84 doctors, health experts & economists across Canada call on BC government to show national leadership with 10 days paid sick leave
As economists and health experts from across Canada, we urge the BC government to implement a robust employer-paid sick leave program that includes at least 10 paid sick days for workers.
Employer-paid sick days are already a right of workers in most developed countries around the world, including a majority of OECD countries, because they strengthen the economy, public health and dignity for working people.
We are looking to the BC government to show national leadership because its actions will set the bar for all provinces and territories at a time when, due to the pandemic, proper paid sick leave is more important than ever. The incoming federal government has committed to enacting the right to 10 employer-paid sick days for workers in federally-regulated industries within its first 100 days. Ten days should be the minimum standard for workers in all provinces and territories.
This approach would also be in line with countries such as New Zealand and Australia, where workers have a right to 10 employer-paid sick days. It would still fall short of the stronger protections in countries like Sweden (14 days) and Germany (30 days).
We are all better off when people don’t go to work sick.1 At a societal level, this means less illness and death, lower health care costs and higher economic productivity. A right to paid sick days has always been sound public policy, and the pandemic has made this clearer than ever. As the BC seniors’ advocate recently reported, long-term care and assisted living facilities that “provided fewer days of paid sick leave were more likely to experience larger outbreaks.”2
Paid sick days are also a matter of equity. A majority of British Columbians don’t currently have access to paid sick days, and low-wage workers—disproportionately women and racialized—are the worst off: 89% of those with incomes below $30,000 have no paid sick days.3
This lack of access to paid sick leave for low-wage and precarious workers underscores the need for BC’s program to apply to the broadest possible group of workers whether full time, part time or casual, and regardless of immigration status. The program should also apply across all sizes of employers. Infectious diseases don’t discriminate based on firm size or status of workers, and neither should the right to stay home when sick.
Not surprisingly, studies have shown the individual and public health benefits of paid sick days. As a recent report from the BC Federation of Labour notes, in the United States, cities with legislated paid sick days saw a 40% reduction in influenza rates during flu waves compared to cities without paid sick day legislation. Paid sick days for food service workers was associated with a 22% decline in food-borne illness rates. Workers without paid sick days were three times more likely to delay or forego medical care, and paid sick days increased the use of preventative care including boosting the administration of vaccine doses.4
A lack of paid sick days imposes major economic costs in the form of “presenteeism,” which is the problem of attending work when sick, leading to lower productivity, spread of illness and cascading absences among co-workers. As a recent report summarized it, “Evidence consistently demonstrates that the cost of presenteeism in lost productivity is higher than absenteeism.”5
While this is a provincial policy decision, policy-makers are watching from across the country. For our collective health, safety and prosperity, we call on BC to set the standard and lead the provinces and territories by guaranteeing the right to a minimum of 10 employer-paid sick days for all workers.
1. For recent reviews of the evidence, see:
- Decent Work and Health Network. Before it’s too late: How to close the paid sick days gap during COVID-19 and beyond. August 2020.
- Thompson, A. et al. Benefits of paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. Science Briefs of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. April 2021.
- Tucker, E., and Vosko, L. Designing Paid and Protected Employment Leaves for Short-Term Sickness and Caregiving. Institute for Research on Public Policy. October 2021.
- BC Federation of Labour. An Equitable Recovery – The Case for Paid Sick Leave as a Right of Employment in BC. September 2021.
2. Office of the Seniors’ Advocate of British Columbia. Review of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Care Homes in British Columbia. October 2021.
3. Ivanova, I. and Srauss, K. Paid sick leave finally on the agenda: Here’s why it matters. Policy Note. May 27, 2020.
4. BC Federation of Labour. An Equitable Recovery – The Case for Paid Sick Leave as a Right of Employment in BC. September 2021.
5. Decent Work and Health Network. Before it’s too late: How to close the paid sick days gap during COVID-19 and beyond. August 2020.
Marina Adshade, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia
Cheryl Anderson, Retired Physician
Pat Armstrong, Professor Emeritus, York University
Robert (Bob) Ascah, Research Fellow, The Parkland Institute
Dr. David Beaudin, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (New Brunswick)
Dr. John Blatherwick, Chief Medical Health Officer (retired), Vancouver Coastal Health
John Calvert, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
John Carsley, Clinical Associate Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health
Ming-Ka Chan, Pediatrician, University of Manitoba
DT Cochrane, Economist, Canadians for Tax Fairness
Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University
James Colliander, Professor of Mathematics, UBC
Daniel Coombs, Professor, UBC
Robert Dimand, Professor of Economics, Brock University
Joe Dolecki, Associate Professor of Economics, Brandon University
Naheed Dosani, Palliative Care Physician, University of Toronto, Department of Family & Community Medicine, Division of Palliative Care
Monika Dutt, Public Health and Family Physician
Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, Vancouver General Hospital Emergency Physician (retired)
Colin Forrester, MD, OEHealth
David Green, Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, UBC
Finola Hackett, MD, CCFP
Dr. Brenda Hardie
Dr. Theresa Healy, University of Northern British Columbia
James Heilman, MD, CCFP (EM)
Alexander Hemingway, Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Ian Hudson, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Manitoba
Gustavo Indart, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
Iglika Ivanova, Senior Economist and Public Interest Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Andrew Jackson, Adjunct Professor, Carleton University
Dr. Mandana Kaviani
J. Rhys Kesselman, Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Lynn Kobierski
Dr. Kelly Lau, UBC
Audrey Laurin-Lamothe, Assistant Professor, York University
Michael Lebowitz, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Simon Fraser University
Marc Lee, Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Dr. Melissa Lem, President-elect, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Joel Lexchin, Professor Emeritus, School of Health Policy and Management, York University
Andrew Longhurst, PhD student and health policy researcher, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University
David MacDonald, Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Hugh Mackenzie, Principal, Hugh Mackenzie & Associates
Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, Professor of Economics, Winston-Salem State University
Geoff Mann, Director, Centre for Global Political Economy, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Caroline Mariano
Dr. Rita McCracken, UBC
Kim McGrail, Professor
Dr. Margaret McGregor, Department of Family Practice, UBC
Jesse McLaren, Emergency physician and Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Decent Work and Health Network
Lindsay McLaren, Professor, University of Calgary
Melville McMillan, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta
Dr. Shauna McQuarrie
Dr. Diane Meschino, Women’s College Hospital
Dr. Ulrike Meyer, Northern Health Authority
Tamara Miller, MD, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Shazma Mithani, Emergency Physician
Dr. Birinder Narang, REACH Community Health Centre
Dr. Lucila Nerenberg, MD
Brian O’Connor, Retired Medical Health Officer (retired), Vancouver Coastal Health
Lars Osberg, McCulloch Professor of Economics, Dalhousie University
Dr. Andre Piver, MD
Paul Pugh, Thunder Bay City Council (retired), Council of Canadians
Dr. Janet Ray, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Dr. Marianne Rev, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (BC)
Dr. David Robinson, Laurentian University, Retired
Louis-Philippe Rochon, Professor, Editor-in-Chief of the Review of Political Economy, Laurentian University
Dr. Maria Sadouski, MD
Sune Sandbeck, Research Department, Unifor
Stephanie Sarmiento, RN
James Sawler, Professor, Department of Economics, Mount Saint Vincent University
Mario Seccareccia, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Ottawa
Garry Sran, Economist
Jim Stanford, Economist and Director, Centre for Future Work
Caroline Stigant, Nephrologist
Tim Takaro, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Lindsay Tedds, Associate Professor, University of Calgary
Kaylie Tiessen, Research Department, Unifor
Shannon Turner, Executive Director, Public Health Association of British Columbia
Dr. Joe Vipond, Masks4Canada, ProtectOurProvinceAlberta
Leah Vosko, Professor, York University
Robert Winston, MD, Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, BCC (retired)
Sabrina Wong, Professor, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research and School of Nursing
Armine Yalnizyan, Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers, Atkinson Foundation
Lois Yelland, Medical Health Officer (retired), Vancouver Coastal Health
Karina Zeidler, MD, CCFP
The following have signed on since the letter’s publication:
Kevin Milligan, Professor of Economics, Vancouver School of Economics
Rob Gillezeau, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Victoria
Dawn Hemingway, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Northern British Columbia
Topics: COVID-19, Economy, Employment & labour, Health care, Racism & racial justice, Women