Over 800 health workers across the province have signed a statement that calls for change in the laws that regulate employment. They are asking that all full time workers have at least seven paid sick days each year - pro-rated for part time workers. At a Queen’s Park press conference on November 5th AOHC joined Health Providers Against Poverty, and Upstream to unveil the statement. As we move into flu season, the event was timely.
"Flu season is now starting. As a public health specialist I know that infectious diseases like influenza can spread in workplaces. We tell our patients to stay home when sick. But many of the people I see are in low wage, temp jobs without sick leave benefits and cannot afford to take a day off without pay,” stated Dr. Andrew Pinto from Health Providers Against Poverty. “People should not have to choose between going to work while sick and losing income –or worse, losing their job.”
Ontario’s current employment laws do not protect workers when they fall ill. Too many people have no choice but to go to work sick, risking their health and that of their co-workers. 1.6 million Ontarians risk losing their jobs when they take a sick day, even without pay.
“We’re seeing a growing trend toward more precarious work in Ontario. Research at our Community Health Centre has documented how bad jobs are affecting people’s health and making them sick,” said Axelle Janczur, Executive Director, Access Alliance Community Health Centre in Toronto speaking at the conference. “But without job protection under the Employment Standards Act, people have no choice.”
Health care workers are also calling for changes so that employers do not require medical notes as proof of illness.
“As health care providers we call on Premier Wynne and Labour Minister Flynn who are reviewing employment legislation to change the Employment Standards Act so that all workers in businesses, big and small, get at least seven paid sick days, pro-rated for part-time workers, with no requirement for a medical note,” said Pinto.
Dr. Danyaal Raza a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and an advisory board member at Upstream concluded: “This is an issue of equity. All workers should have access to sufficiently paid, job-protected sick leave to help them recover from illness without losing income, and to reduce the risk of infecting others.”