The P.E.I. government says changes that could make paid sick days a reality for more Island workers won't happen until spring 2024 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, some Island employees say they're worried about the flu season ahead and what that will mean for their paycheques.
Rebecca King, an assistant manager at a retail store in Charlottetown, said the lack of paid sick days affects both her and her child.
"I have a low immune system," said King. Each day she has to take off means "less money to pay for bills."
She said it forces her to go to work, even when she's not feeling well. "If I'm... dying, I have to go into work, because I have to make the money."
Rebecca King, who works in retail, says she has to take unpaid sick days not only when she is ill, but also when her child is ailing. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
Megan Ferguson, the manager of a P.E.I. location of The Body Shop, said she considers herself one of the lucky ones. She gets 10 paid sick days each year, but the people she oversees don't get any.
She said she feels for them, especially as the high cost of living makes it that much tougher to lose a day's pay.
"We know it's important for people to be able to stay home and take care of themselves," said Ferguson.
She sees a benefit in workers getting paid time off.
"They're going to make better health decisions, so I absolutely think we should figure out a way to make that work."
Some workers luckier
Federal legislation that came into force last December requires 10 paid sick days per year for workers in federally regulated industries like banks, airlines, ports, telecommunications and rail transport.
Megan Ferguson, manager of The Body Shop in Charlottetown, says she's fortunate to have paid sick days so that she can get better sooner after illness hits. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
B.C. is more than one year into granting most workers in the province five employer-paid sick days annually.
Last fall, P.E.I.'s opposition proposed a bill that would compel employers to give their staff at least 10 paid sick days per year, but that idea was voted down.
The Dennis King government said it would hold off on any decisions around sick leave legislation until a review of the Employment Standards Act was complete.
A provincial official confirmed Thursday that the review is complete and staff are reviewing its recommendations — but said no changes to legislation are coming until spring at the earliest.
"This body of work is extensive and will require some time," the provincial statement said in part.
This is more of a shared risk. — Frederic Gionet
Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said many employers are facing their own financial challenges and can't afford to take on the cost of sick pay.
"This is more of a shared risk. The employer still needs to replace that employee, still needs to pay for extra labour," said Frederic Gionet, Atlantic senior policy analyst at the CFIB.
Frederic Gionet, senior policy analyst for the Atlantic region for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says companies shouldn't always have to 'pay everything' when governments are creating new labour legislation. (CBC/Zoom)
"We're just asking the government to be more innovative and not just simply … it's so easy to say, 'Hey, employers, pay everything, and therefore we can wipe our hands of it.'"
Employers should not have to foot the whole bill, he said. "Especially small businesses that don't have the capacity to do so."
During the pandemic, the P.E.I. government did have a special leave fund in place, to cover sick leave costs for workers off with COVID-19 but that fund expired at the end of March.\