According to a statement, the Bill 606 would provide 10 paid sick days each year during non-COVID-19 times and 14 paid sick days during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
The Saskatchewan NDP also called on the government to work with businesses to implement the paid sick days in a way that does not unduly burden small and medium-sized businesses during the course of the pandemic.
“The Sask. Party government’s failed pandemic response has made Saskatchewan last in the nation — the highest COVID death rate, and dead-last when it comes to job growth,” said NDP associate labour critic Jennifer Bowes in a media release.
“We need to be doing everything possible to reduce the spread of COVID in workplaces.”
During Monday’s question period, Bowes said workers are forced to go to work sick and the act would mean lives will be saved.
“At any point, we need to ensure workers who are sick are able to stay home, but this is even more true in a pandemic,” she said. “It’s the choice between risking going to work sick, or risking the roof over your head by staying home.
“No one should have to make that choice. The workers of this province deserve better.”
Don Morgan, the Saskatchewan minister responsible for labour relations and workplace safety, says it would be unfair to put this responsibility all on employers especially during a fragile time.
“The federal government has an existing program where they will allow up to four weeks for COVID time off,” said Morgan during a scrum following Tuesday’s question period.
“The money is already allocated in the federal budget for that and that’s a good place to start. Maybe that program should be exhausted before we look to employers in our province.”
Steve McLellan, chief executive of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, said many businesses have paid sick leave available to their staff, but for some, it’s not feasible.
“I think a very careful introduction of new considerations by the province is well welcomed but the reality of it, many businesses can’t afford the extra costs on their business right now,” McLellan said.
“So, instead of helping employees, the government may actually be hurting them if it’s not done in a sensitive nature.”
McLellan added that if the province moves forward on this, it must be done right.
“The businesses that we represent are not able to absorb a brand new cost that doesn’t make any difference to employees and doesn’t help with the bottom line,” he said.
“We will find a solution that looks after employees but doesn’t penalize businesses.”