September 01, 2016

Everyone should have access to Personal Emergency Leave

Did you know that if you are working at a company with fewer than 50 workers you can be fired for taking an unpaid day off because of an illness or family emergency?  

Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) allows workers to take up to 10 days of unpaid leave per year to deal with personal illness, an emergency or an illness and/or urgent matter concerning a family member. In the absence of paid sick days in our laws, PEL is a basic right that many workers rely on, but unfortunately only in dire circumstances because it means losing pay. However, 1.7 million Ontario workers cannot even access this unpaid leave because the current law exempts workers in small workplaces.

Not having access to PEL has huge costs to our communities and our health. This is why emergency room physician Dr. Kate Hayman is speaking out. Every day she sees patients who end up in the ER with life-threatening conditions because they weren’t able to take a day off when they needed to.

Last month, the interim report of the Ontario government’s Changing Workplaces Review was published. Because of ongoing employer pressure on the issue of Personal Emergency Leave, the government is moving to make changes to PEL first.

How the Ministry of Labour responds will be a first test. Will the Ontario government stand up for 1.7 million workers, many of whom are workers in precarious jobs, who urgently need access to PEL? Or will they bow to employer pressure and keep the current exemptions and further restrict the flexibility of job-protected personal emergency leave?

We know that businesses are wanting to reduce the benefits of this emergency leave by creating new restrictions on how these days can be used. The reality is emergencies can happen in many ways. Who can predict in a year what type of emergency days we are going to need for illness, injuries, aging parents or sick children?

As the Fight for $15 & Fairness campaign, we are calling on the government to make the Personal Emergency Leave accessible to all! Share the video and help us get this message out. Then join us on October 1st at the Queen’s Park Rally to let the Ontario government know that we are standing up for decent work.

Watch the video now. Click here to share it on Facebook and here to share it on Twitter.