Many agree, the lack of paid sick days for Ontario workers is a strain on our communities. In fact, 70% of low wage workers in Canada don’t have paid sick leave. Not only does this lower morale but leaves many at risk of COVID-19 or other contagions. In fact, last year, over 2,000 employees in Ontario reported going into work, despite already feeling the onset of their symptoms. That’s why this article is exploring our current policy for sick days in Ontario.

The provincial government recently announced a plan for paid sick days in the province, currently we have none. For a short time, Ontario did have two government mandated, job-protected sick days. The policy was short-lived; enacted in November of 2017 under Kathleen Wynne, it was eliminated several months later after Doug Ford was elected.

Last spring, after COVID-19 raged its first serious wave across the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would encourage the provincial governments to provide ten paid sick days. This number was chosen for a reason. Public health officials require 14 days of self-isolation, if there’s a chance of exposure to COVID-19. Most industries recognize there are ten working days in a two-week period. As Trudeau said, this would mean front line workers don’t have to choose between earning a paycheck and adhering to self-isolation requirements. The Prime Minister, however, can only make suggestions on these matters.

The Federal Government does offer the Canada Relief Benefit though, which allows a person $900 (after taxes) for a two-week period. The money is paid after-the-fact and if your illness continues beyond 14 days you need to reapply. The CRB is only active between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

On April 22, Premier Doug Ford and Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy announced the Ontario government had a program in mind that will help workers during COVID-19. Bethlenfalvy said the province is prepared to immediately double the CRB, instead of launching its own paid sick day program.

The federal government, however, didn’t respond well to this offer, as Federal Labour Minister Filomena Tassi clarified, Ottawa is asking Ontario to mandate permanent paid sick leave.

Employers have been torn for years over whether or not to offer paid sick days. Many see lost wages from an employee being paid to stay home for a couple of days and feel it’s too expensive. However, studies are showing that organizations save money and time in the long run by offering paid sick days. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported last fall that working sick costs the American economy over $230 billion a year in lost productivity. Some of the reason’s businesses benefit from offering paid sick days:
– Morale is increased in a safer, healthier workforce.
– It’s a proven retention strategy, reducing employer turnover by about 50% which reduces money spent on finding and training a new employee.
– Workers can treat their illness sooner, which reduces health care costs as well as insurance expenses.
– It eliminates “presenteeism” which is the lost productivity from employees underperforming in the workplace because of an illness or injury.
– It boosts their surrounding communities. Cities throughout the U.S. where paid sick days are mandated have shown economic growth is a recurring trend.