BWA’s Take: 10 paid sick days for federally regulated private sector workers coming into force

What do the new 10 Paid Sick Days for federally regulated industries mean for the rest of Canada? Our team unpacks it for you here.

Early in November, the federal Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan Jr., announced that 10 paid sick days for federally regulated private sector workers would come into force on December 1st, 2022. BWA staff share their view on this major move on the national paid sick days front.

Why is this significant?

This new labour regulation signals support by the federal government that paid sick days are good for protecting workers’ health and for reducing the spread of illness in the workplace. 10 paid sick days reflects calls from health care experts for an adequate number of days for sick individuals to become non-contagious and to recover from COVID-19 and other illnesses. The government is exemplifying a new standard of working conditions for private sector workers, to the extent that it can – which is limited to federally-regulated sectors like banking, postal services, and airlines.

Is this a win for provincial legislation on paid sick days, too?

Not necessarily. While this federal move generates awareness and a public discussion about paid sick days in major media outlets, it does not mean that provinces will follow suit. While we’d hope provincial governments feel some pressure to create PSD policy, there are influential business lobby groups that argue that governments should pay for paid sick days – or else it will kill a business’ margins. We at the BWA know this isn’t true – and we wrote a report about it – but it is an argument that provincial governments are paying close attention to.

What’s next?

We’re betting on another window opening up for more public debate on provincial PSD policy in March 2023, when the Worker Income Protection Benefit (WIPB) is due to expire. The WIPB was extended in July 2022 for another 9 months to provide workers with 3 paid sick days if they contract COVID-19. In our opinion, the program extension was flawed – anyone who already got sick prior to the extension wasn’t eligible for more paid days off if they got sick again. Further, employers with existing PSD programs, like many BWA members, weren’t eligible for government funding for 3 paid sick days – meaning the program subsidized employers who weren’t already offering good workplace benefits while ethical employers had to pay out-of-pocket.

Our bet is that the movement of workers, healthcare professionals and business leaders in Ontario will call for permanent employer-paid sick days leading up to March 2023. Political opposition parties will back this call – but it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Progressive Conservative government will do. We can guarantee that the PCs have felt the heat – the PSD discussion hasn’t gone away for months – and (in our opinion) their defensive position keeps looking weaker.