With thousands laid off or out of work, a B.C. workers’ rights group says the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces the need to have paid sick days enshrined in the Employment Standards Act.
The Retail Action Network is calling for a number of changes to be introduced as law including 14 paid sick days without a doctor’s note needed, protected medical leave of up to 52 weeks and the elimination of the three-month probationary period for new employees.
The network says any temporary measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic should remain in place permanently.
On March 23, the province announced a plan to protect workers during the COVID-19 crisis, which has shut down businesses and offices across the country under orders to limit physical proximity to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
That plan saw two major changes to worker legislation; the first allowing workers to take unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for COVID-19-related reasons. The other change was permanent – providing three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for people who can’t work because of illness or injury.
The Retail Action Network says those measures fail to recognize the realities of working in the retail or hospitality industry, realities illuminated by the ongoing public health crisis.
“The overwhelming impacts of COVID-19 are falling on the shoulders of working-class people. The need for a bare minimum of 14 days of paid sick and emergency leave is more apparent than ever before,” said a statement from Andreea Micu of the Retail Action Network. “The recent amendment that allows for three unpaid sick days per calendar is wildly insufficient, and puts workers in an unhealthy position.”
The Retail Action Network also calls for immediate investigations into any B.C. business that hasn’t issued any worker a final paycheque.
The federal government has introduced a number of relief measures to help workers impacted by the pandemic, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides $2,000 per month for up to four months for those who have lost income due to coronavirus.