Paid sick days advocacy

Paid sick days: Let’s get this to the finish line!

Four people stand facing forward, wearing face masks and keeping their distance from each other. The woman in front appears to be smiling.

Why do paid sick days matter? Ensuring employers have paid sick days means that your workplace is safer and healthier for everyone – because staff don’t come in sick. They also alleviate workers’ concerns about lost income if they miss a day of work. Paid sick days are a smart retention strategy, as employees stay longer when there are paid sick days and employee benefits, saving employers valuable resources when they don’t have to recruit and re-train new employees. This pandemic has shone a light on the critical importance of paid sick days in keeping our entire communities safe.

Why should nonprofits care? Because this is a big issue for our communities and our workforce. Seventy per cent of low wage workers in Canada don’t have paid sick leave. As a sector serving communities, we know paid sick leave is essential to those most vulnerable, particularly lower-income workers. As employers, overall compensation in the nonprofit sector is less than private and public sectors, and paid sick days are one way to provide decent work, and keep our workplaces safe and healthy.

We also know that women make up the majority of the nonprofit sector’s workforce, and that they are often employed in lower-paid positions with fewer benefits (particularly racialized women), while also responsible for caring for family at home. Paid sick days are a key part of an equitable approach to decent work.

The Ontario government has noted that the federal government has already moved to cover paid sick days with the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. However, this has not solved the issue as the program provides less than minimum wage and has other shortcomings.

ONN has identified paid sick days as a key indicator of decent work (see our checklist), an ongoing policy priority since we engaged on Bill 148 and Bill 47, and most recently in our advocacy work for our COVID-19 support of the sector.

It is well past the time for our sector to take on paid sick days as a critical priority. There have been strong advocates for paid sick days for many years, including the Workers Action Centre, the Decent Work & Health Network, and the Fight for $15 and Fairness, for example, that have led the way, and even employer groups have stepped up, such as Better Way Alliance.

More recently, there has been a groundswell of support for paid sick days: from federal and municipal public officers of health, like Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Eileen de Villa, to a coalition of mayors across Ontario, various provincial parties, (including the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Liberal Party) as well as key journalists and national media. As the Decent Work & Health Network has said, “paid sick days are within our reach”.

There is a crucial window of time to push this over the finish line. Take action now and encourage your networks and colleagues to do the same to keep the pressure on!

Media contact: Sarah Matsushita, Director of Communications and Engagement

Take action

1) Advocate to government: 

Share your support for paid sick days with your local MPP, as well as the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health.  

Some key messages to include:

  • All Ontario workers need paid sick days, regardless of sector or industry
  • Paid sick days will help flatten the curve of pandemic growth
  • Paid sick days keep workers safe and the economy moving
  • Workers should be paid their normal rates of pay while taking sick leave

And share your responses with ONN so we can amplify the sector’s advocacy: john@theonn.ca

2) Lead by example: 

We can still lead the way while we advocate for systemic change. Raising the floor for everyone, regardless of employment type or employer, is the best approach, but there are steps nonprofit employers themselves can take. Make sure your organization has paid sick day policies, including for contract and part-time staff. If you haven’t reviewed your policies recently, now is the time to ensure they are strong enough to retain your employees and keep your workforce – and your communities – safe. Consider a pandemic sick day policy that allows for up to two weeks’ paid leave if employees test positively. And share information and encourage your employees to take advantage of federal caregiver programs.

Look for sample COVID HR-related policies and practices on our Resource Centre.

3) Spread the word:

Enlist other local nonprofits and charities in the action. Email your local community newspaper, call your local talk radio show, and push your points on social media. Be sure to tag your local MPP.

4) Encourage your networks to take action:

Let your colleagues and communities know you support paid sick days by email or on social media. #PaidSickDays #PaidSickDaysSaveLives

As a sector of one million workers, we can make a difference. Act now!

Advocacy from the sector:

Ontario Nonprofit Network: Letter to the Ontario Minister of Labour on implementing sick days

 

In the news:

Toronto Star, Safe schools and a swift COVID-19 recover? Not without paid sick days, a new report warns

Globe and Mail, COVID-19 pandemic highlights Canada’s paltry policies for paid sick days

TVO, “We need them now”: Advocates call for employer-provided sick days