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City's top doctor calling on Ford government to apply 10-day emergency paid sick leave

Last Updated Jan 11, 2021 at 11:18 pm EST

A new report from Toronto’s medical officer of health recommends the province implement 10 days of emergency paid sick leave during the pandemic.

In September, Ottawa launched the ‘Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit’, which provides $500 per week, for up two weeks.

But the report finds the benefit does not provide enough job security for any worker who needs to use it.

“Only 42 percent of working Canadians currently have access to paid sick leave, and among low-wage and front-line workers the number is estimated to be only 10 percent,” the City said in a statement.

“Workers without paid sick leave, particularly low-wage, essential frontline workers, continue to feel financial pressure to work even when ill. In acknowledgment of the serious public health risk posed by workplace transmission, the Toronto Board of Health called on the Province in May of 2020 to implement a program that would ensure workers had access to paid sick leave.”

The board of health will consider the recommendations at their meeting next week.

“Workers – especially the essential and frontline workers we rely on every day – need to be able to stay home and self-isolate when they are ill, but many simply can’t afford to,” City councillor Joe Cressy said.

“We know that we can’t beat COVID until we stop workplace transmission. And we won’t stop workplace transmission until we have paid sick leave for all workers.”

Others are hoping this call for action from the city will convince the provincial government to take action on this issue.

“I am really hoping that this call from Toronto will make a difference,” said Deena Ladd, executive director of the Workers Action Centre. “I don’t know what the premier needs to hear in order to implement this vital policy to support people’s health.”

Ladd adds that all the mayors of all the major cities in South Western Ontario calling for paid sick days, along with the federal chief medical officer of health.

“We’ve had the Canadian chief medical officer Theresa Tam calling for paid sick days,” she said. “So I’m not sure, the premier has been ignoring and been silent on this issue which I think is really horrendous.”

On Jan. 3, the federal Liberal government said it was weighing whether to bar people who have travelled overseas from a new sick-leave benefit that pays up to $1,000 to Canadians who have to quarantine due to COVID-19.

Questions about the sick-leave benefit were first raised by Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, who said it was “absurd in most cases” that anyone able to leave the country would need government support to quarantine.