Coronavirus: Left with no option, not all sick employees can afford to stay home

Coronavirus: Left with no option, not all sick employees can afford to stay home
WatchAs scientists race to develop a vaccine to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus, British Columbians are being asked to stay home if you are sick. But what if you can't afford to stay home?

The advice to British Columbians is simple amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

“If you’re not well, stay home,” said Premier John Horgan on Wednesday.

This advice comes as health authorities try to reduce the spread of illnesses as COVID-19 numbers continue to increase globally.

READ MORE: B.C. announces 13th case of COVID-19, patient in critical condition

While this seems like straight forward advice, for many it’s not an option.

“Anyone, especially anyone who is in a lower-income bracket, losing a full day of work is losing a big chunk of your financial capacity,” said Toban Ralston who works part-time at Victoria’s Reunion Boutique.

The province is suggesting an isolation time of two weeks if you come down with the novel coronavirus.

But many are saying that’s not financially feasible for all workers.

“Most people right now, can’t afford a week off, much less two weeks,” said Ralston.

One in eight British Columbians works part-time. And with no paid sick days, many cannot afford not to come in when they are feeling under the weather.

“No one should have to make that choice, about going into work sick, or not paying your rent,” said Eric Nordal of the Retail Action Network.

But that’s historically what’s happened.

During the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, sick people who went to work ended up infecting up to 7 million of their coworkers, and that was in the U.S. alone.

Here in B.C., labour law currently does not require employers to pay their workers when they call in sick.

“Workers in B.C. would be better off if we had legislation that ensure that there’s paid sick days for everyone,” said Nordal.

“I think the B.C. government should really think about that when they ask people to sacrifice their paycheque.”

But Premier Horgan says companies are the ones responsible for providing pay for sick employees.

“I think employers should also play a role here,” said Horgan, “If they don’t have sick leave benefits for their employees in these circumstances, in these circumstances, I think they might want to consider that as a solid investment and not just their employees but their business.”

Whether it is the government or employers who make the first move, many say paid sick days could help British Columbians stay not only healthy but financially healthy as well.



Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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