Labor leaders and an economist say a BC government announcement mandating annual paid sick leave is short of workers.
On Wednesday, the British Columbia Ministry of Labor announced that workers would be entitled to five paid sick days each year starting in January.
Alex Hemingway, senior economist at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, said sick leave is important to public health and the economy, and it is “concerning” that it is not a minimum of 10 days.
“People need that security of knowing that they have enough days on their own, so when you catch this flu in February you don’t think, ‘Ah, maybe I better save it for something. even worse later in the year, ”Hemingway said. “It matches what we see in the world in other jurisdictions; 10 days is actually on the lower end of what we see in most other countries. “
Hemingway said the Government of Canada is committed to giving federal workers 10 days, which health care workers and economists support. There is a lot of research on “presenteeism” or going to work sick because workers have no choice, he said.
“The costs of this presenteeism are much higher than the cost of giving people paid sick leave… some of the evidence I have read and cited in my own work in the United States shows that in cities that have implemented paid sick leave, a 40 percent reduction in flu rates during flu waves, ”Hemingway said. “Paid sick leave for food service workers has been associated with a 22% drop in rates of foodborne illness.
“It’s also interesting, workers without paid sick leave were three times more likely to delay or forgo medical care and therefore having paid sick leave seems to encourage people to use preventative care,” including getting vaccinated outside of the COVID context, but just in general. “
In a press release, Laird Cronk, president of the British Columbia Federation of Labor, welcomed the provincial announcement, but also found it to be lacking as it was only half of the “10 day standard that science supports and that is the overwhelming preference of British Columbians.” “
“Although we are disappointed, we will continue to fight for the full 10 days off,” Cronk said in the press release. “The public and economic health record is clear. Despite the dire claims of some business lobbyists about the costs to employers, study after study – and practical experience around the world – shows the opposite: paid sick leave is good for the economy.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business was also not happy, calling the five days “insensitive to the realities small businesses face,” in a press release. Comments from a recent poll showed that respondents are unable to offer the new program with 38 days’ notice, the federation said.
Harry Bains, British Columbia’s Minister of Labor, said the province had consulted workers and employers in making its decision, with more than 60,000 respondents. Among the other jurisdictions the province examined, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
“A lot of the people who don’t have paid sick leave are the same workers we depended on most during the pandemic,” Bains said in a press release. “The low-wage workers who help us do our shopping, prepare our food in restaurants and make sure we have the services we need deserve basic protection like paid sick leave. “