Province introducing paid sick leave as of Oct. 1

Critics claim change to employment standards 'far from sufficient'

Province introducing paid sick leave as of Oct. 1

Workers in Prince Edward Island will have legal rights to paid sick leave later this year.

Island workers will have access to paid sick leave (PSL) effective Oct. 1, 2024 following changes to the province’s Employment Standards Act.

“With the shifting landscape on paid sick leave across the country, proclaiming a date to make the changes to our employment legislation come into effect is a step in the right direction,” said Jenn Redmond, minister of workforce, advanced learning and population. “We know there will be more important conversations on paid sick days, and we will continue to approach them in a fair and balanced way for all parties involved.”

Roughly two-thirds of Canadian men (63.4 per cent) and women (65.1 per cent) had access to PSL in 2022, according to Statistics Canada (StatCan). These numbers are up from 56.6 per cent and 54.8 per cent, respectively, in 1995.

The act gives workers one day of paid sick leave after 12 months of employment at the same workplace; two paid days after 24 months; and three paid days after 36 months under the Employment Standards Act.

Before the amendments, the Liberal bill would have guaranteed workers five paid sick days a year after 180 days of consecutive employment, according to CBC.

‘Diluted’ sick leave offering

While stakeholders welcomed the coming of paid sick leave for P.E.I. workers, they also expressed disappointment with the legislation.

"While I am glad the government finally took this step forward, it's deeply disappointing to witness how they've diluted the essence of our original bill," said interim Liberal Leader Hal Perry, according to CBC.

"While one day of paid sick leave is a start, it's far from sufficient, particularly in a time when Islanders are grappling with unprecedented cost of living pressures."

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 864 is also disappointed with the limiting nature of the legislation, especially as the rule does not apply to unionized workers.

To allow three paid sick days to only non-unionized workers is unnecessary union-busting, said the union in a press release. 

“Unions have been fighting for paid sick days in every workplace for as long as they’ve existed,” said Craig Walsh, UFCW Canada’s Atlantic Regional director. “By leaving unionized workplaces out of this legislation, the provincial government is essentially punishing workers who have organized to have a democratic voice in their workplace. We’re working with the PEI Federation of Labour to get the legislation improved to provide at least three paid sick days, if not more, to all workers.”

Job-protected leave credits for a variety of reasons proved to be popular among residents of Northwest Territories, according to a previous report. And paid sick leave pays off, according to experts.

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