Ontario’s COVID-19 response plans must include paid sick leave

March 20, 2020

TORONTO—The Ontario government passed Bill 186 yesterday and introduced measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus, but failed to provide any paid sick leave for those in quarantine or isolation.

“This legislation falls far short of where we needed it to be in order to have a comprehensive response to this pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “If we are going to get through this crisis, then the plan has to start with giving everyone directed to self-isolate or quarantine paid sick days.”

Other jurisdictions, including Quebec and Prince Edward Island, currently have a minimum number of paid sick days employers are required to provide for workers. Prior to 2019, Ontario had requirements for two paid sick days which was repealed by the Ford government’s Bill 47. One provision of Bill 47, allowing employers to require sick notes was repealed by the newly introduced legislation.

The measures contained in Bill 47, including the repeal of paid sick days, were widely opposed by Unifor and a broad coalition of labour organizations, community, anti-poverty, and migrant workers’ advocacy groups due to the threats posed to public health.

“Ontarians should not be put in the position of choosing whether to protect their health and that of their friends, family, and co-workers or picking up their next paycheque, and that’s what this legislation appears to do,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario Regional Director. “The government’s COVID-19 plan shouldn’t be aimed at protecting the pocketbooks of employers but should help protect our health.”

Unifor has urged the Ford government, and all Premiers across the country, to immediately enact 14 policy measures as part of their respective COVID-19 response plans, including instituting a minimum of 14 paid sick days for those in quarantine or directed to self-isolate by medical authorities. The measures also include creating direct, emergency income assistance measures to all workers and families – including those ineligible for Employment Insurance benefits. The contents of the letter and list of recommendations can be viewed here.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.