Ottawa, Ont. — March 17, 2020 – A new analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) finds that most workers in Canada lack access to paid leave and two out of three Canadians do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI).
The analysis, entitled “COVID-19 and the Canadian workforce: Reforming EI to protect more workers,” looks at which workers are least likely to have access to paid leave in the event of a quarantine (either mandatory, employer requested, or self-imposed), school closures forcing parents to stay home, or other COVID-19 work disruptions. It finds wide discrepancies in the receipt of paid leave based on income levels, geography, and gender.
Among the analysis’ findings are the following:
- Only 38 percent of illness or disability leave and 23 percent of family responsibility leave of over one week was paid by employers in 2019;
- Access to paid leave varies widely by income, as only 14 percent of leave of more than one week taken by workers in the lowest income bracket in 2019 was paid, while those in the top bracket had 74 percent of such leave covered by their employer;
- As well, only one in five workers making $15 an hour or less had leave over one week paid by employers in 2019;
- In the accommodation and food services sector, only 19 percent of leave over one week that workers took in 2019 was paid for by their employer;
- Paid leave is also unevenly distributed geographically: In Ottawa and Quebec City, 60 percent of leave was paid by employers, but more leave goes unpaid in Edmonton (43 percent paid), Hamilton (43 pecent paid), and Vancouver (45 percent paid).
- Many unemployed Canadians do not have access to EI, as only 33 percent of unemployed women and 38 percent of unemployed men received EI benefits in 2018.
- Finally, only 17 percent of self-employed workers and 20 percent of part-time workers received any EI benefits in 2018.
Source: David Macdonald. "COVID-19 and the Canadian workforce: Reforming EI to protect more workers." Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Ottawa. March 2020. Accessed online: https://bit.ly/2IPJn71.
In response to these gaps and the COVID-19 outbreak, the federal government has announced an Economic Response Plan to help Canadian workers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. To read more about the plan, click here.
UFCW Canada has issued a rebuttal to the Economic Response Plan, calling for additional action on EI reform, job protection, paid leave, and protecting front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. To view UFCW’s response to the plan, click here.