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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted stark health inequities across Canada.

In this third wave of COVID-19, we need immediate action to break chains of transmission. People who go to work sick or exposed to COVID-19 often do so because they have no choice—their jobs cannot be done from home, and they need to feed their families and pay their rent.1 Those at greatest risk for contracting COVID-19 in these precarious situations are women, racialized, and economically-disadvantaged populations—individuals who often live with diabetes and other chronic diseases or are at higher risk of developing them.2,3 This is a preventable cycle that inflicts additional harm on individuals, families, and communities across Canada.

To limit spread, essential workers need an accessible, immediate emergency paid sick leave made available when they are sick, have been exposed to the virus, require testing, or are receiving a vaccination.4 Across Canada, paid sick days are only legislated—to varying degrees—in Quebec, PEI, and for federally regulated workers.2 This is not enough.

The short-term cost of providing paid sick leave will result in fewer, shorter lockdowns as outbreaks are brought under control, resulting in economic benefits, and long-term cost savings for the healthcare system; according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the cost of a hospitalization due to COVID-19 is four times higher—$23,000 per COVID-19 patient—than a non-COVID hospital stay.5,6

We need to address inequities and the social determinants of health, and we need to act now—an equitable, accessible emergency paid sick leave is the right and ethical thing to do. We urge all provincial and territorial governments across Canada to act and introduce legislation to protect those made most vulnerable.

List of signatories

Arthritis Society
Canadian Cancer Society 
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
Canadian Liver Foundation
Canadian Lung Association
Diabetes Canada 
Heart & Stroke
Kidney Foundation


  1. Ability to work from home and paid sick benefits by precarious employment and socioeconomic status. Partnership for Work, Health and Safety. May 28, 2020, 6 pages.
  2. Before it’s too late: How to close the paid sick days gap during COVID-19 and beyond. Decent Work and Health Network. Aug 2020, 49 pages.
  3. A.E. Caballero et al., COVID-19 in people living with diabetes: An international consensus. Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications Sep 2020: 34(9), 9 pages.
  4. Fighting COVID-19 in Ontario: The Way Forward. Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. 2021;1(23).
  5. We can’t afford to wait. It’s time for paid sick leave for every worker in Canada. Joint Statement by Canada’s Provincial and Territorial Federations of Labour. Feb 25, 2021.
  6. COVID-19 Hospitalization: Emergency Department Statistics, Jan-Nov 2020 Data Table. Canadian Institute for Health Information. Mar 25, 2021.

Author: Communications

Region: National

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