard time filling key positions.

The key component of your post-pandemic strategy may be talent management

In our recent article “Business Forecast 2021 -2024” a 3-year plan we covered asset purchases and cost cutting, but the first priority of a recovery plan may be the protection or acquisition of talent. Remember, top performers have options. Wether you bring everyone back or embrace work from home, there will be valuable employees who disagree and will look for new opportunities.   

Comments and questions are welcomed Bob Smith rsmith@chhma.ca