The government is ready to amend the paid sick leave bill it wants to pass by the end of the week

OTTAWA – Labor Secretary Seamus O’Regan said the government is ready to amend the law providing 10 days of paid sick leave to federally administered workers.

O’Regan concedes that at least two provisions of Measure C-3 could undermine the goal of ensuring sick workers don’t have to choose between going to work sick or staying home. pay wage.

The bill would allow employers to require a doctor’s note verifying that an employee is ill.

Senators on a committee that is pre-studying the bill say that doesn’t make sense on several fronts – including the fact that a person with COVID-19 symptoms shouldn’t even be allowed into office doctor’s office these days – and will hold back workers on sick leave.

As the bill is currently being written, workers would accrue their 10 days of paid sick leave at the rate of one day per month.

The senators pointed out that it would do little to help a worker contracted with COVID-19 or another illness within a month or two of the bill’s enactment.

O’Regan told the Senate social affairs committee on Monday that the government is open to amending both of those issues.

Senator Patricia Bovey, a member of the Senate Progressive Group, asked why the bill didn’t start from the premise that every worker is entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave per year, starting immediately.

O’Regan says it’s an issue where the government “will be open to the proposal and what I’ll say is, ‘Give it to me in writing so we can look into it.’ ‘

“Oh, it will be in writing,” Bovey assured him.

Senator Frances Lankin, a member of the Independent Senators Group, told O’Regan she was in the process of drafting an amendment on that issue while her ISG colleague, Senator Stan Kutcher, is drafting another to remove the doctor’s note provision.

She and other senators have pointed to several problems with asking for a doctor’s license: patients, especially in rural areas, may not have easy access to doctors and those who are vulnerable Vulnerable people like single parents or people with disabilities may have a harder time getting to the doctor. office.

Furthermore, they argue that someone exhibiting sniffles or other mild symptoms that could be COVID-19 may decide to go to work rather than get a troublesome and expensive doctor’s note.

Senator Rosemary Moodie, a physician and member of the Independent Senators Group, pointed out that people with COVID-19 symptoms cannot enter most medical facilities today.

“So the practical ability to get the certification is severely limited,” she said.

O’Regan noted that the bill would allow employers to request a doctor’s note within 15 days of an employee’s return to work, which would allow time for that person to see a doctor after symptoms resolve. proof.

But that makes even less sense, Kutcher says. It puts doctors in the position of verifying that someone they didn’t see or treat was legitimately ill days or even weeks before.

“The whole 15 days makes no sense,” he said.

O’Regan said the purpose of the provision is to have a “trip wire in case there are any concerns about abuse.”

However, he said the government was willing to seek “some kind of accommodation” in this regard. He acknowledged a recent poll found that more than 80 percent of Canadians would rather go to work sick than have a hard time getting a medical certificate.

Bill C-3 is one of three priority bills the Liberal government wants to pass by both houses of parliament this weekend, when Parliament begins a six-week break. This is a two-pronged bill that would also impose heavier criminal penalties for harassment or intimidation of health care workers.

The bill received consensus in principle last week in the House of Commons and is currently under scrutiny by a Commons committee. Two Senate committees are conducting prior studies on the bill to speed its final passage as it reaches the senate.

Conservative Senator Yonah Martin questioned how the government intends to pass the bill on Friday if it is considering the amendment.

“I feel we need more time on this important bill, and fear there will be ‘unexpected consequences’ from not giving it enough thought,” she said.

O’Regan argues that the threat from the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is spreading globally, adds to the urgency to pass legislation to ensure federally managed workers can take time off. paid jobs if they catch the virus.

This Canadian Press report was first published on December 13, 2021.


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