KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It’s crucial that people stay home when they’re not feeling well, especially now that Covid once again has a presence in Nova Scotia.
For many workers that’s easier said than done. 58% of Canadian workers don’t have paid sick days at all.
When journalists recently asked whether the Nova Scotia government is willing to institute paid sick days in Nova Scotia, premier Stephen McNeil flat out refused. There’s a federal program that takes care of it, he said.
That program, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), will allow workers who are sick or must self-isolate due to COVID-19 to receive $500 per week for a maximum of two weeks.
That’s not good enough, says Kendra Coombes, the NDP labour critic and MLA for Cape Breton Centre.
“We need provincial legislation that enshrines 10 paid sick days in the labour code, for people to make use of as needed,” she says.
The CSRB only deals with people who are sick or quarantining because of Covid. You must miss at least 50% of the week to qualify. If you get sick say on a Thursday, then that entire week doesn’t count.
It will also be a while before you get your money. For each week that you miss you need to apply, you need to be approved, and your payment has to be issued. All that will take time, Coombes says. It also pays a maximum of $500 per week, for two weeks, which is not a whole lot of money.
Unlike the CSRB, the legislation Coombes is proposing would be seamless, and you would be paid what you are used to. It’s a paid sick day, after all.
Very importantly, it would also be for any illness, not just Covid.
“We’re hearing a lot from people who call and say, how are we going to keep a roof over our heads and pay our bills if we have to stay home. People find that incredibly overwhelming,” Coombes says.
The working poor are suffering the most, 74% of workers earning less than $25,000 lack paid sick days. Politicians like to call these workers essential and heroes when the camera is rolling, but look the other way when it comes to action.
A disproportionate number of these workers are racialized. Women not only disproportionately provide care, but they are more likely to report losing wages to care for others, including their children and families when they fall ill.
The NDP proposed sick day legislation in 2018, asking for six paid sick days. Coombes would have loved to reintroduce that bill for the fall session, but this time with 10 sick days.
It’s not going to happen this year, though. Nova Scotia’s is the only legislature that hasn’t sat since the pandemic hit the province. Premier McNeil recently cancelled the fall sitting.
“This would have been a very important piece of legislation to be discussed in the legislature, if only we’d had a fall sitting. This issue is tremendously impactful to the lives of Nova Scotians,” Coombes says.
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