Trudeau calls for paid sick leave to combat COVID-19 second wave

'Nobody should have to choose between taking a day off work due to illness, or being able to pay their bills,' the prime minister said

Trudeau calls for paid sick leave to combat COVID-19 second wave

After introducing minimum wage hikes, wage subsidies and bridge financing options, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now setting his sights on enhancing Canada’s sick leave benefit.

The prime minister is urging provinces and territories to grant workers 10 days of paid sick leave in anticipation of a possible second wave of coronavirus infections across the country.

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“Nobody should have to choose between taking a day off work due to illness, or being able to pay their bills. Just like nobody should have to choose between staying home with COVID-19 symptoms or being able to afford rent or groceries,” Trudeau said at a news conference this week.

The federal government aims to launch the sick leave program nationwide – before the flu season arrives – by improving existing leave benefits already provided for by respective provinces.

“We don’t want people who develop a sniffle to suddenly worry that they shouldn’t really go into work but they can’t afford to not go into work,” Trudeau said. “The risk of contributing to a wave significantly could be a real problem.”

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“These are things that will be essential in our recovery if we are to control the spread of COVID-19. The mechanisms are challenging, and that’s why we have to work with the provinces,” Trudeau said.

The mechanisms for rolling out a paid sick leave program at this point remain in the jurisdiction of provincial governments. Any plans proposed by the federal government would require changes to the Employment Standards Act.

The federal government has yet to release the finer points of the proposal, including who is eligible for the benefit and whether the federal government will share the cost with provincial governments or fund it fully. The prime minister, however, said his government will work to expand sick leave protections “without delay”.

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