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Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai and NDP MLA Emily Tredger

NDP pushes for permanent paid sick days for all illnesses

The territory has extended the temporary paid sick leave rebate for COVID-19 yet again, but the NDP is asking when permanent paid sick days for all illnesses are coming; maybe next year, says the government.

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on November 22, 2022

The territory has extended the temporary paid sick leave rebate for COVID-19 yet again, but the NDP is asking when permanent paid sick days for all illnesses are coming; maybe next year, says the government.

The Yukon’s new plan for managing COVID-19, released Nov. 10, is easing pandemic restrictions as the territory shifts to start learning to live with the virus.

For a fourth time, paid sick days will be available through government rebates for anyone who misses out on work because they get sick with COVID-19. 

But after two years of temporary rebates, NDP MLA Emily Tredger wants to know why the government hasn’t made paid sick days permanently available for all workers, regardless of the illness.

“The chief medical officer of health recommends that people stay home as long as they have symptoms of any illness,” she said during question period Monday.

“Unfortunately for many people, it’s not that simple. Many Yukoners face the choice between staying home from work or earning the wages they need to put food on the table and to cover their rent and mortgage.”

Tredger asked Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai how long he intends to keep extending the temporary program, which now expires after March 31, 2023.

Further, she asked whether the Yukon will implement a permanent paid sick leave program for all workers.

Pillai said the government is working on a permanent model of paid sick leave, though it’s in the preliminary stages.

“We know that there needs to be a plan going forward and that is what we are certainly working on,” he said, “but we do need to have a conversation with the business sector, the private sector, as well as other stakeholders before we decide what happens after March 31.”

Those conversations will determine how a permanent paid sick leave program – which Pillai told reporters Monday the government is seriously pursuing – is funded.

A government panel co-chaired by Tredger and Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn has already looked at the logistics of paid sick leave and how it could be implemented.

The Making Work Safe panel published a report last January that recommended 10 paid sick days “per employment year” be legislated for all Yukon workers.

The report also said employers shouldn’t be harmed in the process.

To ease the burden on the private sector, Pillai told media, any permanent program would likely be heavily funded by the government. He said it’s too early to say how much such a program might cost.

Since March 2020, the government has spent nearly $3.5 million on the paid sick leave rebate program for COVID-19, Pillai told reporters.

However, that doesn’t necessarily indicate how much a permanent program would cost, he said, since the scope of illness-related absences would be broader.

Funding is only one component, though.

The Department of Community Services is working on policy that would make paid sick days part of the Yukon Employment Standards Act, Pillai said.

“That (policy work) is really focused on identifying who a program like this would support, what’s the scope of the program,” he told media.

He noted the complexities in drafting policy that’s supposed to cover all Yukon workers.

“Lots of people that are working in the gig economy, does that get covered?” he asked.

“In some cases, they’re contract workers. In some cases, they are working for firms that are located in other places in the world, but they love living here.

“And so there’s lots for us to review and to contemplate before being able to roll it out.”

The Yukon was the first of many provinces and territories to offer temporary sick leave benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, but few governments have implemented permanent paid sick leave since.

The federal government will require all federally regulated private sector businesses to provide 10 paid sick days as of Dec. 1.

That covers 945,000 workers in a variety of industries across Canada, like bank and postal service employees.

British Columbia has the largest paid sick leave program of any province or territory.

Five paid sick days became available for all workers under that province’s Employment Standards Act at the start of this year.

Prince Edward Island and Quebec also offer paid sick leave, and did so before the COVID-19 pandemic set in, but both require years of employment to be eligible for up to two days in Quebec, and only one in P.E.I.

Should the Yukon government implement the recommended 10 paid sick days next year, it would be the largest paid sick leave program of any province or territory.

But the timeline is still unclear. Pillai said there’s a chance it could be in place before the temporary COVID-19 rebate expires after March 31, but consultation, funding and policy work could take more time.

In that case, he said the temporary benefit would likely be renewed again, but a permanent program is very much in the works.

“My sense going forward is we want to get this work done,” he said.

Tredger told reporters Monday that the current temporary benefits aren’t good enough in the interim.

“The CMOH (chief medical officer of health) is saying that people need to stay home when they’re sick – that that’s the best thing we can do to prevent the spread of illness,” she said.

“And so we have to make that possible for people. It’s no good to recommend that if people can’t actually do it.”

Employees who miss work after testing positive for COVID-19 are currently eligible for up to 10 days of paid sick leave through the temporary rebate program.

Yukon businesses aren’t required to offer paid sick leave for other illnesses.

“We’ve heard really heartbreaking stories,” Tredger said of her work on the Making Work Safe panel.

“We heard from people who said, ‘every time I’m sick, I have to figure out what I’m going to sell to try and cover the lost wages.’

“We heard lots of those stories from Yukoners. And people were really clear that they wanted paid sick leave.”

Comments (24)

Up 27 Down 1

Not a chance on Nov 24, 2022 at 5:06 pm

Teachers on call get no sick leave, even if they work every single school day in the year. Further, they are not paid holiday pay nor stat holiday pay nor do they get any training nor job security. And if they get Covid they are outta luck. And the government wonders why they have very few substitute teachers and almost none willing to work in rural locations.
Government should make their ridiculous policies for their own employees and then follow them. Keep your nose out of the private sector completely. It's bad enough that businesses have to pay more and more taxes, more WCB fees, more CPP and EI contributions and hidden taxes, stat holidays (another one bites the dust) and every fee and license and then keep hundreds of inspectors employed coming up with new policies for the government go gouge yet more dollars.
Honestly, you'd think that selling legal marijuana would be filling your coffers but no - the reckless spending goes on and on with no consequences and more red tape. We are not really sheep so stop it with the fleecing already!

Up 25 Down 3

Socialism and fascism are precursors to all out communism… Toe the bread-line! on Nov 23, 2022 at 4:04 pm

Dear Brian Edelman on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:14 pm:

Sorry Brian - In government, attendance management programs are seen as a matter of harassment and discrimination. You will do nothing because you can do nothing. Besides, private businesses are tax cheats according to headmaster Justin T.

Your society is being restructured in light of your ongoing privilege. The capitalist classes have been taking advantage of people for too long! What right do you have to sell recreational machines when there are those who cannot afford them!

They are an unnecessary burden on the carbon footprint! Besides, with the disappearance of the commons all non-aboriginals peoples will be unable to snowmobile, fish, or hunt on traditional lands - Thank KW for that.

Viva la revolution! Equity for everyone! Sick days for everyone, for all my friends!

Up 8 Down 58

Wes Larson on Nov 23, 2022 at 2:49 pm

I give credit where it’s due. My hat off to you Miss White. I salute the fine work you are putting in.

Up 21 Down 3

Charlie's Aunt on Nov 23, 2022 at 12:57 pm

I think for most employees offering paid sick leave, it is covered by insurance they take out. Not all small businesses can afford that and employees need to realize it may mean $1 less an hour on their wages if they did. I am surprised by Geoff's comment that Wal-Mart doesn't offer it but possibly they do only for full time employees. Juniper is correct in saying YT used to pay out a percentage of unused sick leave on retirement. This was an incentive not to abuse it. I worked with Fed employees who routinely abused their paid sick leave. It used to be after 3 continuous days or 7 separate days in a year a med cert was required but system became so easy to abuse after union negotiated and 3/7 was changed to 7/10. That was nonsense; referring to pre-Covid times, if you are sick for more than 3 days you probably need to see a doc. Feds never paid out unused sick leave but credits were carried over each year. When I retired I left 14 months of credits behind. Wow, I could have had an extra year of vacation!!!!

Up 30 Down 2

Northerner on Nov 23, 2022 at 12:36 pm

If common sense was lard, most people wouldn't be able to grease a pan.

Up 14 Down 4

Josey Wales on Nov 23, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Hmmm...like many grandiose plan, not well thought out.
Most folks if polled away from baked cafe, would agree they are “sick” of politicians post Kung-Flu.
Good chance it now has penetrated to the marrow, chronic Vs virtue like acute too.
Translation...will now always be...”sick” of politicians!
Pay out coming? Rhetorical comrade, as likely as accountability in the profession of politics.

Up 17 Down 4

iBrian on Nov 23, 2022 at 12:02 pm

If the normal work week was 4 days on 3 days off and 10hr days. Productivity would be higher, and closer to a real balance in life.
Amazing how many days you don’t need off if you have a weekday off

Up 50 Down 3

Shameful Consequences on Nov 23, 2022 at 8:47 am

NDP should consider the consequences. Like landlords having no choice but to evict after being prohibited from raising rent a reasonable amount, if this passes employers will begin firing the people taking excessive sick leave. Good luck getting the next job after a track record of absenteeism. How will they pay their bills then, NDP?

I have this crazy theory that the ever elusive definition of ‘common sense’ is the result of considering the consequences of the action you are about to take before you take said action. That if you stick to that definition of common sense, you’ll likely end up with a reasonably good life. Then put through the lens of democracy, you expect to lose some small portion of self reliance in order to maintain peace and good governance.

Kate White’s personal brand on the NDP label is so far, far, far out to left field that democracy and common sense are considered triggering. New ‘Democrat’, sure, I believe you.

New Theftocrat Party maybe? If you steal a lot from one person, you’re a criminal. Steal a little from everyone then you’re a politician living an expenses-paid lifestyle with a glitterati pension the generation coming up behind you will never be able to pay off.

No one should have to go to work. Everyone should be able to get fat on the social safety net. Business shouldn’t use land. Gas tanks fill with ‘sunshiny feels’.

Shame, shame, shame.

Up 42 Down 4

Max Mack on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:46 pm

Sounds like the Liberals and their NDP allies are going to ram this policy through come h** or high water. Who cares what it costs small business. Who cares how much of these extra costs will be passed onto the consumer (and it will). Who cares whether the program meaningfully reduces contagion spread (hint: it won't). Who cares whether the program is effectively managed. Who cares what other programs or services might be more deserving of our dollars.

There is a reason why small businesses do not typically provide paid sick leave.

With inflation on a tear, you'd think our highfalutin politicians would have better things to lobby for.

Up 44 Down 4

Ailing Altruism on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:33 pm

The mental health leave day becomes the unscheduled two-week paid binge??? Kate, where’d your brain go?

Up 41 Down 3

Juniper Jackson on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:31 pm

Mr. Capp. I appreciate your comment. However, I would bet that 99% of the work force will use up their sick days every year whether they are sick or not, and will save up sick days, go into work anyway with a cold or flu so they can take that 4 day weekend at Easter or Christmas.

In all the years i was with YTG, who does have paid sick leave..it was paid for..you bet YTG employee's use it up. Why shouldn't they? It's given them, no Dr slip needed. I don't think you get paid out for sick leave anymore, but when i left YTG, retired, i got 338 days of sick leave paid out. I think this is a bad move for small business, but a great move for the folks that didn't want to work anyway.

Up 43 Down 6

Juniper Jackson on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:23 pm

OMFG..the NDP have got to go.

Up 32 Down 5

A on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:43 pm

How about some paid mental health days? I hate having to use my sick days for a mental health problem. It’s unfair! Because then I run out of sick leave and have to come up with some creative bullshyt story so I can use Personal Leave credits to watch the World Cup soccer matches.

Government work is exhausting… There are just so many ways to get paid for doing nothing that it can be overwhelming at times… You know, to create the right stories to maximize the burden of your union protected entitlements.

Up 31 Down 4

bonanzajoe on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:19 pm

Anybody who wants to take sick days other than those allowed, should have to produce a doctor's report. No report, no pay.

Up 52 Down 3

Brian Edelman on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:14 pm

This will cost the private sector tens of millions of dollars. To give them a bit of reassurance that it will not be abused, can the YTG release information that their employees get sick as much on a Wednesday as a Friday?

Up 36 Down 3

marylaker on Nov 22, 2022 at 6:34 pm

All Yukon employees (not business owners), already get 124 days off a year out of 365, which means fully one third of each year, we are off work. That includes a minimum of 10 paid vacation days, 10 paid statutory holidays, and 104 weekend days.

Maybe people who feel like they need a day off because they are not well, could come in on another day to cover for another sick worker. Working 2 days of out 3 seems to leave room for covering for each other. I'm just not sure it's the responsibility of an employer to pay someone to stay home when sick. That sounds more like a medical system responsibility to me. I'd be looking to get rid of workers who called in sick a lot if I were an employer. First of all it's totally inconvenient, but then to have to pay for people to be sick on top of it is too much to ask. You really cannot tell if the person is legitimately sick probably half the time, and let's say someone really IS sickly, and needs another 10 days off a year PAID. Well you are not going to want to hire that person! So it becomes an issue of marginalizing people with health conditions.

Frankly speaking, I think a lot of people will just start saying, "I've still got sick days to use up", in the private sector like many already do in government. There has to be something holding people back from that. Some are going to see it as their due, I guarantee you that.

Up 39 Down 4

Dallas on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:50 pm

Typical of Kate White and the dippers, I’ll wager a hundred bucks there isn’t an NDP supporter that owns a business that thinks this is a good idea. Our country, our territory and the city are in trouble and the common denominator is the Liberal NDP alliance, an election can’t come soon enough.

Up 21 Down 7

Get some help on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:12 pm

Context is everything. This comes hot on the heels of a call to declare ill those who opted not to be vaccinated. They’re not ill in body, so let’s declare them ill in mind, dope them into submission and get them completely reliant on government.

Up 37 Down 5

covidbc on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:04 pm

The NDP has given me a headache.
How many days off will I get?

Up 30 Down 3

how about this idea on Nov 22, 2022 at 4:13 pm

When you take out mandatory vacation pay (10 days a year), statutory holidays (10 days a year), and weekends (104 days a year), there are only 241 working days in a Yukon work year. Yukoners already get exactly one third of all the days of the year, OFF. Yes, we work 2 days and get a day off. And that's for the least endowed workers. Of course this does not apply to business owers who get no 'paid holidays', and often work weekends and so on, but let's not worry ourselves about them.

I suggest that working 2 days in 3, as is the case now, seems to already have plenty of wiggle room for people to stay home and then make up their missed days of work when someone else feels sick enough to stay home.

Up 18 Down 45

Geoff Capp on Nov 22, 2022 at 3:29 pm

Paid sick leave should be funded like WCB funds - employers pay in and it is paid out to employees who cannot work due to illness. I look at this from the view that those who work while sick are not doing anyone any favour - it is bad for long term health, it spreads illness around. I would say that any employer who is willing to pay employees who are off sick would not have to pay into the shared fund, but they would pay, one way or the other.

When I worked as a cashier at Wal-Mart, I was getting a cold every five or six weeks, probably from contact with customers and the merchandise I was ringing through. Chastised for being off sick (even without pay), I gave up and simply came to work... with stuffed, runny nose. Is that, as a society, what we really want?

Up 81 Down 10

Jim on Nov 22, 2022 at 2:42 pm

Doesn’t it seem puzzling that this issue of paid sick days never was a top issue before Covid 19? We all used to take off for a cold or flu and it was a cost of being an employee. We have never leaned on the employer or the government as much as we do now. I’m not sure why the government is not trying to make life more affordable by reducing their share of your wages that they take. If their hand wasn’t going deeper and deeper into our pockets all the time, we might just be able to afford to be sick, or book a long weekend. The whole concept of a job is to be paid (hopefully) a wage that is in line with your contribution to the companies bottom line. We seem to be all for quiet quitting when the employer asks for anything beyond the minimum that is in our job description. But we expect them to worry about our personnel life situations and compensate us when we have the sniffles and stay home. This is a 2 way street and most employers I know treat employees with the same professionalism that they are shown in return. And with todays labour shortage, if you feel short changed grab a different job. These are not government jobs we are talking about. The NDP is talking private sector where there is (hopefully) a profit to be made. If the cost goes up, so does the selling prices.

Up 85 Down 16

Matthew on Nov 22, 2022 at 1:22 pm

Stop encouraging a crappy work ethic! Bad enough finding workers, now giving them more options to stay at home and get paid for it! Good thing universal basic income is just around the corner! Haha

Up 89 Down 15

John on Nov 22, 2022 at 1:20 pm

Ah yes, yet more money to be pissed away on social programs. We must make the NDP losers happy at the expense of the taxpayer. Imagine you will get to pay for someone for being off sick with a hangover!

It never stops. Worse then Pac-Man - gobble, gobble, gobble...
Every time this woman opens her chucker it about want, want, want...

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