Safe schools and rapid recovery from COVID-19? Not without paid sick days, new report warns


Universal Paid Sick Days Are ‘Necessary, Evidence-Based Protection’ To Mitigate Risks Of Second Wave Of COVID-19 And Ensure Safe Schools Reopen, New Report From Professional Panel Says of Canadian health.

Some 70 percent of low-wage workers do not have access to paid sick days – placing Canada far behind many other countries and creating a “public health risk” that disproportionately affects women and workers racialized, according to the study released Wednesday by the Decent Work and Health Network.

The report also calls an existing federal program providing income support for sick leave related to COVID-19 inadequate due to its temporary nature and limited scope.

“Just like vaccines, paid sick days must be universal in order to protect the most vulnerable,” says the report, which is based on a national survey of around 180 doctors as well as interviews with workers.

As Ontario schools close to reopening – and the threat of a second wave of COVID – sick leave protections are more crucial than ever, said Sarah Vance, a Toronto high school teacher, at a press conference on Wednesday.

In many schools in the city, parents who work multiple low-paying jobs without sick leave are “the norm, not the exception,” she said.

“In many cases, I have taught teenagers in my class who are doing precarious work themselves… many of these students cannot afford to quit their jobs.

“The bottom line is that without paid sick days for all workers, we are guaranteed to have sick children in our public schools who are spreading COVID-19,” added Vance, who is also a member of the advocacy group. Ontario United education workers.

“I’m very, very afraid this is a public health disaster.”

Overall, 58% of Canadians do not have access to paid sick days, according to the report; this figure is even more striking for workers who earn less than $ 25,000 per year.

Paid sick leave is only legislated in two provinces: Quebec offers two days and Prince Edward Island offers one day after 5 years of service.

Federally regulated workers, such as those in banking and rail services, are entitled to three paid sick days. In Ontario, previous legislation that gave workers two paid sick days per year was overturned under Premier Doug Ford.

Wednesday’s study shows that some 181 countries have some form of paid sick leave and Canada ranks in the bottom quarter of sick leave protections.

Analyzing 22 developed countries, the study indicates that Canada is one of five countries where the vast majority of employers are not required to provide paid sick leave for short-term illnesses. Many countries, including Australia, Germany, Norway and Switzerland, legislate seven paid sick days for workers.

“Shockingly, in response to the worst global pandemic in a century, no Canadian jurisdiction has raised employment standards to expand access to paid sick days,” the report notes.

Carolina Jimenez, nurse and coordinator of the Decent Work and Health Network, said low-wage workers are exposed as a result.

“Precarious work, including the lack of paid sick days, puts the lives of workers at risk,” she said.

While new federal program to provide temporary income support to those who test positive for COVID-19 is a “positive step,” study says its reach is too limited to prevent future disease outbreaks infectious. The report calls for seven days of paid sick leave in all Canadian provinces and an additional 14 days during public health emergencies.



Existing research shows that these policies provide “evidence-based protection” against the spread of the disease, Jimenez said.

In the United States, cities that have implemented paid sick days have seen a 40 percent reduction in influenza rates during flu epidemics compared to cities without, according to analysis released by the Center for Economic Policy. Research. Paid sick days have also reduced the risk of outbreaks of respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses in nursing homes in New York State, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Across the United States, some 13 states and 23 cities or counties have now mandated paid sick days. In July, Colorado passed what the study calls one of the most “comprehensive” laws to date that gives workers six days of paid sick leave – and 10 in the event of a public health emergency.

“Research on self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic has suggested that when compensation is secured, compliance is almost 40 percent higher,” the report notes Wednesday.

The report states that while concerns have been raised about the cost of paid sick days, existing research shows that “workers are carefully using paid sick days as planned and, as a result, are able to return to work faster. and healthier with lower rates of chronic disease. ”

Kyle Hoskin, a municipal sanitation worker in the Niagara region, said his experiences suggest paid sick leave makes economic sense. After developing pneumonia in January that quickly spread in her workplace, some 35 of her colleagues were forced to take time off work.

“If I had paid sick leave, I would have been the only person in my workplace not working,” he said. “Because I didn’t, my employer lost 35 workers.”

According to Wedneday’s report, based on its survey of doctors and workers, sick days must be fully paid to be effective. They must also be permanent and accessible to everyone, including migrant workers, who have been affected by massive outbreaks of COVID-19 on farms across Canada.

The study also calls the doctor’s note requirements an “unnecessary barrier” that clogs doctor’s offices and emergency rooms. Last year, a survey of 182 Canadian emergency physicians found that more than three-quarters wrote at least one illness note per day. (Ontario abandoned its health ticket obligations at the start of the pandemic).

For former housekeeper Veronica Zaragoza, the argument for paid sick days is simple.

“It is a human right,” she said. “Permanent sick leave payment gives us the opportunity to save our lives as workers, but also to save the lives of others around us.


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