Ontario’s long-awaited paid sick day program — created to guard susceptible staff from COVID-19 — has seen far much less uptake than anticipated, new figures reveal.
Premier Doug Ford’s authorities introduced the Ontario COVID-19 Employee Revenue Safety Profit in late April, after the pandemic’s third wave was already receding.
As of July 16, claims had been submitted for 39,887 workers for the reason that program took impact, with a median of 1.8 days claimed per employee, in response to printed provincial numbers.
To place these numbers in context: over the identical 13-week interval, Ontario reported greater than 126,000 confirmed new instances of COVID-19 and administered some 13 million doses of vaccine.The program is because of finish on Sept. 25.
Demand for the sick pay profit seems to be vastly decrease than the federal government anticipated. When the program was launched, provincial officers estimated the price at $750 million to $1.5 billion.
The claims made as of Wednesday — simply previous the mid-way level of the time-limited program — complete $13.2 million. That is lower than 2 per cent of the low-end estimate.
The variety of claims up to now might not totally replicate the variety of sick days that can ultimately be reimbursed as a result of employers can wait to use for reimbursement as much as 4 months after the employee was paid.
Up to date figures offered to CBC Information on Thursday by Ontario’s MInistry of Labour, Coaching and Abilities Improvement counsel use of the program could also be accelerating. For the week from July 8 to 14, employers submitted $2.2 million in claims. From July 15 to 21, submitted claims totalled $3.1 million.
The Ford authorities introduced within the sick pay program solely after sustained stress from well being specialists and labour organizations, and greater than a yr after the pandemic started.
A physician who belongs to one of many advocacy teams that pushed for paid sick days says the figures don’t counsel the program is a flop.
“We have now to acknowledge that the program was carried out on the tail finish of wave three of the pandemic, at a time when vaccine uptake was increased, at a time additionally once we have been seeing COVID-19 numbers drastically go down,” mentioned Gaibrie Stephen, an emergency doctor in Peel area and a member of the advocacy group Respectable Work and Well being Community.
He mentioned the sick pay claims up to now quantity to “about 80,000 [paid] days that in any other case would not have existed, which we must always acknowledge as a small win.”
Advocates lengthy argued that paid sick days are an important component to slowing the unfold of an infectious illness reminiscent of COVID-19. The rationale is that individuals are extra prone to carry infections into the office in the event that they face dropping pay for taking a day off sick.
Roughly half of the workforce doesn’t have entry to employer-paid sick days, in response to Statistics Canada.
Whereas Stephen is cautious of drawing conclusions from the sick pay claims figures too shortly, he mentioned they appear to point that predictions staff would flagrantly abuse the profit have been inaccurate.
The Canadian Federation of Unbiased Enterprise surveyed its Ontario members final month in regards to the provincial paid sick days for COVID-19. Among the many 1,700 firms that responded, solely 19 per cent mentioned any workers had made use of the program.
Nevertheless, CFIB discovered that uptake was markedly increased amongst employers that have been working as important providers, reminiscent of manufacturing (36 per cent) and development (30 per cent.)
“This rolled out in a interval the place loads of small companies have been closed, proper in the midst of the third wave,” mentioned Ryan Mallough, the group’s senior director of provincial affairs for Ontario.
“It may have been very completely different if all small companies have been open and also you had a full workforce coming in day by day,” he mentioned in an interview Thursday.
However with many small retailers, gyms and eating places totally or partially shut down in Ontario till this month, many workers weren’t working.
“[There are] simply not loads of alternatives to make the most of a sick day when there isn’t any day to take off sick from,” Mallough mentioned,