Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Re: Extending Paid Sick Leave for Workers
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
On behalf of the Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU), the largest affiliation of independent unions in the country, I want to express to you my concern about the poor standard of paid sick leave in Canada.
As many Canadians are fully aware, paid sick leave in Canada is one of the least comprehensive in the entire industrialized world. According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), Canada ranks among the bottom of the scale, along with the United States, in sick leave accessibility, generosity, and universality, especially when compared to countries such as Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The COVID-19 crisis has made the need for comprehensive sick leave in Canada ever more apparent, with workers desperately struggling through the pandemic with additional stress, health risks, and illness.
It is certainly good news that your government has made a recent promise to urge the provinces to enact legislation providing 10 paid sick days each year for all employees.
Although employment law is currently governed at the provincial level, this is the perfect opportunity for you to lead by example, work with the provinces, and for the first time ever, implement a uniform, national policy to provide comprehensive sick leave for all workers in Canada. By doing so, your government can lead on this initiative and make history.
Having said this, countries throughout the OECD, whose sick leave policies are already more advanced than Canada’s, are introducing even more extensive coverage not only for sick workers, but those who must stay at home to care for family members and loved ones.
Canada must follow suit with these policies. Adding 10 paid sick days is a good start, but far more must be done to fight COVID-19 and protect workers, especially those who may have contracted the illness. The Confederation of Canadian Unions is also calling on provincial governments to waive any requirement for a doctor’s note to permit sick leave.
Research from these policies illustrate that not only do they protect sick workers, but they allow more workers to self-isolate and protect others, contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and safeguard the jobs of vulnerable workers – which has the added benefit of reducing pressure on unemployment benefit and welfare systems.
Yes, there initially may be an overall higher cost to this, but preliminary data also shows that as the total number of COVID-19 cases declined throughout western Europe, so did the overall number of workers on sick leave.
Applied to Canada, these measures will ensure all workers can take time off work when they are sick and need to quarantine. It is vital that we create an economy where any worker who is experiencing symptoms can self-isolate without the anxiety of lost wages. This can be a win-win situation to fighting COVID-19 on one hand, and protecting workers and jobs on the other.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss with further, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to speaking with you.
President, Confederation of Canadian Unions