TORONTO, November 5, 2015 – Over700 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.

Speaking at a Queen’s Park press conference today, Dr. Andrew Pinto, from Health Providers Against Poverty and St Michael’s Hospital, stated: “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. People should not have to choose between going to work while sick and losing income –or worse, losing their job.”

Currently, no worker in Ontario has a legislated right to a paid sick day. In addition, more than 1.6 million workers have no access to job protected emergency leave and could be fired for taking a sick day.

“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. But without job protection under the Employment Standards Act, people have no choice but to go to work sick,” said Axelle Janczur, Executive Director, Access Alliance Community Health Centre in Toronto.

She talked about the recent case of a client who had a serious illness.  The woman had vomited at her job in a bakery, but was unable to take any time off.  Ms. Janczur added “We see an increasing number of clients coming to our Health Centre in very critical health conditions just because they could not take time off to recover or visit our Centre earlier.”

Dr. Danyaal Raza, a family physician at Sumac Creek Health Centre, 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.”  Health care workers are also calling for changes so that employers not require medical notes as proof of illness.

“As health care providers we call on Premier Wynne and Labour Minister Flynn who are currently 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 Dr Andrew Pinto.

Health Providers Against Poverty is a province wide alliance of health providers who are committed to addressing poverty as a health issue. The Association of Ontario Health Centres  (AOHC) is Ontario’s voice for community-governed primary health care representing 109 Community Health Centres, Aboriginal Health Access Centres, Nurse Practitioner- Led Clinics and Community Family Health Teams. Upstream is a not-for-profit organization that works with the growing body of evidence on social determinants to guide recommendations for health policy change.

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                                                                -30- For further information contact: Jacquie Maund, Association of Ontario Health Centres  Tel. 647-294-5724

Thursday, November 5, 2015