Lack of paid sick days a public health risk

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Medical professionals across Ontario are pushing for a change in employment law, insisting the province’s current lack of paid sick days is causing a genuine public health risk.

Currently, at least 145 countries around the world and 23 jurisdictions in Canada provide paid sick leave to employees – but Ontario is bucking the trend. Instead, employers with at least 50 employees in the province must offer 10 unpaid days of emergency leave.

“We’re definitely behind the ball on this,” Danyaal Raza, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, told the Star. “For me one of the take home messages is that there hasn’t been any substantial change to this legislation since the Second World War.”

Last week, a group of 700 doctors has filed a petition urging Ontario to make changes – both to paid sick leave guidelines and to provisions requiring employees to provide sick notes which they say put the general population at risk.

According to the petitioning doctors, the stringent policy effects low-wage workers the most, many of whom are employed in service sector jobs – like the food industry – where they frequently interact with members of the public.

“For the health of those patients and for the health of the public it’s imperative that (workers) stay home when they’re sick,” Dr. Kate Hayman, an emergency room physician with the University Health Network told the Star.

“But often if they’re low earners, it’s not a financial decision they can make,” she added.

Last year, Nova Scotia physician Ether Cooper-Rosen made headlines after she started charging employers $30 for an employee’s sick note.

"If an employee said they are sick, their employer should probably trust that they are telling the truth if they have a good relationship with them," she said at the time.
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