Millions of Ontario workers get no sick pay, but that could change

May 12, 2017

Working as a personal trainer at GoodLife Fitness in Toronto earlier this year, DeJanai Love fainted, hit her head and suffered a concussion. 

She saw her doctor, took the weekend off, then — because she isn't paid if she calls in sick — went back to the job. 

"It was making me dizzy, the headaches were coming back and I couldn't handle it," Love said Wednesday in an interview with CBC News. "So I told my doctor what was going on and she said, 'You need at least two weeks off.' So I let her know I can't do that, because I cannot afford to take time off." 

Love is just one of an estimated three million workers in Ontario who get no paid sick days. The province's workplace law does not require any employer to pay staff when they call in sick, but that could soon change. 

Later this month, Premier Kathleen Wynne's government will release a report expected to recommend sweeping reforms to the province's employment laws. Sick pay is one of the items being reviewed, and advocacy groups are urging the Liberals to mandate seven paid sick days per year for all full-time employees.

Paid sick days could help health system, advocates say

"There's clear health evidence that paid sick days are good for workers," said Dr. Kate Hayman, a Toronto emergency room physician and a member of an advocacy group called the Decent Work and Health Network. "Right now in Ontario, so many people don't have access to them." 

Hayman says she sees people every night who come to the emergency room for treatment of ongoing illnesses because they would lose pay if they took time off during the work day. 

"People can't look after their health because we don't have the employment legislation in place to make sure that they can get the care they need," said Hayman in an interview with CBC News. 

Read more: Millions of Ontario workers get no sick pay, but that could change