Toronto’s top doctor calls on Ontario to implement 10-day emergency paid sick leave

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Toronto’s mayor and medical officer of health are calling on the Ontario government to ensure workers have access to 10 days of paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto’s top doctor Eileen de Villa and Mayor John Tory made the request at a press conference Monday following a report to the Toronto Board of Health on the matter, saying workers need to feel safe and not be burdened by financial pressures when taking time off work in order to curb the spread of the disease.

“Our medical professionals have identified me as being important in getting more people tested and fighting this virus on the ground,” Tory told reporters on Monday.

” So let’s go. I am optimistic that maybe this will happen now because I and the other mayors are speaking even more forcefully about this. [as] it has become more urgent. ”

The board of health report says only 42 percent of Canadian workers currently have access to paid sick leave, and among low-wage, front-line workers the number is around 10 percent.

The government of Premier Doug Ford canceled paid sick days in 2018 and ensured that most employees in Ontario have the right to take up to three days of unpaid sick leave with health protection. employment each calendar year.

His government extended the policy amid the pandemic so that workers can take an indefinite number of days to self-isolate without pay until July 3.

The Toronto Board of Health said the federal government’s recovery sickness benefit, which provides people with $ 500 per week, for up to two weeks, is a big step, but not “in and of itself.”

“The benefit pays less than a full-time minimum wage job, has processing delays of up to four weeks, and does not provide job security for workers looking to use it,” said the board in a press release.

Tory said Monday that the federal and provincial governments were not taking the issue of paid sick leave as seriously as they had to.

“I feel like they play a bit of ping-pong together,” he said. “A game of ping-pong is always interesting and entertaining, except when it comes to the health of the people who live in our city and who contract COVID-19 and who in many cases are the least able to speak for themselves. ”

The report released by de Villa found that workers without paid sick leave, especially low-paid essential workers, face financial pressure to work even when they are sick.

“Not only do they face an immediate loss of much-needed income if they are not working, but their fragile employment status also sometimes means that taking time off work in the event of illness could compromise their ‘status’ with their employer or their future income, ”says de Villa.

Tory said he knew some people fear losing their paycheck and feel pressured to go to work even when they are sick. He said he was also aware of cases where employees are encouraged to come to work when they are sick. He said that due to the pressure, many people decide not to get tested or to self-isolate.

“It is a real source of fear and worry. It’s just beyond comprehension that no one has come forward and made it clear, yes, we will take care of you and your families during this time, ”Tory said.

Health officials in Ontario and Toronto have said workplaces are the main areas of concern for the spread of COVID-19. Earlier this month, the city of Toronto began publicly identifying the location of some COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces to address the issue.

Councilor Joe Cressy, who is also chair of the Toronto Board of Health, said 60 percent of workplace outbreaks in Toronto have occurred on the front line.

“Our essential workers are at increased risk of infection … Our frontline heroes are the most affected by this pandemic,” Cressy said Monday.

“Workers – especially the essential and frontline workers we rely on every day – need to be able to stay home and isolate themselves when they are sick, but many simply cannot afford it.

“We know we can’t beat COVID until we stop transmission in the workplace and we won’t stop transmission in the workplace until we pay sick leave for all workers. ”

“We won’t beat COVID until we allow workers to stay home and isolate themselves when they are sick. Sick leave – it’s too late. ”

The council and Villa call on the province to provide support to employers so that all workers in Ontario have access to no less than 10 days of paid sick leave annually in the event of an ’emergency sickness declaration. infectious ”such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, he calls on the province to require Ontario employers to grant no less than five days of paid sick leave to workers annually after three months of employment.

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