COVID-19 has forced us to ask ourselves, our community, and our government a lot of questions. One of the quickly answered questions asked so far throughout the pandemic is: “What do I do if I get sick?”
Public health officials rapidly jumped in at the beginning of the pandemic with the most logical answer: Stay home.
It’s ideal – staying home. Not only does it reduce the chances of giving someone else your illness (whether it be COVID or a cold), but it makes sense for healing as well. A glaring issue immediately appeared with this solution, particularly among the low-income population – staying home is not an option when someone needs to work to make ends meet. 2021 has been a year of advocating for paid sick days – something the federal government had tried to address temporarily, but hasn’t met the needs of Canadians – and so we have outlined what happens when we give everyone the equal opportunity to heal without fear of losing their livelihood.
Your workplace is healthier
If you have ever sat beside a co-worker with the sniffles, you have probably thought to yourself, “I hope I don’t catch that”. It is even more uncomfortable for your co-worker who rolled out of bed with a fever and a headache to come to work – all because they don’t have paid sick days and can’t afford to take the time off work. Unfortunately, now all your coworkers are at risk of getting sick too. With just a couple of paid sick days in place, your workplace becomes a healthier, more comfortable place to be.
Overall community mental health and physical health improves
The anxiety of not knowing how you’re going to make ends meet if you take an unpaid sick day is enough to make anyone feel sick to their stomach. This just reminds us how many people show up to work not just physically ill but also mentally unwell too whether it is caused by burnout, mental illness, or stress. When we advocate for paid sick days, we are advocating for physical and mental wellness for our community. We know that when has the means to take care of their wellbeing, everyone is happier and healthier.
Paid sick days stop health issues from turning critical
Imagine that one day you wake up with a cough, but you can’t take time off work so you go to work all week coughing. The next week, your lungs are really hurting and it is getting harder to breathe, but still, you’re days away from the payday that’ll just barely cover rent and groceries. The week after, you’re so exhausted and out of breath that you can hardly get out of bed, let alone cook, eat, drive, or get to work. By the time you can get yourself to a doctor if at all, your cough has become untreated pneumonia with complex complications.
Not only does it become much harder and more expensive to treat your illness, but you’re forced to take so much time off work, you risk losing your job altogether. Paid sick days aren’t just about saving someone’s livelihood, they’re about saving someone’s life.
Women and racialized mothers won’t need to suffer when they get sick or their child is sick
Many women are familiar with the experience of calling their boss to say, “I can’t come in today, my child is sick.” A few different things happen in this situation:
- Mom uses one of her own sick days to take care of her child and then is forced to work when she gets sick because she has no more personal days left.
- She misses out on a day’s pay that makes ends meet for her household.
- The lesser talked about reality is that her boss may penalize her for missed work by giving her fewer growth opportunities or work responsibilities.
Whichever reality comes to fruition for a mother, it is devastating. This is most likely to happen to employees in a low-earning position typically held by women and especially racialized women.
We can’t avoid getting sick – not entirely – but we can make it possible for women to take care of their mental health, physical health, and their children without risking their livelihood. With so many families just $200 away from poverty, all it takes is one emergency for a family to need support from organizations like the YWCA Niagara Region. Together, we can get those women and their families back on their feet and advocate for paid sick days to end this cycle of poverty for good. Donate today to help women experiencing homelessness and to enable us to advocate for systems that empower.