August 27, 2020

For safe schools everyone still needs paid sick days

With just days before schools across Canada are set to open, there is growing concern that our education system could become the next hotspot, spreading COVID-19 and other illnesses in our communities. 

For safe and healthy schools, we need paid sick days

Public health specialists are sounding the alarm advising parents to keep their children home at the first sign of any illness. [1]

But a report published by the Decent Work and Health Network shows that almost 60% of Canada’s workforce have no access to paid sick days. Those workers denied paid sick days are most likely to be in low-wage work, on the frontlines delivering services, with the least ability to work from home. These factors put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. [2]

Without paid sick days, few parents can afford to stay home and lose income when they or their kids are unwell. Because of systemic discrimination in the labour market, workers of colour, women, Indigenous workers and workers with disabilities are over-represented in precarious jobs. So paid sick days and decent work are also a matter of racial, gender, and disability justice. 

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are spiking in many provinces and Canada’s public health officers are now warning of a “potential surge in cases several times worse than what we’ve seen so far in Canada.” [3]

Safe Schools need Paid Sick Days

Will you join the August 29 day of action to demand paid sick days? Click here to let us know you’re coming.

Precarious work is a public health risk

Shockingly, both the public and private education systems contain many of the same risks that contributed to the explosion of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, including the fact many workers have no paid sick days and are working part-time or occasionally so they need to work in multiple locations to earn enough income to survive. The extensive use of supply or substitute teachers is just one example. [3]

Federal Sickness Benefit falls short

Unfortunately, the recently announced federal Recovery Sickness Benefit falls short of what workers need to keep us safe -- and far short of what health professionals have been calling for. 

In order to apply for the benefit, a worker must already have lost 60% of their weekly income due to illness, and only after-the-fact can they apply for benefits. This is the kind of barrier health professionals warned against. Any requirement that puts peoples’ income at risk acts as a deterrent -- especially for parents and those in low-wage jobs.

Furthermore, the federal program is only temporary, which makes little sense since we know flu seasons occur annually and since most health experts predict a second wave of COVID months from now. We can certainly anticipate future epidemics and we should be putting effective, lasting policies in place to reduce the health and economic impacts of outbreaks.

So, while the federal Sickness Benefit will be useful for some workers, it doesn't go far enough for the workers most at risk now and in the future. That’s why we are redoubling our efforts to demand permanent, paid sick days -- before it’s too late. 

Principles for effective paid sick days

Click here to send an email to the Premier and Prime Minister.

August 29 - Day of action for paid sick days and #SafeSeptember

On Saturday, August 29, parents, health providers, educators, frontline workers, and community members are taking action to demand legislated paid sick days for all. We can curb the spread of illnesses like COVID-19, but only if every single one of us can stay home at the first sign of illness, whether they or their family member is sick.  

Will you join us on August 29? Click here to register, and read on for more inspiration.

Here’s what you can do: 

  • Join or organize an action in your community. Scroll down for a list of upcoming events.
  • Send an email (click here) and ask 3 friends to also send it.
  • Call your provincial representative to demand legislated paid sick days for all. Type your postal code here to find the phone number for your MLA/MPP/etc.
  • Post a picture on social media calling for at least 7 paid sick days and an additional 14 paid days during public health outbreaks. There are lots of printable posters available here

Thumbnails of leaflets

Click here for printable leaflets.

Join an action on August 29


  • 11:30 am to 12:30 pm (EDT)
  • Monk Public School - 250 Wellington Street
  • To RSVP and share on Facebook, click here.


  • 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (EDT)
  • 3750 Lawrence Avenue East
  • To RSVP and share on Facebook, click here.


  • 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm (EDT)
  • Memorial Park, 163 Minto Street 
  • To RSVP and share on Facebook, click here.


  • 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm (EDT)
  • Dufferin Station (southwest corner)
  • To RSVP and share on Facebook, click here.


  • 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm (PDT)
  • Queen Alexandra Elementary School, 1300 East Broadway
  • To RSVP and share on Facebook, click here.

For a list of other upcoming decent work events near you, visit our Facebook page here or our website here