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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

John Pavelich’s 83rd birthday had an added surprise; members of Enderby City Council came by his residence to present him with a Lifetime Civic Merit award Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby resident unwraps Lifetime Civic Merit award on 83rd birthday

John ‘JP’ Pavelich has been a pillar of volunteerism in Enderby since 1967

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Most Read