Throughout the pandemic, calls for paid sick days have been repeated by Ontario’s health experts as a means to slow workplace spread.
Ontario does not currently offer mandatory paid sick leave to workers. In 2018, Ontario Premier Doug Ford eliminated the two paid sick days offered by the previous Liberal government. Advocates for paid sick days to help workers recommend 10 days off.
On Twitter, ICU physician Dr. Michael Warner outlined the need for paid sick leave to ensure workers do not miss a day’s pay if they have to isolate or stay home due to COVID-19.
While the provincial government has reportedly asked Ottawa to bolster the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) program to up to $ 1,000 per week, this plan requires employees to apply for funding and does not account for possible gaps in pay while they wait for an application to be approved.
Under the current version of CRSB, employees are given $ 500 weekly — tax-adjusted to $ 450 — which works out to less than Ontario’s minimum wage for full-time employees.
A direct sick-pay program would see employers pay workers their regular wages on days missed — meaning no loss of income for taking leave.
We’ve compared sick leave protocols in five countries that have experienced lower levels of COVID-19 than Ontario, which reported 275.46 active cases per 100,000 as of April 26. In four countries, a minimum of 10 paid sick days are provided.
Taiwan, which has a population of 26 million but has only seen 12 deaths the entire pandemic, offers at least 50 per cent pay to employees.
In New Zealand, workers gain sick days over time, but are guaranteed to see a minimum of five days to start.
COVID-19 cases per 100,000 as of April 26: 4.64
For employees that don’t require hospitalization, Taiwan allows up to 30 sick days for one year. During those 30 days, employees are entitled to half of their regular salary either directly from the government, or from a mix of funding from their employer and the government.
In situations where the employer doesn’t offer funded sick time, the government will pay starting from day four of the leave. For those that need a hospital stay, up to one full year is provided in each two-year period.
The total amount of time away in both circumstances cannot exceed one full year during a two-year period.
Taiwan even offers time off for weddings, employees can take up to eight days off with pay.
COVID-19 cases per 100,000 as of April 26: 54.55
All employees — even part-time and casual workers — are entitled to five paid sick days in New Zealand, provided they’ve worked for the same employer for six months. For every year after that, employees get at least five more days of leave up to a maximum of 20, though some employers could choose to offer more days.
Employees using sick leave are paid their usual rate for the days they’ve missed.
COVID-19 cases per 100,000 as of April 26: 117.9
Full-time employees are granted 10 days of paid sick leave per year, to be paid at their regular wages.
Meanwhile, Australia also offers unpaid pandemic leave, which entitles employees to two weeks of unpaid time off and the ability to take double their usual amount of vacation time at half of their usual rate if their employer agrees.
COVID-19 cases per 100,000 as of April 26: 81.98
Employees in Nigeria are offered up to 12 days of paid sick leave. While a doctor’s note is required to prove illness, wages are paid in full for the time an employee is off work.
COVID-19 cases per 100,000 as of April 26: 2.96
Employees are entitled to a minimum of 30 days annually, depending on how long they’ve been paying social insurance premiums in Vietnam. Though this requires a doctor’s note, workers in Vietnam are offered as many as 60 days of paid sick leave if they’ve paid insurance premiums for 30 years or more. Employees in hazardous occupations can see as many as 70 days of leave per year.
Pay represents 75 per cent of regular salary.
All seven-day averages via the Star’s COVID-19 data tracker.