Paid sick days: Let’s get this to the finish line!
Update: We are disappointed the provincial government has not shown leadership on the issue of paid sick days. While we welcome the federal government’s proposed extension of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, we do not consider it an effective alternative.
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
1) Advocate to government:
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: email@example.com
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:
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:
Chatelaine: What’s going on with paid sick days in Canada?
Belleville Intelligencer: Paid sick time, continued precautions needed: doctors
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.