March 26, 2021
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Minister of Health and Minister of
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing to express in the strongest possible way the urgent need for paid sick days to better support workers who need time off to properly isolate and recover from COVID-19.
The health and safety of our students, staff and their families continues to be our main priority as we help our school communities navigate the current pandemic and deal with a growing number of mental health concerns. With schools open, it’s paramount that we do everything in our power to protect our communities and curb the spread of COVID-19. However, for many people, it is not easy to forgo pay in order to quarantine or self-isolate when they are not feeling well.
Studies show that 80 to 90 percent of low-income workers across Canada have no access to paid sick leave, including TDSB parents, guardians, staff, adult learners and others. This is especially true for precariously employed and casual workers, such as occasional teachers and clerical staff.
Public Health experts and your government have expressed the importance of keeping schools open and the necessary measures that are needed to ensure the containment of the virus. However, we all know that this pandemic cannot be fully contained if valued workers who become sick are not able to stay home because they worry about the negative impact it will have on their financial situation. This is a reality for too many people.
Recently, the Toronto Board of Health wrote to your government to ask for paid sick leave to support workers, so that they are able to stay home safely and self-isolate when they are ill. The TDSB resolutely supports this request and urges your government to take immediate action to address it.
Therefore, we ask that you:
- require employers in Ontario to provide no less than five paid sick days annually to workers, after three months of employment, through amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 or through a different mechanism;
- provide necessary funding, fiscal relief, and/or supports to employers so that all workers in Ontario have access to no less than ten paid sick days annually in the event of a declared infectious disease emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- ensure all workers in Ontario have access to protected and paid emergency leave so that care can be provided to children, parents, or other family members who may become ill.
I appreciate your consideration and attention to these important matters. I am always available to continue this conversation and hope that you stay well and safe in the meantime.
Chair, Toronto District School Board