The Ford government pushed to extend paid sick leave amid the COVID-19 wave Pi News

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been urged to extend an emergency measure that gives workers access to three days of paid sick leave amid fresh concerns over a rising wave of COVID-19 in the province.

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The provincial Workforce Income Security Benefit program, first introduced in April 2021 by Delta during the Covid-19 wave and extended amid the pandemic’s omicron phase, ends on July 31. There is no formal reference from the progressive organization. Conservative government on whether the measure will be extended.

The lack of clarity has led to fresh concerns among the government’s political critics, who insist workers should choose their health or income.

“People who don’t have access to paid sick days have to make that choice — do I go to work and risk co-workers rather than self-isolate? Or do I take the financial toll of staying home and doing the right thing,” said NDP MPP Becky Sadler.

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“We don’t have to sit in the Legislature and the government can extend those emergency temporary paid sick days right now with the stroke of a pen,” Sadler said.

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Since the program was implemented, government data shows nearly half a million workers have relied on the program to call in sick without interruption to their pay.

As of June 24, 470,000 workers had requested a sick day, costing the province $189 million, the government said. The province said most of the claims were made in the manufacturing, retail and health care sectors, with most of them coming from employees in Mississauga, Toronto and London.

The provincial program allowed workers to take a day off to care for a sick relative, get a booster Covid-19 shot or vaccinate young children.

Employers are reimbursed up to $200 per day for each employee through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which administers the program.

Labor Minister Monte McNaughton was unavailable for an interview on the status of the program.

McNaughton, however, faces calls to expand the program by giving workers permanent access to ten days of paid sick leave — and enshrine it in law.

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Sadler said he plans to reintroduce the Stay Home If You’re Sick Act when the Legislature resumes in August to give workers access to 10 days of paid emergency leave and 14 days of unpaid emergency leave each year.

The bill was originally introduced in 2021 but was defeated by the Ford government.

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Dr. Vanessa Reddit, a family physician and member of the Decent Work and Health Network, told Global News that low-wage workers face the highest burden of COVID-19 due to workplace exposure.

Reddit said the province needs to focus on the needs of those workers beyond the pandemic.

“Parents need time to care for their children when they are sick. People need time to recover from a sprained ankle or an appendectomy or a miscarriage,” Reddit said.

However, despite having access to three days, the government pointed out that employees took an average of 2.5 days of sick leave, far less than the 10 days demanded by advocates.

Reddit said the government’s data eased concerns that sick leave could be abused.

“Evidence suggests that, on average, people don’t use their paid sick days, they use them appropriately to recover from illness,” Reddit said.

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Click to play video: 'Ontario Elections: A look at some of the key events of the past 4 years'







Ontario Elections: A look back at some of the key events of the past 4 years


Ontario Elections: A look back at some of the key events of the past 4 years – June 2, 2022

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