Chandra Pasma speaking at a virtual Senate meetingParliament is back in session after the September election, and on Monday CUPE was invited to speak on one of the first bills under consideration by the new Parliament: Bill C-3, the bill to implement ten days of paid sick leave for workers under federal jurisdiction.

Speaking before the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, CUPE Senior Researcher Chandra Pasma noted that CUPE has fought long and hard for years to expand access to paid sick leave, and commended the federal government for finally bringing in legislation to make it a reality. Pasma also laid out several weaknesses in the bill that the Senate should amend to make the bill stronger and more responsive to the needs of workers.

First, Pasma noted that Bill C-3 forces workers to accrue paid sick leave month-to-month before they actually get ten paid sick days. For example, if the bill became law on January 1, 2022, workers won’t actually have ten days of paid sick leave until November 2022. “CUPE urges you to amend Bill C-3 to ensure that all workers are granted the 10 days of paid sick leave as an annual allotment, rather than as an allotment earned on a monthly basis,” Pasma urged the committee.

Pasma also noted CUPE’s concerns regarding the right of employers to demand medical certificates for the use of even a single sick day, when 4.6 million Canadians do not have a family doctor, and doctors themselves have said sick notes are not an appropriate use of health care resources when the system is already under enormous strain.

Finally, Pasma took aim at the bill’s provision allowing employers to demand that sick leave can only be taken in increments of no less than a day. “This means that an employee who shows up at work feeling fine but starts to develop a fever or a sore throat has an incentive to stay at work for the rest of their shift, potentially infecting their co-workers and the employer’s customers or clients, because going home for part of a shift means losing an entire paid sick day,” Pasma argued. “We know that one of the keys to ending this pandemic is going to be empowering workers to stay home or to go home whenever they are sick. This clause does the opposite.”

CUPE represents thousands of workers in federally-regulated sectors like airlines and telecommunications, and our union supports the swift passage of Bill C-3 with the suggested amendments. We also call on provincial governments across the country to follow suit with matching legislation.