However some critics believe it's too little too late
Following weeks of pressure, Ontario has finally unveiled legislation in which workers could be eligible of up to three days of sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development, and Peter Bethlenfalvy, minister of finance, announced the program yesterday at Queen’s Park.
The Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit means employers will offer employees up to three days paid leave – beginning retroactively from April 19 and ending September 25. On top of this, Ontario may double the federal government’s CRSB payments – providing an extra $500 per week to a total of $1,000 per week per worker.
“We are the first in the country to double payments for the federal sick days program,” explained McNaughton. “With this new additional provincial funding, workers could now receive a total of $1,000 a week for four weeks. Make no mistake, Ontario workers now have access to the most generous sick pay program, coast to coast.”
Speaking to press at the event, McNaughton labelled the announcement a ‘game-changer’ – something that would effectively ‘save lives’.
“Ontario is very proud of those working throughout this unprecedented time to keep essential parts of our economy and local communities open through the pandemic,” added Bethlenfalvy.
“The government of Canada and Ontario have done a historic job delivering the Safe Restart Agreement last year. New provincial funding would allow eligible individuals to receive a total of $1000 per week through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program if missing work because of COVID-19. Ontario looks forward to continuing discussions to secure Ottawa’s commitment to administer the program with the top-up to all Ontario applicants. We believe that this is the simplest and fastest way to increase program uptake and make this program more effective for those people who need this program most.”
However, some critics believe that the legalisation simply doesn’t go far enough. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath commented that three days of paid sick time off is not enough if you’re dealing with COVID-19.
In the year it took the Ford govt to capitulate on #PaidSickDays, 455,000 people were infected and nearly 8,000 died of COVID-19. This comes far too late.— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) April 28, 2021
Too late to stop COVID-19 from getting out of control, and too late for workers who already got sick. 1/ #onpoli
Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner also chimed in, requesting that the government look into mandating 10 paid sick days rather than just three.
(1/2) I just voted in favour of the opposition day motion calling on the govt to legislate #PaidSickDays and #SafeWorkplaces. We need to:— Mike Schreiner (@MikeSchreiner) April 28, 2021
✅ legislate 10 permanent paid sick days and paid time off for workers to get vaccinated (con't)#onpoli
With this move from Ontario, workers in other provinces are looking to their governments expectantly. B.C. Premier John Horgan announced yesterday that British Columbia would provide its own program for worker sick pay - after arguing that Canada should have a national scheme in place.
Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Horgan announced plans to rebuild their internal system.
“We didn’t get the program we needed at the time we needed it from the federal government, and they’ve done a lot of great things over the past 14 months, but this is not one of them,” he added.