Private member’s bill provides permanent paid sick days for workers in Ontario
QUEEN’S PARK – Peggy Sattler, MPP for London West and Official Opposition critic for Employment Standards, has introduced the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act. This legislation creates a made-in-Ontario framework for providing paid sick leave for all Ontario workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Sattler’s bill would guarantee 10 personal emergency leave days per year for every worker, seven of which are paid. It would also mandate an additional 14 days of paid leave during any infectious disease emergency, and provide for financial support to ensure small businesses struggling through the pandemic can stay afloat while providing vital paid sick days to their employees.
“For months, public health experts have been calling for paid sick leave to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Sattler.
“Workers without paid sick days are the people we have relied on most during the pandemic. They have cared for our seniors, served us food, cleaned our buildings, and bagged our groceries. But when they get sick, or when their child wakes up with a sore throat, they must make an impossible choice, because staying home to recover or care for their child means giving up their pay. It could mean not being able to make the rent, not being able to pay the bills, not being able to buy groceries.”
An estimated 60 per cent of Ontarians do not have permanent paid sick days, and that number is much higher among low-income workers, in sectors like food service, hospitality and retail, and among racialized or immigrant people.
Public health experts including Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, have recommended paid sick leave, and Ontario’s Big City Mayors and the 11 GTHA Mayors and Chairs have called on the government to implement paid sick leave. Both the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce are on side with Sattler’s bill, recognizing the importance of paid sick days to keep communities safe and healthy during the pandemic.
Sattler noted that one of Doug Ford’s first acts as premier was to eliminate paid sick days for workers, and the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is a temporary stopgap that is only available to workers who qualify and will end next summer.
“It is all too clear how dangerous it is when workers must lose their paycheque to stay home when they are sick,” said Sattler. “If they are coming down with the flu, they can’t afford to stay home in bed. If they go for a COVID-19 test, they can’t afford to wait at home for the results. And when going to work sick is the only option, it puts us all at risk.”
“The best and most effective way to enable workers to stay home when they are sick is to make paid sick leave an employer responsibility through amendments to the Employment Standards Act—which is exactly what my bill does,” added Sattler.
Sattler’s bill will be tabled in the Ontario legislature on Tuesday afternoon.
Stay Home If You Are Sick Act - Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Carolina Jimenez, Registered Nurse and Coordinator of the Decent Work and Health Network
"Workplaces are a major source of infection transmission, so we can’t protect our communities unless we protect workers. It's workers who need them most who are being denied paid sick days. They are our patients who are working in low-wage and precarious jobs, disproportionately women, migrants, Black, Indigenous and racialized workers. Now more than ever, we need the provincial government to legislate permanent paid sick days, and additional days during public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic."
Kim Bradley, Registered Early Childhood Educator
“For decades, when I get sick, I’ve been forced to make an impossible choice—stay home without pay or put food on the table for my family. I worry every day about the children in my care whose parents are facing the same impossible choice. We can’t wait any longer for paid sick days.”
Jessica Carpinone, Owner of Bread By Us Bakery in Ottawa
“In my experience, this practice has led to many more benefits than just a safer workplace, even tangible, financial ones. I know that small business owners can feel overwhelmed by the prospect of yet another expense coming down the road. I urge you to think of paid sick days as an investment in your greatest asset—your team.”