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Health experts call on Ottawa to legislate 10 paid sick days


Some health-care professionals are calling on Ottawa to legislate 10 paid sick days for federally regulated employers sooner than later.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised 10 paid sick days for these workers within 100 days of re-election.

“We are encouraged by the government’s commitment on paid sick days, but our patients cannot afford any more delays,” said Dr. Monika Dutt, a public health and family physician in Nova Scotia. “For airport workers, bank tellers, truck drivers and other federally regulated workers, adequate paid sick days will be an essential protection.”

“The federal government has an opportunity to set a standard for all provinces and territories to follow, so that no worker is left behind.”

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In a press release, the Decent Work and Health Network said that health experts are recommending 10 permanent paid sick days with an additional 14 days during public health emergencies.

“They have long-stated that paid sick days policy needs to be universal, permanent, seamlessly accessible, and fully-paid to be an effective public health intervention,” it said in a press release. “These principles are detailed in a letter health provider members of the Decent Work and Health Network sent to the Prime Minister earlier this week.”

More businesses, schools open

With schools, businesses and workplaces open, health workers are concerned about flu season and respiratory viruses on the rise in the midst of a fourth wave.

Dr. Shazeen Suleman, a pediatrician in Toronto worries, “If parents don’t have adequate paid sick days, how are they going to take time off for their child’s illness or vaccine appointment? It’s racialized and lower-income families who are disproportionately facing these impossible decisions that compromise their children’s health.”

No jurisdiction in Canada currently has adequate paid sick leave legislation, it said

“Ontario’s three temporary paid sick days are set to expire December 31, 2021. Nova Scotia’s temporary paid sick days expired July 31, 2021 leaving workers with only three unpaid sick days, while Manitoba’s temporary measures expired September 25, 2021,” the press release stated. “The only jurisdictions with any permanent paid sick days are federally regulated sectors, Quebec and Prince Edward Island with 3 days, 2 days and 1 day respectively.”

In Ontario, two bills were introduced in early October that provide a model for governments across the country. Bill 7, 10 Paid Sick Days for Ontario Workers Act, 2021, and Bill 8, Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, 2021 introduced by the Ontario Liberals and NDP respectively, propose 10 permanent paid sick days and an additional 10 to 14 days during pandemics. With unanimous consent, these bills could be passed immediately, the Decent Work and Health Network noted.

Meanwhile, British Columbia is consulting on the number of permanent paid sick days that will come into effect January 1, 2022.

“Anything less than 10 days of paid sick leave and we clearly have not learned the lessons from this pandemic,” says Kane Tse, President of the Health Sciences Association of British Columbia. “Healthcare workers on the frontlines are exhausted. We’ve seen firsthand the high cost of inaction — the loss of lives and unnecessary hospitalizations and illnesses.”

A recent poll showed that 86 per cent of British Columbians support 10 employer-paid sick days.

Echoing the mass public support for paid sick leave, health experts stressed the expectation that Prime Minister Trudeau deliver on his campaign promises.They urged him to bring in 10 paid sick days federally, and provide leadership to support provinces and territories to do the same.

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