PEI

Greens push King government to provide paid sick leave for all Islanders

Under the current Employment Standards Act, employers are required to provide one sick day per year to employees who've been with them for five consecutive years.

Minister again commits to exploring issue when 'the business community gets back on their feet'

Green MLA Trish Altass told the legislature having access to paid sick leave for all would help P.E.I. stand out when attracting workers to fill labour gaps. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.)

Legislated paid sick days for all Islanders was once again raised in the legislature on Thursday.

Under the current Employment Standards Act, employers are required to provide one sick day per year to employees who've been with them for five consecutive years. The Greens also pushed the idea in the spring sitting of the legislature as part of the government's COVID response. 

"Dr. Morrison and [the Chief Public Health Office] have stated repeatedly throughout this pandemic that staying home when one is feeling unwell or showing any possible signs of COVID-19 is essential to prevent spread of the virus … when will this government legislate paid sick days for all workers?," Green MLA Trish Altass asked on Thursday.

"I do assure you, as we get through COVID and the business community gets back on their feet, we'll sit down and have a discussion to see what can be done with this," Minister Matthew MacKay told the legislature.

Fraction of fund spent

In the spring, the government introduced a $1 million emergency fund for Islanders who take time off work due to illness and don't have paid sick leave and don't qualify for federal support programs.

On Thursday, officials told CBC News that approximately $30,000 of that fund had been claimed to date.

"That is very low," Altass said.

"It does highlight to me that there may be some issues around access to this fund, whether people are aware of how to access it or whether it is really practically working and supporting our Island workers in the way that it is intended."

Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Matthew MacKay says he is proud of how his government has provided programs and funding to those in need during the pandemic. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.)

Altass said she wants the government to think about the future and not just the immediate crisis of COVID-19.

"I don't see that as a long term, a priority for this government," she said.

"Now is the time when we need to be making plans and we need to start getting long-term solutions in place based on what we have learned from COVID, and we know that having access to paid sick days is really important for workers."

MacKay also told the legislature that the P.E.I. Federation of Labour has been consulted on the issue.

"We also need to have discussions with our labour organizations and workers who aren't represented by a union," Altass said. 

"They are the ones who are directly impacted, and hearing their stories and experiences will be critical to understand just how important having access to paid sick days really is."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicola MacLeod grew up on P.E.I., where she is now a multi-platform reporter and producer for CBC. Got a story? Email nicola.macleod@cbc.ca

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