March 4th, 2020

COVID-19 requires urgent action on paid sick leave, sick note ban

HALIFAX - The NDP is renewing its call for paid sick leave for all employees, along with a ban on employers requiring a sick note, as part of preparation for Covid-19 in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has said staying home when sick is one of the top things people can do to prevent the spread of disease.

“People in Nova Scotia go to work when they’re sick all the time. Most people don’t have paid sick time, and just can’t afford to skip a shift, even if they’re sick,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “As we prepare for the arrival of COVID-19, we should be doing everything in our power to make sure people are able to stay home when they’re sick.”

Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Code does not provide for any paid sick leave. There are also no rules around if, when, or how employers can request sick notes from employees, which can push contagious patients unnecessarily to doctors’ offices and hospitals.

Kaitlynn Robinson, a resident of Eastern Passage, was threatened with workplace discipline while out sick with pneumonia.

“I did what I thought I had to do. I went to the doctor, waited for three hours in the waiting room, and got a sick note, while sick with pneumonia,” said Robinson. “Still, my employer told me that I would be written up if I missed more than four days. I needed the job, so I went to work with pneumonia.”

The NDP legislation on sick leave and doctors’ notes was introduced in September 2018. The Ford government in Ontario has recently been criticised for cancelling paid sick days for all workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.