Federal sick leave program that was created to ensure people wouldn’t face financial hardship if they had to take time off work due to COVID-19 is criticized for not protecting enough people in need.
the Canadian recovery sickness benefit (CRSB) was designed to make it easier for workers to follow public health advice urging people to stay home if they are sick. It provides $ 450 after taxes per week for up to two weeks.
But critics, worker advocates, public health professionals and policy experts say the program is flawed – and does not sufficiently replace employers’ guarantees to guarantee paid sick leave – which, according to them, would give low-wage and essential workers income protection and job security. they should stay home if they are potentially infected with the coronavirus.
Patty Coates, president of the Ontario Federation of Labor, said compulsory paid sick leave at the provincial level is a superior policy because non-payment is automatically applied to a worker’s paycheck, while CRSB is paid in the same way as EI, which means workers have to apply and are paid by the government days or weeks after giving up income.
“The federal paid sick leave benefit is very onerous and workers – they have to apply for it. They have to know how to apply, have the opportunity to do it and also have to wait, ”Coates said.
“If they work part of a week, they are not paid by the federal paid sick leave benefits for that week. So that leaves them with no income during that time.”
Payments received in 3 to 5 days, depending on the government
The office of Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said people applying for the CRSB can expect to receive the benefit within three to five business days if they have set up direct deposit with the BOW. Alternatively, payment usually arrives within 10 to 12 business days by post.
“The Government of Canada continues to work at breakneck speed on Employment Insurance sickness benefits and CRSB claims so that workers who need income support get it as quickly as possible,” Qualtrough’s office said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with our partners at all levels of government to ensure that workers have access to this support when they need it most.”
Coates said OTF is asking for seven days of permanent sick leave in Ontario, plus an additional 14 days during a pandemic. On Wednesday, the group held a “to the death” rally outside Queen’s Park in Toronto.
WATCH: Growing calls for paid sick leave for essential workers
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was instrumental in lobbying the Liberal government to adopt sickness benefits, says the federal program is problematic.
“People who need the program don’t know it’s there for them due to a lack of publicity,” Singh said in a statement to TBEN News. “We raised these shortcomings with [the prime minister] months ago, and now more than ever, they need to be fixed. “
Singh says Liberals will have an opportunity to correct the bill in the coming weeks when they introduce a bill fill a gap in the service which allows returning travelers to receive up to $ 1,000 for missing work due to quarantine requirements.
Tory MP Peter Kent, who is also the party’s employment critic, said the loophole is the result of the Liberals rushing legislation through Parliament last fall after the extension.
“The Canadian Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is clearly flawed,” Kent said in a statement.
No sick leave for more than half of Canadian workers
It is estimated that 58% of Canadian workers do not have access to paid sick leave through their employer. Decent Work and Health Network report. That number rises to 70%. 100 for people who earn less than $ 25,000 a year.
Currently, only two provinces guarantee it – two days in Quebec and one day in Prince Edward Island. The others offer varying amounts of unpaid sick leave days, while federal employees are entitled to three paid days.
Rechev Browne, who has worked at a grocery store in Toronto for the past decade, said that 10 months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he feared staying home sick would cost him.
“I couldn’t pay my rent. I could end up on the street because I could end up burning my savings,” Browne said. “Just knowing that I’m going to get paid is like – I’m not putting myself and others in public danger… I’m not putting my coworkers in danger.”
The federal government introduced the CRSB as a temporary benefit in September to close the gap. To be eligible, workers must be unable to work at least half of their scheduled shifts because they are sick with COVID-19, because they must self-isolate due to potential exposure, or if they have an underlying health problem that puts them at increased risk if they catch the virus.
Qualtrough’s office said the Canada Revenue Agency takes a broad view of these eligibility criteria and the program is designed to be flexible.
“[The Canada recovery sickness benefit] is an important part of our response to COVID-19 to support Canadians and stop the spread of the virus, ”Qualtrough’s office said in a statement.
“We did this so that no worker – no matter where in Canada they live or who they work for – would have to choose between going to work while affected by COVID-19 and putting food on the table. table.”
Still, the number of people approved to receive the allowance increased from 67,000 in September to 20,000 in the first week of January, even though COVID-19 cases have risen sharply during that time. There is growing evidence that work places are key transmission sites COVID-19, with outbreaks reported in long-term care homes, food processing facilities and grocery stores, among others.
In total, 318,110 people collected the CRSB. The program has disbursed $ 271.4 million since its inception.
Government, Not Business, Should Say About Sick Leave: CFIB
Randy Robinson, Ontario director of the left-wing think tank Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, said those who can access the federal benefit quickly will receive less than their normal income.
“Sickness pay is a cut in pay,” said Robinson. “Kudos to the federal government for getting started on this file … but it really is the responsibility of the provinces.”
The Toronto medical officer of health and a group of mayors from Toronto and the Hamilton region have joined in calls for Ontario to take action on paid sick leave this week.
Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne introduced two days of paid personal emergency leave in 2018, but Premier Doug Ford discarded them shortly after taking office. He has no plans to reinstate them – even after issuing a stay-at-home order that took effect just after midnight on Wednesday.
“We are not going to duplicate the areas of support,” Ford said when the order was released on Tuesday.
The flow19:48Can COVID-19 lockouts and stay-at-home orders work without paid sick leave?
British Columbia Premier John Horgan said last month his government was prepared to fill gaps in the federal program, but needed more information on any cracks in the plan.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a lobby group, fought against the paid sick leave introduced by the Wynne government because it claimed it would impose exorbitant costs on small businesses.
CFIB President Dan Kelly acknowledged that it made sense to include sick leave as an interim measure during a pandemic, but that the government should pay for those days. He said the CRSB is enough.
“Imposing the costs on small businesses at this point would of course be very difficult, as most small businesses are desperate to say to stay,” Kelly said. “Any additional cost would be absolutely devastating.”