'This is absolutely inequitable, and not what we asked': Ontario residents, medical experts respond to provincial paid sick leave program

Elisabetta Bianchini
·5 min read

After more than a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government has announced a temporary paid sick leave program that would allow workers to receive three paid sick days.

Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, will introduce legislation that would require employers to pay up to $200 a day for up to three days for employees who have to miss work due to COVID-19, including testing, isolating or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. This will be retroactive to April 19, effective until Sept. 25, and will be administered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Back in 2018, the Ford government eliminated the province's guaranteed two paid sick days.

People in Ontario, including medical professionals, took to social media to comment on Wednesday's announcement. Many believe more paid sick days are required for essential workers.

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Others expressed their disappointment that it took the provincial government this long to actually bring forward a paid sick leave program, particularly when the isolation period for any possible COVID-19 exposure or risk is either 10 or 14 days.

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When McNaughton was asked about why the program only includes three paid sick days, he said there shouldn't be a significant burden on small businesses.

"We’ve seen, especially in the last couple of weeks, pieces of legislation coming forward at Queen's Park for 10 days of paid sick days, 14 days of paid sick days, but those pieces of legislation squarely put the burden on the backs of small businesses," he said. 

"We have to give small businesses a fighting chance to survive COVID-19, to grow and prosper when we come through this, and more importantly we need workers to have jobs to go back to when we get through this wave."

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Following the announcement, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters that three days "will not cut it" and workers still will not have the financial security to stay home.

"They will be left making pretty much the same kind of calculation that they’re being forced to make now," Horwath said.

The Ontario government has also offered to fund a doubling of the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), increasing payment from $500 to $1,000 per week, for up to four weeks.

In Wednesday's press conference, McNaughton continued to say that Ontario is "leading" Canada when it comes to the introduction of a paid sick leave program.

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Quebec and Prince Edward Island are currently the only other provinces that have mandated paid sick days. P.E.I. provides one paid sick day if employees have worked with the same company for five years and Quebec provides two paid sick days after three continuous months of work.