“A national paid sick leave program would keep Canadians healthier and Canadian businesses more productive and profitable,” writes MP Richard Cannings.

“A national paid sick leave program would keep Canadians healthier and Canadian businesses more productive and profitable,” writes MP Richard Cannings.

‘Paid sick leave is essential at all times, pandemic or no pandemic’

Canadian Recovery Sickness Benefit was designed just for the COVID pandemic

by Richard Cannings

As a country and as individuals, we have done a lot to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.

However, there is one obvious step for which we have made only timid efforts — paid sick leave.

Going to work sick was once a badge of honour. Taking one for the team. Not letting your side down.

It was never a good idea, but in the midst of a pandemic it’s particularly dangerous.

It isn’t good for the worker’s health, it’s not good for their co-workers health, and it’s not good for the bottom line of the companies they work for.

Think of the Vancouver Canucks, sidelined since March with 25 players and staff testing positive for COVID-19.

But many workers have little choice about whether to stay home or not.

Almost 60 percent of Canada’s workers don’t have any paid sick leave, and that percentage rises to 70 percent for low-income jobs. And low-income workers—many of whom are essential workers on the front lines at grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail outlets, can’t afford to miss even one day’s pay.

So they go to work and hope for the best.

After the pandemic hit, people immediately pointed out this problem.

The NDP pressured the federal government to bring in paid sick leave for Canadian workers in order to help restrict the spread of the virus. After many months, the government reluctantly introduced the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).

The CRSB is far from perfect. The remuneration is less than minimum wage.

You could only apply for one-week blocks of time, so if you stayed home one day with symptoms then felt better the next, you would have to stay away for the whole week to qualify.

When you do claim it, you must stay home and wait to find out if you’ll be reimbursed. And only people with COVID are eligible—if you felt sick and stayed home for the week but got a negative test result, you weren’t paid.

Needless to say, even with the CRSB on offer, many workers feel that it makes more sense to keep going to work so that they can pay rent and buy food. And that negates the main point of the benefit—to encourage sick workers to isolate at home.

Finally, the CRSB was designed just for the COVID pandemic.

When the pandemic ends, the CRSB will end and Canada will no longer have any form of universal paid sick leave.

The NDP has been calling for paid sick leave since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to pressure the Liberal government to fix the glaring flaws in the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

This is one of the many weak points in our country’s social safety net that has been exposed by the pandemic. The federal government must work with the provinces to ensure that all Canadian workers will have access to meaningful paid sick leave as we build a better Canada after the pandemic ends.

Paid sick leave is essential at all times, pandemic or no pandemic, since it acts as a firewall to workplace-spread illnesses.

A national paid sick leave program would keep Canadians healthier and Canadian businesses more productive and profitable.

Richard Cannings is MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

HealthOpinion

Just Posted

Members of Trail Firefighters Local 941 were hanging out in the station last week, practicing high angle rope rescue training. All members are trained in rope rescue, confined space rescue ,water rescue and vehicle extrication. Photos: Twitter @trailfire941
Rope rescue review at Kootenay Boundary fire hall

Created 39 years ago, Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue is a full service department

L-R: Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Sharman Thomas Senior, Private Sharman Thomas Junior, Major Nils French, and Chief Warrant Officer Sharman Thomas. Photo: Submitted
Trail Armoury marks historic moment when new member enrols

Private Thomas anticipates a rewarding career in the forces

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue volunteers doused a hillside fire late Monday night, May 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks Fire/Rescue puts out hillside fire

No one was injured after a campfire got out of control below Columbia Drive

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Grand Forks Fire/Rescue’s Dave Paulett hoses down a section of a wooden retaining wall which caught fire Monday, May 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Fire starts in Grand Forks backyard after by oily rags left in sun

Flames put out before reaching home on 800-block of 72nd Avenue

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Most Read