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Make Paid Sick Days Permanent

A sticky note "I'm on sick leave" on desk.

It’s past time that employment standards and practices catch up to the realities of our labour market. For years, United Way has raised concerns that outdated employment standards and practices are detrimental to the health and wellbeing of workers and their families. With the current health crisis, we’ve seen that the urgency to modernize labour market policies and practices is a matter of life and death.

The Governments of Canada and Ontario have taken the first steps towards paid sick leave with the introduction of the federal Canada Sickness and Recovery Benefit and provincial Worker Income Benefit Protection Program. Many employers have also stepped up to provide paid sick leave during the pandemic. But we need to make sure paid sick days are adequate, responsive and permanent. Everyone in every sector needs to work together to make sure this happens. Let’s lay the groundwork for the more inclusive and equitable community we are all working toward.

United Way’s own research on precarious employment has shown that the lack of support and protection in insecure work can be devastating for those struggling on low incomes. Without rapidly accessible paid leave, a worker who needs to rest and recover risks missing rent, losing their job, or not being able to get food on the table.

Permanent paid sick days don’t just make public health sense, they make business sense. We know that business practices that enhance workforce security, like paid leave, can improve employee morale, motivation, productivity and loyalty, as well as decreased absenteeism and turnover. This is just the kind of change we need to create the solid economic foundation of a strong recovery. Our Better Business Outcomes for Workforce Security business case framework demonstrates how work can still be safe and secure — even when it is temporary, contract, or self-employment.

The pandemic has presented challenges at an unimaginable scale, but in our collective response, sectors have also shown incredible innovation. Government and employers have the opportunity to build on this foundation and commit to modernizing employment standards and business practices to strengthen our future economy.

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