LONDON, ONT. -- London West MPP Peggy Sattler introduced a private members bill in the legislature that directs the government to provide paid sick leave for all Ontario workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

“With COVID-19 case counts now approaching 2,000 a day, it is all too clear how dangerous it is when workers must lose their pay to stay home when they are sick” says Sattler, the NDP’s critic for Employment Standards.

Her bill labelled ’Stay Home If You Are Sick Act’ would guarantee ten personal emergency leave days per year for every worker, seven of which are paid.

It would also mandate an additional 14 days of paid leave during any infectious disease emergency as over 60 per cent of Ontario workers do not have access to paid sick leave.

“For those in low income positions this number jumps to over 70 per cent and is even higher for women,” says Carolina Jimenez, a registered nurse and coordinator of the Decent Work and Health Network.

Jimenez says research done by the network has showed that four principles must guide the implementation of a paid sick days policy.

“Paid sick days must be permanent, we’ve needed them before COVID-19, we’ll sure need them after. They must be adequate, we need at least 7 permanent days with an additional 14 for public health outbreaks like the one we’re in now. They need to be seamlessly accessible, without any sick notes without any barriers like interruptions in pay, or having to apply to another program after the fact. And it also needs to be for all workers without exemptions.”

During a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Sattler invited members of the medical, education and business sectors to speak on the need for paid sick days.

“I’ve been working in child care for 28 years, and it took a Pandemic to get me healthy. I believe this shows how early childhood educators or ECE’s have been impacted by the lack of paid sick days for decades” Kim Bradley, an early childhood educator from Oshawa stated during the news conference.

Ottawa business owner Jessica Carpinone, introduced paid sick days to the employees at her bakery ‘Bread by Us’ when it opened in 2013,

“In my experience if I calculate how this has helped me in the long term, I see the return on investment. It’s invaluable in terms of the retention, and in terms of fostering the culture of loyalty within the work place."

In 2019, the Ford government removed legislation passed by the previous Liberal government that afforded two paid sick days for workers.

In September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit to give workers a way to recoup costs of missing days during the pandemic.

Sattler says while the intention is good, the process is flawed.

"The CSRB is not seamless for workers, it’s not accessible for workers and it is not permanent, it is only a stop gap for workers that qualify, and it’s only available until next summer.”

Sattler’s bill would also include a financial support program for businesses to ease the burden,

“First to help transition especially struggling small and medium sized businesses during this pandemic to transition them to providing the seven paid sick days. My private member's bill also recognizes that there is a public good in delivering paid sick days during an infectious disease emergency.”

Carpinone says providing sick days for her employees had an upfront cost but in the long term it has been an investment, and more businesses should consider this measure whether the bill passes or fails.

“It is possible to build those things in operationally. We have to start thinking about people being sick as not just this risk, but a certainty. And we have to build our businesses around those certainties.”