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New federal COVID-19 benefit falls short of promise of paid sick leave: BCFED

Last Updated Aug 20, 2020 at 10:36 pm PDT

(Source: iStock)
Summary

Affected workers will be able to claim $500 per week for two weeks under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit

The BC Federation of Labour says the new sickness benefit doesn't do enough to incentivize staying home when sick

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new benefit announced Thursday isn’t enough to discourage Canadians from going to work when they’re not feeling well, according to the BC Federation of Labour.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit will be available to “workers who are unable to work because they are sick or must self-isolate due to COVID-19,” and whose employers do not provide paid sick days.

Beginning Sept. 27, affected workers will be able to claim $500 per week for two weeks. The program is currently set to last one year.

“This new benefit would fulfill the Government of Canada’s commitment as part of the Safe Restart Agreement with provinces and territories to provide up to two weeks of sick leave to all Canadians in the context of COVID-19,” according to the federal government.

However, Laird Cronk, BCFED president, says the benefit falls short of providing paid sick leave.

“We have some concerns about whether or not this is actually a proper sick pay program. It’s a good start but it doesn’t quite meet the threshold,” he says.

“For example, it has a maximum $500 per week, well, for many many workers that may not be near enough to pay the bills.”

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Cronk points to a proposal from the union which would ask employers to continue to pay their workers a full wage while they are off sick. The employer would later be reimbursed by the government.

“That way the workers get the money directly and they are more apt to make the right decision about staying home based on the health guidelines,” Cronk says, adding it’s unclear how long it will take for the benefit to be paid out and whether or not the worker claiming it can be assured their job will be protected while they are off sick.

Further, the $500 per week cap might not be enough to incentivize someone making more than that to take time off.

“When you bring out a sick pay program it has to be one that actually works. It has to be one that workers look at and say ‘I’m feeling like this program is going to cover me so that I can pay my bills if I’m going to stay home and do the right thing,” he says.

“There’s some gaps in today’s program for sick pay and we’ll continue to advocate to get the changes that fill those critical gaps.”

With files from Kareem Gouda