Lack of sick leave fuels transmission of coronavirus in Canada: advocates – National


As Canadian provinces struggle to contain the rise in COVID-19 infections, the lack of adequate paid sick leave for frontline workers is fueling transmission, doctors and advocates say.
While political leaders and health officials advise sick people to stay at home, many cannot afford it. About 58 percent of workers Canada lack of sufficient paid sick leave, according to the Decent Work and Health Network, and this percentage increases with falling wages.

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One morning last spring, Susan, a part-time support worker, 67, woke up feeling “a pain in her heart like a knife.” Either way, she went to work at a Toronto rehab home – she said that was the only way to pay the bills. Susan, who uses a pseudonym for fear of work repercussions, had no sick days and couldn’t afford to miss even a day’s pay.

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She told Reuters she felt compelled to go to work.

As her symptoms worsened, she took a COVID-19 test, which came back positive.

“I went to work two sick days and was afraid to call sick because they didn’t believe you. It’s ridiculous. It shouldn’t be like that, ”said Susan.

Reuters contacted the home, which confirmed there was a coronavirus outbreak in the spring. He said the exact source is unknown.

CanadaThe federal government launched a program last fall that provides after-the-fact money to people who have had to take time off work due to COVID-19. Critics say it doesn’t provide the same security as sick leave.

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About 60 percent of long-term care workers represented by SEIU Healthcare, a union, work part-time. Even if they get paid sick leave, it lasts an average of three days a year, said President Sharleen Stewart.

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“Believe me, they don’t want to go to work sick. They have no choice: they have to put food on the table, ”said Stewart.

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This causes transmission in their workplace.

“In our experience, outbreaks in long-term care tend to be introduced by workers,” Ontario Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Barbara Yaffe told reporters last month.

Stark choice

As the number of COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in long-term care homes increases, the pressure to work during the illness worries doctors like Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital and at the University Health Network in Toronto.

“It’s a system that is increasingly unavailable to workers and making residents sick,” he said.

The problem also exists in sectors other than health. In Peel Region west of Toronto, home to the industrial hubs surrounding the nation’s largest airport, many frontline workers are faced with a difficult choice: obey isolation guidelines or feed their families. said Lawrence Loh, local medical officer of health.

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“Peel public health has certainly seen some outbreaks that were seeded by workers who needed to break out of isolation early or who may have worked on mild symptoms,” Loh said.

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“The lack of paid sick leave deters isolation, deters detection and deters them from getting the support they need.”

Loh highlighted places like Germany, where he said guaranteed paid sick leave has helped contain the pandemic.

In November, the Region of Peel said it would start billing employers up to $ 5,000 a day for failing to take “necessary steps” to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The action stops before imposing paid sick leave, the press release said, as it is outside the power of the health region.

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Provincial governments emphasize Canada Recovery sick pay when asked why they don’t guarantee paid sick leave.

But the program forces users to navigate a government website for paperwork and payment is delayed, meaning someone could wait weeks to lose their groceries or rent money, Deena Ladd said. , Executive Director of the Workers Action Center.

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Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton said the province had “spared no expense” to keep COVID-19 out of the workplace. But when asked about granting paid sick leave, he referred to the federal program.

“My message is, if you are sick, stay home. ”

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