March 11, 2020
Preparing for cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre (Halifax-WAC) is calling for paid sick leave for all employees along with legislation to prohibit employers from requesting doctors’ notes to confirm absences due to illness.
“Workers should not have to choose between staying home and losing a day of pay, or going to work sick,” said Jason Edwards, organizer with the Halifax-WAC. “Everyone benefits when sick workers stay home and get well: employers, coworkers, and taxpayers. Encouraging sick workers to stay home is good public policy.”
Currently, Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Code does not guarantee any paid sick leave to employees, nor is there any statutory regulation around employers requesting medical documentation.
“Requiring workers to obtain medical notes burdens the unwell employee and the medical system,” said Edwards. “Unless an employer has reason to believe that an employee or their family member is not sick or injured, the employer should not be allowed to require a doctor’s note.”
To satisfy her employer, Lisa Cameron, organizer for the Halifax-WAC, was required to provide substantial medical documentation while suffering from a short-term medical condition.
“I had to procure three separate medical notes, each of increasing detail, to validate a brief work absence. Rather than focusing on my recovery, my energy and time was spent accommodating my employer’s demands, which felt punitive,” said Cameron. “The unfairness of this situation motivated me to get involved with the Halifax-WAC, which advocates for workers in vulnerable situations such as this.”
In September 2018, the NDP introduced Bill 46, which would allow employees to accumulate paid sick days at the rate of 0.5 days per month (up to a maximum of six days per year) and would prohibit employers from requesting medical notes. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass First Reading.
While the bill is a great start, the Halifax-WAC believes that employees should accumulate paid sick days at a rate of at least one day per month, up to a maximum of 12 days per year. Employees should not have to produce medical documentation to satisfy distrusting employers.
The Halifax-WAC is a not-for-profit committed to improving the lives and working conditions of low-waged and marginalized workers. It provides systemic advocacy through campaigns like the Fight for 15 and Fairness and one-on-one support for workers facing difficulty in their individual employment relationships.
Halifax Workers’ Action Centre
firstname.lastname@example.org • (902) 221-0755 • www.halifaxworkersaction.ca