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

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

18-year-old skier Logan Leach follows his guide, Julien Petit, down an alpine track. The Lumby athlete who is visually impaired has been named to Alpine Canada’s Ski Team ahead of the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. (Contributed)
Lumby’s Logan Leach named to national ski team

The 18-year-old visually impaired athlete officially joins Canada’s Para-Alpine roster ahead of Beijing 2022

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club is the first ski area in Canada to signify its commitment to ending working poverty, by paying all its staff and contracted workers a living wage. (Contributed)
Vernon ski area first in Canada to pay living wage

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club invests in staff and contracted workers

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

A young child has been taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Child struck by vehicle in downtown Vernon

The young child has been taken to hospital with unknown injuries following the incident on main street

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

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

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Most Read