Business owners band together to call on Ford government to legislate paid sick leave

'Small investment, big payback'-Business owners call on Ford government to legislate paid sick leave-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
A man holds up a sign as a group advocating for provincially mandated paid sick days for workers holds a rally outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

A group of business owners will join together on Wednesday morning to demand that the Ontario government legislate paid sick leave immediately during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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At an online news conference, the owners are expected to provide accounts of how providing paid sick leave is good for businesses, employees and communities. They are also expected to urge the government to pass Bill 239, the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, a private member’s bill that has passed first reading.

The bill, proposed by London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler, would guarantee 10 personal emergency leave days a year for every worker, seven of which are paid. It would also allow for 14 more days of paid leave during any infectious disease emergency and provide financial support to ensure small businesses can survive the pandemic.

According to a news release on Tuesday, the business owners are members of the Better Way Alliance, an organization that describes itself as a growing movement of businesses that support decent wages, paid sick days and fair scheduling laws.

“Legislating paid sick leave for all workers helps level the playing field for small and mid-sized businesses who are already struggling to compete with bigger, better connected corporations that don’t provide decent jobs,” the alliance said in the release.

“Concern for small business is no reason to delay or deny legislated paid sick leave. In fact, business owners know from experience that paid sick leave is good for their businesses and employees, as well as for the health and well-being of their communities.”

The alliance argues paid sick leave would help to slow the spread of COVID-19 because it would enable workers who are infected to stay home while they are recovering. It says workers who cannot afford to stay home when sick because they don’t have paid sick leave can spread illnesses to coworkers, clients and customers.

The business owners who are scheduled to speak include:

  • Helmi Ansari, CEO of GROSCHE International Inc., a small business in Cambridge, Ont.
  • Jessica Carpinone, owner of Bread By Us, a bakery and cafe in Ottawa.
  • Sam Conover, owner of Broad Lingerie, a specialty lingerie store in Toronto.
  • Peter Neal, owner of Neal Brothers Foods, a food production and distribution company in Richmond Hill,.Ont.

Conover said in an interview with CBC Toronto on Tuesday that the business owners have banded together because they support the same ideas.

“We’re just like-minded business owners who all believe in fair wages, reliable scheduling and paid sick leave,” she said.

The alliance says its members employ more than 30,000 Ontario workers in such areas as services, retail, food and beverage, and manufacturing.

The news conference comes a week after Toronto city council voted 24 to 2 to call on the province to implement 10 days of paid sick leave for workers during the pandemic immediately.

On Jan. 1, 2019, as part of amendments to the Employment Standards Act, the province repealed two paid personal emergency leave days, established by the previous Liberal government, and replaced them with three unpaid days for personal illness.


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