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.

Breaking news: Paid sick days update

ONN has been advocating for paid sick days since the early days of the pandemic (and even before then) as part of our Decent Work initiative. We strongly support the call for 10 paid sick days so workers can adequately stay safe, recover, and protect those around them if they contract COVID-19. 

In order for paid sick days to work effectively, Ontario workers need a program that is permanent, accessible to all and employer-paid so workers can seamlessly transition in and out work.

Read the open letter from 80 nonprofits to the premier of Ontario, regarding the government’s recently announced sick-day plan.

New paid sick days legislation

The Ontario government has announced the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit.  This benefit is available retroactively from April 19, 2021 till September 25, 2021, once legislation passes.
The intent of this program is to cover workers during the COVID-19 testing and vaccination periods to keep those at home that might be sick, so the virus does not spread.

The bottom line: A temporary program with three days’ paid leave that is only available to some workers is not enough. 

The details:

Eligible employees:

  • Employees covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and
  • Employees that do not already have paid sick days through their employer

Employers are to provide:

  • Up to three days of paid leave for a COVID-19 related reason (e.g., getting tested, waiting for results, getting vaccinated, vaccination side effects,  being sick, self-isolation, taking care of someone who has COVID-19). A doctor’s note is not required
  • Pay employees their standard wages for the day, up to a maximum amount of $200, for up to 3 days taken (do not need to be taken consecutively)

For employers to receive a reimbursement from government they must:

  • Apply for a reimbursement of up to a maximum amount of $200 per employee per day
  • Apply within 120 days of when the paid leave is taken

For any longer paid sick leave, the Ontario government points workers to the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

While we wait for more information to be released on how employers can access this benefit for their employees, here are bits of information we do know as of May 12, 2021:

  • Benefit will be administered through WSIB
  • Government has said that employers using the benefit do not have to be registered with WSIB in order to access it
  • Benefit cannot replace existing paid sick days provided by employers, but it can supplement them up to three days (for example, if an employer only provides one paid sick day they can add two more through this benefit)

What others are saying:

What’s next? 

The provincial government will table legislation for this program, and release more information. This will include more details about the benefit, from administration to implementation. ONN will be doing a detailed analysis of what this means as information is available, from a nonprofit perspective and with a gender-based intersectional lens.  

In the meantime, we encourage nonprofits to share your questions, experiences, and any information on how this program may impact your organization and communities you serve. This will help us better analyze the new benefit and advocate as needed with the sector. Please email Pamela Uppal, Policy Advisor.


Background

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!

For a deeper dive into the issue, read ONN’s blog post on paid sick days.

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:

Alliance for Healthier Communities: The campaign for paid sick days

Association of Local Public Health Agencies (ALPHA): Paid sick leave as a public health measure

Better Way Alliance: Business owners call for province to legislate paid sick days for all

Decent Work and Health Network: Before it’s too late: Permanent paid sick days for all

Doctors for Justice in LTC: Ontario’s long-term care sector is in a grave humanitarian crisis

Fight for $15 and Fairness: Help us win paid sick days for all

Ontario Chamber of Commerce: Ontario Chamber supports protecting workers when they need it the most

Ontario Medical Association: Ontario’s doctors call for paid sick days

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

Ontario Nurses’ Association: ONA joins the call for paid sick leave for all Ontario workers

Ontario’s Big City Mayors: Ontario’s Big City Mayors start 2021 focusing on pandemic, worker protection and recovery efforts

Public Health Sudbury & Districts: Paid sick days (motion of support)

Region of Peel: Sick pay benefits now: help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Peel

In the news:

CBC News: ‘Small investment, big payback’: Business owners call on Ford government to legislate paid sick leave

Daily Hive: “I’ll repeat for the 100th time”: Ford defends Ontario not providing paid sick days

Chatelaine: What’s going on with paid sick days in Canada?

Belleville Intelligencer: Paid sick time, continued precautions needed: doctors

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

St. Catharines Standard: Every worker deserves paid sick pays

The Christian Science Monitor: Ontario doesn’t give paid sick leave. Can small businesses change that?

Queen’s University Journal: The fight for paid sick days continues through a pandemic. It shouldn’t.

Global News: Paid sick leave key to reducing COVID-19 spread: Ottawa Public Health

Global News: London, Ont., set to urge provincial, federal governments to work together for paid sick leave

Kingstonist: KFLA Board of Health endorses paid sick days for all Ontario workers