84 doctors, health experts & economists across Canada call on BC government to show national leadership with 10 days paid sick leave

October 21, 2021

VANCOUVER—Eighty four signatories to an open letter published today say they want the BC government to show national leadership because its actions will set the bar for other provinces and territories at a time when the right to paid sick leave is more important than ever.

The signatories include ER doctors, family physicians, retired medical health officers, university professors, economists and researchers. 

The BC government is expected to announce next month how many paid sick days workers in the province will be entitled to under the Employment Standards Act beginning in January 2022. 

"Paid sick days mean people don't have to lose their jobs or their homes,” says Dr. Naheed Dosani, Lead Palliative Care physician and Lecturer at the University of Toronto. “Paid sick days are what equity looks like in action. They have the potential to keep us all safe." 

“Without paid sick days my patients can be stuck with the difficult choice between income used for basic needs or risk infecting co-workers,” says Dr. Rita McCracken, family physician and researcher with the Department of Family Practice, University of BC. “They have excellent insight into when they have cold/flu symptoms that should keep them home and I cannot fault them if they choose the income to buy groceries for their kids. Ten sick days could completely change this reality for people, especially those vulnerable to the economic and health effects of the pandemic.”

"As a Public Health and Family Physician, it's clear that for my patients and for communities, at least 10 paid sick days are needed to support health and help prevent the spread of infections,” says Dr. Monika Dutt, a physician in Sydney, Nova Scotia. “BC has the opportunity to set the standard across North America for other provinces and territories to follow."

“Paid sick leave is essential to ultimately control COVID,” says former Vancouver Coastal Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. John Blatherwick. “Without it, people will come to work when they are sick.”

Says Dr. Lars Osberg, McCulloch Professor of Economics, Dalhousie University: “Adequate paid sick leave is something some Canadians can just take for granted, but throughout the pandemic far too many of us had to choose between going to work sick or paying the rent and the groceries. This has to stop. Paid sick leave is a basic employment right that all workers in Canada should enjoy.”

“It is very clear from my experience as an occupational medicine physician that for workplaces that require in-person contact, paid sick leave is the most effective means of reducing infections at work,” says Dr. Tim Takaro, professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University. “For deadly infections like COVID-19, prevention is clearly the best medicine. Our front line workers must be able to afford to stay home.”

The letter notes, “Paid sick days are also a matter of equity. A majority of British Columbians don’t currently have access to paid sick days, and low-wage workers—disproportionately women and racialized people—are the worst off: 89 per cent of those with incomes below $30,000 have no paid sick days.”

“This lack of access to paid sick leave for low-wage and precarious workers underscores the need for BC’s program to apply to the broadest possible group of workers whether full time, part time, or casual, and regardless of immigration status. The program should also apply across all sizes of employers. Infectious diseases don’t discriminate based on firm size or status of workers, and neither should the right to stay home when sick,” the letter continues.

The incoming federal government has already committed to 10 days for workers in federally regulated industries. The letter signatories argue this should be the minimum standard for all workers in every province and territory.

The letter was released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC Office. A number of the signatories are available for media interviews, including signatories located in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. 

For interviews, contact Jean Kavanagh at 604-802-5729, [email protected]