Ontario’s long-awaited paid sick day program — created to guard susceptible staff from COVID-19 — has seen far much less uptake than anticipated, new figures reveal.
Premier Doug Ford’s authorities introduced the Ontario COVID-19 Employee Revenue Safety Profit in late April, after the pandemic’s third wave was already receding.
The federal government reimburses employers for paying their staff as much as $200 per day for as many as three days if they cannot do their job for any vary of causes associated to COVID-19, together with getting examined, caring for sick relations, and struggling unwanted effects from vaccination.
As of July 16, claims had been submitted for 39,887 workers because the program took impact, with a mean of 1.8 days claimed per employee, in accordance with.
To place these numbers in context: over the identical 13-week interval, Ontario reported greater than 126,000 confirmed new instances of COVID-19 and administered some 13 million doses of vaccine.This system is because of finish on Sept. 25.
Demand for the sick pay profit seems to be vastly decrease than the federal government anticipated. When this system was launched, provincial officers estimated the fee at $750 million to $1.5 billion.
The claims made as of Wednesday — simply previous the mid-way level of the time-limited program — whole $13.2 million. That is lower than 2 per cent of the low-end estimate.
The variety of claims up to now could not absolutely replicate the variety of sick days that can finally be reimbursed as a result of employers can wait to use for reimbursement as much as 4 months after the employee was paid.
Up to date figures supplied to CBC Information on Thursday by Ontario’s MInistry of Labour, Coaching and Abilities Improvement counsel use of this system could also be accelerating. For the week from July 8 to 14, employers submitted $2.2 million in claims. From July 15 to 21, submitted claims totalled $3.1 million.
The Ford authorities introduced within the sick pay program solely after sustained strain from well being consultants and labour organizations, and greater than a yr after the pandemic started.
A physician who belongs to one of many advocacy teams that pushed for paid sick days says the figures don’t counsel this system is a flop.
“We’ve got to acknowledge that this system was carried out on the tail finish of wave three of the pandemic, at a time when vaccine uptake was larger, at a time additionally once we have been seeing COVID-19 numbers drastically go down,” stated Gaibrie Stephen, an emergency doctor in Peel area and a member of the advocacy group Respectable Work and Well being Community.
He stated the sick pay claims up to now quantity to “about 80,000 [paid] days that in any other case would not have existed, which we should always acknowledge as a small win.”
Advocates lengthy argued that paid sick days are an important component to slowing the unfold of an infectious illness corresponding to COVID-19. The rationale is that persons are extra prone to carry infections into the office in the event that they face shedding pay for taking a break day sick.
Roughly half of the workforce doesn’t have entry to employer-paid sick days, in accordance with Statistics Canada.
Whereas Stephen is cautious of drawing conclusions from the sick pay claims figures too rapidly, he stated they appear to point that predictions staff would flagrantly abuse the profit have been inaccurate.
The Canadian Federation of Impartial Enterprise surveyed its Ontario members final month in regards to the provincial paid sick days for COVID-19. Among the many 1,700 corporations that responded, solely 19 per cent stated any workers had made use of this system.
Nonetheless, CFIB discovered that uptake was markedly larger amongst employers that have been working as important providers, corresponding to manufacturing (36 per cent) and development (30 per cent.)
“This rolled out in a interval the place quite a lot of small companies have been closed, proper in the midst of the third wave,” stated Ryan Mallough, the group’s senior director of provincial affairs for Ontario.
“It might have been very totally different if all small companies have been open and also you had a full workforce coming in each day,” he stated in an interview Thursday.
However with many small retailers, gyms and eating places absolutely or partially shut down in Ontario till this month, many workers weren’t working.
“[There are] simply not quite a lot of alternatives to reap the benefits of a sick day when there isn’t any day to take off sick from,” Mallough stated,