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Increase of Paid Sick Leave Coverage in Canada

October 26, 2023 from City News


In a recent survey conducted by Statistics Canada, the landscape of paid sick leave coverage for front-line workers in the country has been under scrutiny. While there has been a notable increase in self-reported coverage since 1995, it remains far from universal.


According to the survey, in November 2022, approximately 64% of employees reported having paid sick leave coverage, a rise from 56% in November 1995. This suggests a positive trend, but the disparity among certain groups is still evident.


The analysis indicates that workers with full-time temporary jobs and non-unionized jobs, historically with lower rates of coverage, have shown an increase in their coverage. This development suggests a potential reduction in the coverage gap between different employment categories.


Despite overall improvements, the survey highlights that individuals with lower incomes are still less likely to have sick leave coverage. Only 17.2% of employees in the lowest 10% income bracket reported having insurance, while 86.7% in the top 10% income bracket claimed coverage.


Employees of small businesses, specifically those with fewer than 20 people, continue to face challenges in accessing paid sick leave. Less than one-third of workers in such establishments reported having coverage.


The survey also explores the impact of the British Columbian government’s decision in January 2022 to mandate all employees to accrue up to five sick days per year. Despite this policy shift, only 56% of the province’s workforce claimed to have taken paid sick time in 2022. This raises questions about the effective implementation and awareness of the new regulations.


Simon Black, an associate professor of labor studies at Brock University, emphasizes the difference between legal and effective coverage. He notes that while laws may mandate sick leave, its effectiveness depends on whether employees are aware of and able to access these benefits.


Black suggests that the government plays a crucial role in ensuring that workers are informed about their rights, including access to paid sick leave. The federal government imposed the obligation for 10 paid sick days on workers in federally regulated companies, effective in December of the previous year.


The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of paid sick leave. Public health directives mandating sick employees to stay home have prompted legislative efforts to address this issue. Black argues that companies resisting paid sick leave may be underestimating the costs associated with having unwell workers.


While there are positive trends in the evolution of paid sick leave coverage in Canada, challenges persist, particularly for certain demographics and small businesses.





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