Paid sick days a benefit to all

Despite warnings from public health officials against attending work when ill during the current H1N1 scare, the need to make a living can drive sick people to the workplace.

A recent poll in Quebec found one in four employees would continue to go to work if they contracted the H1N1 virus. And some Scarborough workers agree the situation is the same here.

“I’d still go to work if I got sick because I need the money and they don’t pay for me to have days off,” says Pierson York, a contract security guard in a Scarborough plant.

Since his company is already short-staffed, calling in sick could have negative effects on the company, which is contracted by another company, York says.

Even though staff is encouraged to stay home when sick, as indicated in an e-mail recently sent to employees, the concern of not meeting his responsibilities weighs heavily on York. With his rent dependent on each paycheque, getting sick is not an option.

“If I missed one day I wouldn’t be able to afford rent or groceries or anything,” York says.

This fear of getting sick is widespread among Canadians employed by companies that don’t offer paid sick days.

Underestimating the severity of the situation has ignited demands by health and labour advocates to change Ontario’s employment laws before a pandemic can occur, according to CBC News.

“If I had paid sick days I would definitely call in sick,” York says.

But by focusing on the consequences involved by missing work, York admits he hasn’t even considered the downside of potentially infecting a co-worker.

“If I was sick and infected someone else, I could put them in a situation that I can’t afford to be in.”