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The Problem With Ford's Refusal To Implement Paid Sick Days

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There Are Federal Sick Days, If You're Willing (And Can Afford) To Wait

I hate to say this, but Ontario premier Doug Ford is right.

Canada does have paid sick benefits.

Much has been made over the duration of this pandemic about the fact that the current Ontario government got rid of paid sick days for workers. The premier has argued that Ontario doesn't need to have paid sick days because the federal government already has a way for workers to access paid sick days. He isn't wrong; under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, people can access funds in order to cover at least part of their salary while they might be off for COVID-related reasons, up to a period of two weeks.

However, this money for any sick days isn't immediately available, as it can take up to four weeks, per an article from Chatelaine that looks at this sickness benefit a bit more in depth than one might expect. Of course, one can't expect their paycheck to come immediately, but if one is going to be required to take time off as a result of being ill or having to care for an ill family member, it's handier to have that money accessible right away rather than four weeks after the fact.

But Ford is not wrong. There are benefits, and they are paid.

However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Many of the individuals who aren't provided paid sick leave already as a result of their employment can't really afford to wait for any paid benefits, and that's part of the issue already. Even a full-time, minimum wage worker has to make a choice between losing a day of wages or showing up even with the sniffles due to a lack of paid sick time. If said worker has children who have been in a classroom or a bus that's been exposed to COVID, that worker may have no choice but to take more than a few days off until their child has a negative COVID test or is no longer symptomatic for the virus. Even though they might know there's money coming through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, up to four weeks can be too long for many families.

The other thing is, the paid sick time previously put out by Ontario that was rescinded by the Ford government was apparently all of two days. That is nowhere near enough to cover the time you need to take to be quarantined with COVID-19, as we all know from the experiences of the last year. There are also workers in almost every field that do not have access to paid sick days, including essential workers and nurses, for that matter. While there have been several medical professionals that have espoused the importance of paid sick days in order to control the spread of COVID-19, the simple fact is that there aren't enough workers with access to paid sick days to help control spread in the workplace, and those same workers will have to make choices which may come down to whether they stay home to let a virus run its course - whether it's COVID or otherwise - or continue to be paid.

In the past, at least at the high school level, there have been students who have attended school with their heads stuffed up as a result of a cold, and of course, quite a few members of the class would then come down with a cold as a result. Why would these students attend? Because we've been raised with the belief that "it's just a cold" and it's perfectly acceptable to continue the practice of attending school even with a head cold. These students will then be the ones who continue to go to work in essential positions - such as the ones they're working now in grocery stores and similar businesses - with a sniffle, believing such a symptom to be allergies or a mere cold. Goodness knows we have adults doing much the same thing, largely because they don't have the option of staying home and being paid if they are ill.

So what's the answer? Do we lobby for paid sick days through the provincial government, knowing that there will be those individuals who might abuse the privilege for relatively minor ailments or even a mental health day, or do we one day hope that the federal government makes sick days that are paid easier to apply for with a more immediate response?

There are no clear solutions, unfortunately, and more questions by the day.

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