If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, Health Canada advises you to self-isolate for two weeks. But can you do so while remaining financially secure?
It seems that many cannot. Across Canada, only 42 percent of workers have access to paid sick leave, and that number drops to 10 percent for low-waged workers. Currently, of all provinces and territories, only Prince Edward Island and Quebec offer a provincial paid sick leave program; however, they do so for a day or two at most. Ontario used to provide two days of sick leave until that province’s Conservative government scrapped it in 2018. Federally, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) provides support to employed and self-employed individuals who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 but only to the tune of $450 (after taxes) for a maximum of four weeks.
Critics of CRSB point out that the benefit is temporary and difficult to access. Currently in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford is coming under fire, as journalist Samantha Beattie observes, for ignoring “repeated demands from Ontario's own science advisory table, local public health units, mayors, health experts, labour groups and opposition parties to create a program that would make it easier for workers to stay home if they're ill or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.” Critics are also pointing the finger at New Democratic Party Premier John Horgan who has also not included paid sick leave in British Columbia’s budget.
Globally, most countries have some type of employer-paid sick leave policy. Should Canada adopt this program as well? How does the absence of paid sick leave impact workers and our ability to address COVID-19?
Beattie, Samantha. “Federal Government Insists It's Up to Ontario to Make Businesses Pay for Sick Leave.” CBC News (April 27, 2021). Available May 19, 2021 at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-paid-sick-leave-ottawa-1.6003527
Gilmore, Rachel. “Paid Sick Days vs. Federal Benefit: Why Advocates Say Both Are Needed to Fight COVID-19.” Global News (April 8, 2021). Available May 19, 2021 at https://globalnews.ca/news/7746542/covid-coronavirus-paid-sick-leave-provinces-federal-csrb/
Rodriguez, Jeremiah. “Why Doctors, Advocates Are Calling for Permanent Paid Sick Days for Canadian Workers.” CTV News (April 13, 2021). Available May 19, 2021 https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/why-doctors-advocates-are-calling-for-permanent-paid-sick-days-for-canadian-workers-1.5384530#:~:text=Only%2042%20per%20cent%20of,workers%2C%20according%20to%20government%20figures