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

Port Alberni RCMP are investigating a homicide on Third Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
RCMP investigating homicide in Port Alberni apartment

Investigators are still trying to determine the identity of the deceased

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested for allegedly spitting, yelling anti-Asian racial slurs at a mother and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

Victoria police said Wednesday that they continue to look for Belinda Ann Cameron, who was last seen on May 5, 2005. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police still looking for Belinda Cameron who was last seen 16 years ago

Cameron was reported missing on June 4, 2005, and her case is deemed suspicious

New figures from the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) show realtors sold 1,116 properties, 288.9 per cent more than in in April 2020, but 4.9 per cent fewer than the previous month of March. 
(Black Press Media File).
Greater Victoria real estate sales slow down in April

Market remains overheated, but shows signs of slowing down

Amanda Vance, executive director of the Downtown Duncan BIA, stands in front of downtown’s open-air food court when it opened last July. (File photo)
Duncan’s open-air food court to return

But venue will have concrete picnic tables this year

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

James Taylor, a Saanich resident and member of the Curve Lake First Nation, walked all over Greater Victoria on May 5 in honour of Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Devon Bidal/News staff)
Indigenous man walks Greater Victoria to honour missing and murdered women and girls

James Taylor’s march among many ways Islanders marked Red Dress Day

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road in Saanich. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found unresponsive at Saanich jail

Man was in Victoria police custody the day before being found

Victoria police is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying this suspect after they allegedly robbed a Douglas Street bank on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek identity of suspect who allegedly robbed Victoria bank

Officers were called to a bank in the 1000-block of Douglas Street just after 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Two semi trucks collided on the Nanaimo Parkway just north of Northfield Road on Wednesday morning, May 5. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Nanaimo Parkway reopens after crash involving semi trucks

35-year-old driver was taken to hospital with serious injuries

(Kamloops This Week file photo)
Federal police unit takes over probe of B.C. regional district’s spending

Financial Integrity Sensitive Investigations Unit is now reviewing the case

Most Read