Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott listens as Ontario Premier Doug Ford gives an update regarding the Ontario COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Ontario says hospitals will be able to transfer patients waiting for a long-term care bed to any nursing home without their consent in an effort to free up space. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott listens as Ontario Premier Doug Ford gives an update regarding the Ontario COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Ontario says hospitals will be able to transfer patients waiting for a long-term care bed to any nursing home without their consent in an effort to free up space. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario to give all workers 3 paid sick days, reimburse businesses

Critics were quick to note that this fell short of recommendations around COVID-19 isolation

Workers in Ontario will soon be able access three paid sick days to help them self-isolate during the pandemic, but critics said the policy announced Wednesday falls far short of what’s required to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Doug Ford’s government had for months resisted intense pressure from health experts and advocates who said paid sick leave would reduce workplace outbreaks. The province only shifted its stance recently, after the federal government left a national sick-pay benefit unchanged in this month’s budget.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced that a three-day sick leave policy – which will be administered through the Workplace Insurance and Safety Board – will be retroactive to April 19 and will end on Sept. 25. Employers will be reimbursed for up to $200 a day for what they pay out.

The program will be created through new legislation the government was to introduce Thursday.

“If passed, all workers will soon have access to three paid sick days,” McNaughton said. “This is a game changer.”

Critics were quick to note, however, that three paid sick days were far less than the 10 to 14 days health professionals recommend for a period of self-isolation due to COVID-19.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government’s policy “simply will not cut it.”

“(Workers) will be left making pretty much the same kind of calculation that they’re being forced to make now, which is, ‘I’ve got the sniffles, I’m not feeling all that great … but I have to go to work because I don’t have financial security to stay home,’” she said.

Horwath said her party needed to see the government’s legislation before deciding whether to support it but added that it appeared inferior to an NDP private member’s bill to introduce 10 paid sick days.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he was shocked that after months of pressure, the three-day policy was all that the Ford government introduced.

He called on the the premier – who is in self-isolation after being exposed to a staff member with COVID-19 – to change the legislation to provide at least 10 paid sick days.

“I was hopeful that after the premier took taxpayer-funded paid sick days to isolate after a workplace exposure, he would have had a change of heart,” he said. “But Ford’s plan falls well short of providing the protection workers need.”

The CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario said the government’s sick-leave program will not be enough to prevent further illness and outbreaks, and will extend the third wave of the pandemic.

Doris Grinspun said employees will use the three days but could return to work sick.

“Three days is insufficient to stop it,” she said. “Therefore, we will continue with this for a couple of months at least.”

The scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table agreed.

Dr. Peter Juni said that if an essential worker cashes in on one of the three sick days, they will “out” themselves as being symptomatic and could be forced to stay home for two weeks.

“If we out ourselves, we need to have the guarantee that the entire two-week period is being covered if necessary from a pandemic-control perspective or from a health perspective,” he said.

But Juni applauded the government for making the process of taking these sick days seamless for workers and putting the burden to apply for the funds on employers.

He said that removes a barrier that could prevent workers from staying home when they’re sick.

The president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce called the new program a “step in the right direction” but recommended enhancements.

“Any paid sick-day program must be fully and immediately accessible to workers who need it with a quick and seamless reimbursement for employers,” Rocco Rossi said in a statement.

“When workers protect themselves, they protect their colleagues, their employers, and their communities.”

Last week, Ford promised the province would implement its own sick-leave program after criticizing the federal government for not enhancing its Canadian Recovery Sickness Benefit.

On Tuesday, the province offered to double that federal program to pay $1,000 a week to recipients, but asked Ottawa to administer the fund.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government was in talks with the province, but urged Ontario to work directly with employers to bring in a paid sick-leave program.

On Wednesday, McNaughton said the provincial offer to double the federal program’s payments was still on the table but had not been accepted.

Advocates and experts have said a provincial program is needed because the federal program’s funds take too long to arrive, individuals need to apply for the benefit, and some money is clawed back for taxes.

Ontario’s pandemic science advisory table released a report late Wednesday afternoon saying the federal program is not enough to help workers self-isolate.

“The existing Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit cannot financially protect essential workers in following all public health measures, places the administrative burden of applying for the benefit on essential workers, and neither provides sufficient, nor timely payments,” it said.

The group further highlighted the importance of paid sick leave.

“Paid sick leave will reduce overall cases, protect communities from the burden of COVID-19, and keep businesses open,” it said.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusOntario

Just Posted

An online cooking lesson with Ian Blom, the Red Seal Chef from the Ainslie Restaurant, is one of the items on auction in a fundraiser for the Duncan Curling Club and other causes. (Submitted photo)
Online action being held to assist Duncan Curling Club and other causes

Auction, run by the Duncan Rotary Club, closes May 22

Police tape crosses Auchinachie Road at Somenos Road as police investigate an incident Friday at 11:30 a.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
UPDATE: North Cowichan neighbourhood, school evacuated after gardener digs up explosives

Students removed from Ecole Mount Prevost school in an ‘abundance of caution’

The Cowichan Valley Naturalists are offering a look at B.C.’s glass sponge reefs at a presentation on May 18. (Adam Taylor photo)
A&E column: Glass sponge reefs; AGM; and new book

What’s going on in arts and entertainment in the Cowichan Valley

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial prowler acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

Most Read