BC woman shocked to find employee health benefits charge on restaurant bill |  Globalnews.ca

BC woman shocked to find employee health benefits charge on restaurant bill | Globalnews.ca

A BC woman was shocked to discover a new charge on her restaurant bill recently.

Ann Hardy and her husband went to 10 Acres in Victoria for lunch last week.

They shared a meat and cheese plate and two drinks, and when it came time to pay, Hardy said her husband noticed there was a $1.25 charge for something called an EHB. She said when they asked their server, they were told it was for employee health benefits.

“I said, ‘Should we pay for this?’ and they said ‘Yes,'” Hardy added.

Last November, the BC government announced it would become the first province in Canada to introduce a permanent paid sick leave program.

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All workers in BC are entitled to five days of sick leave, and businesses are required by law to provide these days to their employees.

At the time, some small business owners said it was another financial burden placed on them by the government without any additional support.

“I think it’s great that employees get health benefits, but I don’t think customers should pay directly,” Hardy said.

She said they had never encountered this problem before and thought the company should factor the cost into the overall financial plan and not pass it on to customers.

“I think it’s disgusting, frankly. I do not like it.”

Hardy added that they were never told before the meal that this charge would be there and did not offer to remove it.

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In a statement to Global News, 10 Acres management said health benefits became an employer expense in 2020 and then added five days of paid sick leave in 2021.

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“While we support our employees and want them to enjoy these benefits, these costs also need to be passed along,” the company said. “Most customers recognize rising inflation, whether in wages or the cost of food and supplies, as a reason for price increases.

“We felt that consumers weren’t necessarily aware of the costs associated with health care benefits, so we decided that instead of pushing them into price inflation, we would include a service fee.”

They went on to say that only a handful of people had noticed the two percent fee over the past eight months and were unhappy with it. “If the customer is unhappy with the charge and would like to opt out, we are willing to respect that and remove it from their account,” 10 Acres said.

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“I think it smells pretty sneaky actually,” Hardy added. “I think they should build it into their plan because most companies do. Why should restaurants be an exception?

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Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Labor, Economic Recovery and Innovation, said in a statement that this is not actually a valid tax and there are rules governing any kind of surcharge to ensure clarity for customers.

“The employer health tax replaced the MSP premiums that people were forced to pay and is the lowest payroll tax in Canada to ensure that businesses help cover the health care costs of their employees. Over 85 per cent of BC businesses do not pay employer health tax,” said Kahlon.

“Our government has provided significant support to small businesses: introducing a permanent cap on food delivery, half a billion dollars in grants during COVID-19, a small business tax rate and saving restaurants up to 20 percent by allowing them to buy alcohol at wholesale prices. We will continue to support small businesses while ensuring that workers get the support they need.”

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Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, said this EHB fee is not common practice in BC, but is more common in other parts of the world, such as California.

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“The convention is that it would be absorbed into the cost of the food, not as a supplement, usually,” he said.

“I think when you do that, the other side of it is that you’re completely open to your guests and all the accusations.”

Although he added that people might feel uncomfortable asking about fees on their accounts.

“Most people don’t look at their account,” Tostenson said. “I don’t think it’s sneaky, it’s there when they ask.

“Most things translate into the overall price, end of story.”

For Hardy, she said she would not return to the restaurant.

“It’s not that they shouldn’t get benefits, it’s that they should get benefits. But the company should pay them.”

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