But union says voluntary program falls short
Nova Scotia is providing workers up to four paid sick days should they need to take time off work due to COVID-19, retroactive to May 10, 2021.
The government is investing $16 million through the new COVID-19 Sick Leave Program, a voluntary program for workers, businesses and self-employed people. It is projected to help more than 100,000 locals.
“We want employees to stay home if they are feeling unwell and follow public health protocols to help reduce the spread of COVID,” says Premier Iain Rankin. “Paid sick leave means they won’t have to make a difficult decision between their health and the health of others, or their own financial well-being.”
The program covers employee wages, including wages of self-employed people, up to a maximum of $20 per hour or $160 per day. The maximum payment over the 12-week period is $640 per worker. Eligible businesses that continue to pay their employees during their leave will be eligible to be reimbursed by the program.
It will help out people who cannot work remotely and miss less than 50 per cent of their scheduled work time in a one-week period due to COVID-19. This includes those who need to take time off because they are awaiting a PCR test appointment, and those who are getting tested, are self-isolating while awaiting test results or are going to get vaccinated.
Fear of losing their job has meant one in five Canadian workers said they would go to the office even when they are coughing, sneezing and feeling sick, according to an earlier survey.
The Nova Scotia program covers any sick days taken between May 10, 2021 and July 31, 2021. The sick days do not have to be taken consecutively.
The Nova Scotia Co-operative Council will administer the program on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Manitoba are among the provinces that have also announced leave programs related to COVID-19.
But Nova Scotia's temporary and voluntary paid sick leave program falls short of providing the protection that all workers need, according to Unifor.
"This paid sick leave program runs for a scant 82 days and will only benefit those who get sick or require time off to get a COVID test, get vaccinated or self-isolate within that time frame," says Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. "On top of that, it's voluntary so it fails to protect workers employed at companies that don't want to bother doing the reimbursement paperwork and simply opt out."
Some workers will be left out of the program, according to the union.
"Four paid sick days will help some workers get through the next few weeks of the pandemic but the reality is people will still get sick after COVID-19," says Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic regional director. "This program also caps out at $20 an hour so many workers will still have to choose between their full pay and going to work sick. Premier Iain Rankin and his government can and must do better than this band-aid solution."
Unifor has been calling for all provinces to legislate a minimum of seven universal employer-paid sick days, and fourteen days during the pandemic and related public health emergencies. The union has also actively campaigned for priority vaccine access for workers who have to work outside the house and paid time to receive their vaccination.
Ontarians support the implementation of paid sick days for workers in the province by a margin of more than four to one, Unifor previously said.