Ontario to give workers 3 paid sick days, reimburse businesses costs

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If an eligible worker learns that they must isolate for longer than 50 per cent of the time they would have otherwise worked for the week, whether because of a positive COVID-19 test or risk of exposure, they may apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit if they haven't taken a paid leave day under this proposal.

The government has been taking considerable flak for not instituting paid sick leave, so today, the Ford government announced legislation that, if passed, will offer up to three paid sick days per employee to help Ontarians stay safe as we combat the third wave of COVID-19.

The Ontario government has offered to top up the federal sick leave program to double the amount workers receive, but Ottawa wants the province to implement employer-based paid sick leave instead.

The program - retroactive to April 19 - will run until September 25, the same day the CRSB expires, and costs between $750 million and $1.5 billion.

The recent COVID-19 death of a 13-year-old Brampton, Ont., girl whose father is an essential worker renewed calls for an Ontario program.

Ford promised last Thursday that Ontario would bring in its own program after the federal government did not enhance its existing benefit in its latest budget.

In an open letter to Premier Doug Ford earlier Wednesday, OPSEU President Warren "Smokey" Thomas called for a simple and seamless program to ensure workers who need to stay home are paid promptly.

"This plan offers workers immediate access to the most paid sick time in Canada during COVID-19 without placing extra burden on ailing businesses during a hard time", said Smith.

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Contingent on approval by the feds, this will raise the federal paid sick day program to $1,000 a week for four weeks.

Constitutionally, provinces are responsible for employment laws like paid sick leave, however, Ontario and British Columbia had been calling for changes to the federal benefit.

"Real-world evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic and from influenza-like illnesses indicates that paid sick leave can support workers in following public health measures, reduce viral transmission and workplace outbreaks, promote higher vaccination rates among essential workers, increase work productivity, and reduce worker absenteeism".

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the legislation is too little too late.

The province says it is still in talks with Justin Trudeau's government about a top-up program, but as of Tuesday, the feds had only indicated that the province needs to mandate sick pay itself.

Freeland's press secretary Katherine Cuplinskas said the CRSB not a substitute for paid sick leave. Almost 8,000 Ontarians have died of COVID-19, and introducing paid sick leave now - after the crest of the third wave, if we're lucky - means that, if McNaughton's statement is true, some fraction of those thousands of dead might have been saved but were not.

The federal program Ford is trying to supplement provides workers with $450 a week after tax. So either Freeland was asking Ontario to do something it's already done, or her office was asking the province to match the current number of sick days that federally regulated workers are guaranteed under the Canada Labour Code.

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