'Three sick days don't come close to giving our community the protection we need to fend off this emerging infectious disease'
With the World Health Organization declaring monkeypox a global health emergency, the NDP is calling on the Ontario government to provide workers with more paid sick days and other supports.
Three days is simply not enough, says Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto Centre MPP.
“[Premier] Doug Ford’s paltry three, temporary paid sick days have never been enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 – and Ford has refused to make these days permanent. With the isolation period for monkeypox lasting up to several weeks, three sick days don’t come close to giving our community the protection we need to fend off this emerging infectious disease,” she says.
This call comes just days after the Ontario government announced it is extending the COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit to March 31, 2023. Set to expire on July 31, 2022, and introduced in April 2021, the benefit requires employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave because of certain reasons related to COVID‑19.
Monkeypox on the rise
There were 326 confirmed monkeypox cases in Ontario between May 20 and July 25, 2022, and 250 of these cases were reported for Toronto, according to Public Health Ontario.
Wong-Tam stressed the disproportionate impact monkeypox is having on the 2SLGBTQ+ community. All but two of the 326 cases were among males, and cases were mostly identified among males who report sexual or intimate contact with other males (MSM), according to the public health unit.
“Monkeypox could not be happening at a worse time for my constituents,” she says. “Church and Wellesley Village was at the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and saw immense damage to main street businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Bars, clubs, bath houses and restaurants are still struggling to stay afloat after years of COVID-19. The last thing local small businesses need is another pandemic. In refusing, again, to provide adequate and permanent paid sick days to Ontarians in the face of the growing public health emergency of monkeypox, Ford is failing to protect peoples’ health.”
In November, a group of more than 30 employers from Ontario, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and Quebec sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to express their support for 10 paid sick days.