The federal government has spoken out against the “politics of cruelty” of the Ontario government’s reduction of workers’ rights. For Canadians and Ontarians who are tired of bickering politicians, this might just feel like another political fistfight. However, moving beyond the distraction of pre-election politics, we shouldn’t forget that protecting basic workers’ rights is a critical way that our governments can improve health and well-being across the province and country.
Paid sick days and scheduling control – along with increasing the minimum wage – all matter for health. As the Ontario government moves to cut these protections for Ontario workers, the federal government has announced that it will introduce many of the same protections for the 900,000 workers across the country who work in federally-regulated industries, such as airport workers and bank employees across the city.
Paid sick days allow workers to recover
As we move into flu season, Ontarians need to be able to take time off without risking their job or pay. Paid sick days allow workers to care for themselves and their families when they are sick, injured or have a family emergency. Paid sick days allow workers to stay home and reduce the spread of colds and flu. The Ontario government’s move to eliminate two paid sick days will take a toll on all our collective health.
On top of that, employers will now be able to require that an employee gets a doctor’s note in order to take at most three unpaid sick days per year. Given that the average flu takes at least 3-7 days of recovery, it is unreasonable to think that three sick days per year is a luxury. Requiring employees to get a doctor’s note for a short-term illness when they do not need actual medical care is a waste of doctors’ time and a misuse of our health care system.
New scheduling laws leave workers at the whim of their employers
Having some control over when you work is associated with less work-family conflict which contributes to overall well-being and less psychological stress. It makes sense that if you are routinely called in to work with little to no notice, it’s hard to schedule child care, make plans with family and friends, do groceries or go to appointments. Scheduling that allows for some employee control and more predictable hours contributes positively to the well-being of workers and their families.
The Ontario government’s move to cancel all new scheduling laws leaves workers at the whim of their employers without any protections against unpredictable hours and pay cheques. This move will hit low wage workers and families the hardest.
Don’t let the politics distract from the real issues that impact our health and well-being. Bringing jobs to Ontario is not enough, because having a bad job can be as harmful for our health as having no job at all. By protecting and enforcing basic workers’ rights, our governments can ensure that our jobs don’t just help us provide the necessities of life for us and our families but enhance our lives and our health.