TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 19, 2015) - Doctors handing out free tissues by subway exits is not something one sees every day, but that's what health providers did today outside the Queen's Park subway station to draw attention to their call for at least seven legislated paid sick days for Ontario workers.
Standing where Toronto's hospital row meets Ontario's legislative assembly, emergency physician Dr. Kate Hayman said: "As doctors we provide care for our patients, and sometimes this also requires that we address factors that affect health outcomes. Working while sick is a serious public health concern. The real solution here is to update the labour laws, so that no one has to choose between their pay and well-being."
Currently, employers in Ontario are not required to provide sick days by law. Consequently, too many workers are forced to go to work sick in order to avoid losing pay. In fact, more than 1.6 million workers cannot even take an unpaid personal day off because they don't have access to job-protected emergency leave.
In conversation with transit riders, health workers emphasized the importance of rest which helps speed up the recovery process and minimize the risk of infectious disease transmissions. The employer-required sick notes that workers need to obtain, however, takes away from the precious recovery time while putting an unnecessary strain on health care resources.
Dr. Hayman commented, "having patients with flu sit in a waiting room to get a sick note is neither a good use of their time nor of our health providers' time". Sandeep Prasad, the Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, also adds "confidentiality in accessing health services is important and having to provide a medical note can be a huge barrier."
As the Ministry of Labour continues its review of employment legislation to change the Employment Standards Act, there is a unique opportunity to strengthen protections for all workers in Ontario. Health providers are calling for at least seven paid sick days, pro-rated for part-time workers, as well as removing the requirement for medical notes.
Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute, who is one of the more than 850 signatories behind the call for paid sick days explains: "We are asked to stay at home if we have flu. We are discharged early from hospital to recover at home so the bed can be used for someone who is sicker. We are asked to do this as responsible members of society. For everyone to be able to meet their responsibilities we need paid sick days."
Health providers are speaking up for paid sick days as part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness Campaign. Health Providers Against Poverty is a province wide alliance of health providers who are committed to addressing poverty as a health issue. The Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) is Ontario's voice for community-governed primary health care representing 109 organizations.