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Ontario Workers Require Paid Sick Days, Not Just Unpaid Emergency Leave

Toronto, ON – The Decent Work and Health Network, an advocacy group of health providers in Ontario, is disappointed that the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review, released on Tuesday (May 23), has not recommended paid sick day legislation that would improve the health of Ontario workers and families.

Among its positive steps, the Changing Workplaces Review report recommended extending seven unpaid personal emergency leave days to all workers. But the special advisers stopped short of acting on the advice of health providers across the province to recommend seven paid sick days for full-time workers.

"We are surprised and disappointed that the report of the Changing Workplaces Review did not recommend paid sick days for all Ontario employees. This means that many workers will continue to go to work sick because they will lose pay if they stay home to recover properly. We call on the Ontario government to do the right thing and make changes to the Employment Standards Act that allow at least seven paid sick days for all full-time employees, pro-rated for part-time workers," said Adrianna Tetley, CEO of the Association of Ontario Health Centres, which represents 107 community-governed primary care organizations.

“We know that precariously-employed workers are the worst affected by the lack of paid sick days. Workers in low-income jobs typically suffer poorer health than higher-paid workers who have the protection of benefits. Not only are paid sick days fair for workers, they are also economically beneficial, because working while you are sick often serves to spread infectious disease like the flu to co-workers, increase the risk of workplace accidents, and worsen chronic illnesses,” said Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, which represents RNs, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario.

“Evidence supports paid sick day policies for workers to get the right care at the right time and in the right place. With only unpaid emergency leave, many workers will be unable to access the preventive care they need,” stated Dr. Kate Hayman, an emergency physician and member of the Decent Work and Health Network. “Updates to workplace legislation in Ontario are urgently needed, but without paid sick days, Ontario workers cannot take meaningful steps to protect their own health, let alone public health.”

The Network welcomes the work of the review panel in making recommendations that address the growing prevalence of precarious work in Ontario. It urges the government to adopt all of the panel’s recommendations and take the additional step of guaranteeing paid sick days for those who work full-time.

About the Decent Work and Health Network

The Decent Work and Health Network is a group of health organizations and health professionals engaged in interventions to support the health outcomes of all community members by addressing broader social determinants of health. The Network supports research and policy change that address broader social factors, including working and employment conditions, to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians.

Thursday, May 25, 2017