Coronavirus and the gig economy
This is a CBC podcast. Hi Matt Galloway. This is a podcast from the March. Fifth Edition of the current. There are things that everyone can do to protect the health delay spread of Kobe. Nineteen and minimize the overall impact across our communities. Wash your hands well and often cover your sneezes and stay at home if you're sick to prevent the spread of illness. That's advice from Canada's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr Teresa Tam but for many Canadian staying home might not feel like an option with a lack of guaranteed sick. Leave and the rise of precarious work and the so-called GIG economy. Some people are afraid of losing income or even their jobs if they call in sick Adam Montgomery contract sales worker in Vancouver Adam. Good Morning Good Morning. What is Your Employment Situation? How does that work We're contracted to sell Different products to businesses. So we're outs Talking to different businesses day to day to provide different services from telecommunications to merchant services and so on and as a sales worker. How do you get paid? If you don't mind me asking We got a per diem. And then we're on commission and so what happens if you aren't feeling well and you need to take a sick day. I work from home to a degree where IF I've already built a relationship with a customer and I'm able to close the sale I'd still get paid the commission but I don't get the prettiest. I'm not in the office at the beginning of the day out in the field during the day. And so what would that mean for you in terms of income? How how much you income go down It's are pretty pretty low to help stimulate us to get out and make sales one hundred dollars a day that we get that. Um You know two or three days off. A week is no to three hundred dollars. And then the lack of interaction with people to generate new sales for commission so it can cost upwards of you know five six hundred dollars a week. So if you aren't feeling well how do you run that calculation in your head about whether it's worth it financially for you to take the day off to try and get better or whether you just kind of plow through it and it's still going to work For the most part we try to plow through it I've had this Sort of lingering Head colds coughs everything for the past couple of weeks and decided that with everything going on in the world right now. was definitely affecting my interaction with customers has people. Don't WanNa deal with someone. That has a runny nose or cough right. Now that it for long term Would be more beneficial for me to take a couple days off and try to get completely better so you're going to do that now. You're going to take a couple of days off now to try and get back on the good side. Yeah taking most of the week off Including today you try to get better and get back at. You are sick for a couple of weeks you said before you hit that threshold. Yeah I mean I have a four year old at home so there's a lot of different germs that come through the daycare and they've just been consistent cough runny nose Haven't really had any kind of fever. Anything so wasn't too worried about. It says mid thirties in pretty good health. But how much do finances you talked about? You know how much you would lose in terms of not being paid if you take days off. How much do finances play a role in you making that decision? They definitely play a fairly big role in the decision At least I'm not a single income household so my girlfriend's able to Make a decent salary at her job. And then I usually Do is construction jobs in that to augment my income as it is what goes through your mind when you hear for example. The chief medical health officer in the context of the corona virus spreads. Saying if you don't feel well stay home to prevent the spread of illness. I totally understand it. And that's kind of what's played into me Taking time off is just trying not to spread anything. People with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of contracting that and having more severe cases. it is something that would be nicer to be able to do on a regular basis for sure. 'cause you know going in with my job. I'm talking to fifty one hundred people in a day. That's those interactions. Every day of the week really add up with the amount of Interactions with people and this continues to spread the krona virus. Are you worried that you might be having to make a decision about staying home more? Even though you're not GonNa be getting paid definitely something that is in the back of my night. I hope you feel better. Rest up story for waking up early But it's important to hear from you. get back to bed and Adam. Thank you no problem. Thank you very much. What Adam Montgomery is a contract worker in Vancouver under the weather taking a couple of days off sick for a different perspective on sick days? Let's hear from an employer. Walter Frankie is the vice president of human resources for leave Allie tools. Walter Good morning to you. Good morning take a look at the situation. That's happening right now. It's not just cold and flu season. You have the grown virus that is spreading. How much of a challenge does this present to Your Business? It doesn't a number of ways right so from a business perspective. It's going to impact the way we can get things like supply chain services heartily from some manufacturers in across the seas From an employer perspective employees perspective. You know employees are concerned as well. We have retail operations across Canada. And so they're saying hey. I'm working with customers. And how should we be doing it? We were very proactive. We looked at Even several weeks ago in started giving some direction you know from a public health agencies. How you take care of ourselves. What should we do? How do we prepare ourselves in? The stores Also practice really good hygiene situations rang. Like how do we take care of ourselves at Lee Valley? How does this work? Who GETS sick days? So for us Fulltime employees are eligible for sedation. They accrue that over the course of the year and they would help get how many Five days a year five days a year. Yeah what about part? Time staff part time wouldn't be eligible for that because Just because of the way they have shorttimer hours you know a couple of hours year a week kind of thing and so how many if you're working part time. How often are you working at Valley Well it varies Generally it's anywhere from one shift seven and a half hours to maybe as much as twenty hours in the week and if you're working those part time shifts and you heard from Adam you know you've been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks anything I need to take a day Or more. They don't get paid. They wouldn't get paid so they would inform your manager. Say Listen I'm not feeling well today. I can't make my shift for the afternoon. And the manager says okay you know. Stay home and let us know tomorrow if they were scheduled as the public health officer says to employers like yourself you people need to be cognizant of what's going on and for employees. If they're feeling unwell they need to take a day or two off work. What sort of conversations are happening in your workplace but how your policy fits or may need to change given what's going on cove nineteen. Yeah it's interesting that you know. We had lots of conversations with our senior team you know. What are we going to do with the covert nineteen no virus coming up? We are looking at it from a very pragmatic approach. Right so right now. Candidates extremely low. There's not that sort of outbreak coming happening in our inner cities. But if someone said listen. I'm really feeling ill. Is that the situation. You know the first thing we would say is make sure you contact your public health. Authorities let them know what it is. Don't go hospital because that's what they want us to do. But then then start instructed and what they should be doing if that person continues to be sick and they said listen. Maybe having it have to go into self-isolation or quarantine we'd certainly look at it and say okay. You know what? If atoms are employees. Might say Adam you know what we understand what? The situation is your scheduled for X. Number of shifts this week. You know. We'll cover that cost. And then we'll see what next week looks like because he may not be scheduled next week so we would be very pragmatic and look at it. We do is we have to take care of our employees and I think that's something that you know from a family ownership. They said something. That's very important to the family. You understand the dilemma. That those part time employees that if they can't AF- You know come into work. Because they're not feeling well but they also can't afford not to come into work because they're not going to be paid. It really puts them up against the wall. It sure does and you know. We feel for that and very sympathetic. We try to see what we can do and see what's taking place You know we're trying to be balancing with everybody along the way because some of our employees not everybody's in Haiti situation where they're working sort of front facing store kind of environment some some positions. They might be able to work from home. But we don't have a lot of that part time employees in that situation So they know they're quite comfortable and being able to. You know work from home if they have to. Why don't your part time? Employees get paid sick days You know what I think we look at it. Matt it's It's a business decision. What do we need to be doing? How do we cover it? Where's the cost associated? What does that mean a business decision? Well we think about retail's a very Very competitive marketplace in you know We rely on the customers and their habits of buying and so we have to be very mindful of our expenses. Meaning that if you were to give a paid sick days two part time employees. That would cost money that perhaps the company couldn't afford it could right so it takes away from investments in other areas to kind of either January customer experiences or provide. You know a better ecommerce web platform something of that nature The one thing that we do with part timers as we do offer some in lieu benefits of sometimes as an example part-timers Don't have vacation days. But we pay them a percentage And we do if they want to. We try to open up our benefit plan so healthcare coverage. But that means. It's a cost Cost Arrangement that they have to pay more. If this continues to your point these are early days in this. Nobody really knows where this is going to go. Although there are all sorts of predictions on one side or the other but if this were to continue and it were the the krona virus spread war to grow. Is there a role that government could play to help out businesses like yours or businesses even smaller than Lavallee To to try and ensure that employees feel as though they can take the day off. Because that's in everyone's benefit. Yeah you know that's It's an interesting point because you know we're not. We don't see ourselves as small certain on large and you know I really. I think we really feel for the small employers as well because they're really struggling with something like this. I think the role of government is to look at it like today. You know they're looking at it from an industry perspective. How are we going to support an industry? That's impacted by these effects of the virus in you know manufacturing found shutdowns. I think from the employees side of it you know. Where does the Employment Insurance Benefits Support that person you know. Could there be a an adjustment to their policy and program that would allow that somebody had to be off for you know a fourteen day period. Could they apply for Benefit coverage under? I think today's standards that they would not necessary. Qualify for. That's something that you think. The government should consider they could. It's an option. I mean again like you said matter. You know it's early days. We're not necessarily in that state but I think I am sure. Government officials are starting to look at those programs. And what's feasible and then again. How do they actually administered? Because you know sometimes we say hey. We'll program we can rule out how you administer it so quickly and that's not always an easy thing to do Walter. Good to speak with you about this. Thank you matt. My pleasure walk you Walter. Prank he is the vice president of human resources for Lee Valley tools. Staying home when you're sick is about more than recovery also ensures that you don't spread germs to your colleagues Stefan. Pickler is from Technical University of Switzerland and has been researching paid sick days specifically how those paid sick days affect the spread of viruses L. Cities and states that introduce mandated sickly four diverse experience. A drop in this flu rates but this suggests to us is that once berkers are paid for staying at home. They are actually taking sick. Leave days when they have to flow and therefore don't bring the virus to the office or even people that they are on the train. Be Fender commuting here in Canada. The rules about sick days or mostly determined by provincial governments. The decision to pay employees. Who are sick. That's up to the bosses of those employees. Sarah Molineaux is an employment lawyer with Molyneaux Law. Sarah Good morning to you. Walk US through. The rules In Canada if you would Sarah What are Canadian workers entitled to when it comes to sick days? Rules and candid is kind of a big question at like you mentioned. Most employees in Canada are provincially regulated. What that means is that we have fourteen different employment law jurisdiction candidate so each province territory and the small number of workers that are federally regulated or subject to different rules here in Ontario where I practice Employees are entitled to three unpaid sick days per calendar year. That's a recent change in a reduction from a previous ten Dane title meant with to pay days so in Ontario. We've seen a reduction but we're in line with about what's average across the country. We see five to three days being pretty common province to province with the best benefits being in a Yukon where you can get Up to twelve days per year Or in Quebec where you can be entitled to two days if you meet. Certain conditions are there any jurisdictions where you are not entitled to any sick days at all there are so Berta Manitoba British Columbia and none of all offer nothing in the way of job protection for basic sick days with research. What does that mean for people who fall sick in those communities? I well it means. You're hoping you have a reasonable employer or that you have an employment contract workplace policies or a collective agreement that provides you something other than the Minimum Standard which many people do although lots of low wage workers do not. These are all unpaid sick. Days is there any provision for paid sick days anywhere in a few provinces there are so in Quebec he can get to pay days in pe. I if you've worked somewhere for more than five years one payday but the norm across the country is unpaid job protection. Only the economy has changed certainly in the last couple of years if not a little bit longer than that and you now have. What's known as the GIG economy people who are contractors? They might be Uber Drivers. They might be food delivery people. What's our recourse do have if they fall ill right and so when we talk about the minimum employment standards there always exceptions and exemptions. The most common exception is that you do have to be an employee. And so people who are being characterized as independent contractors rightly or wrongly are going to be denied those benefits because their employers don't see them as employees and so don't see those minimum standards applying so are uber. Drivers are food. Delivery bike couriers are going to be out on the streets working in order to earn a wage And to keep those positions for those apps despite the fact that they may be exhibiting even serious symptoms. What happens if you how sick days? But you're cautious about taking them. Do you know what I mean that that that you might worry about the repercussions at work. If you take more than a couple of days off. How does that plan and a lot of people are? It's it's a very common question. that we encounter people wondering well if I only have three days. What happens if I take a fourth And the biggest risk really is that you're missing out on wages and you're missing out on those even if you take the three days you're entitled to write a bigger risk is that you may you may lose your job There are protections for employees in certain circumstances so if you're sick day is disability related or related to a childcare obligation. You may have additional Rights under human rights legislation But if you're talking about the flu bad cold I e you're limited to the Employment Standards Act minimums and while it's a rare for an employee to be dismissed over one additional day. It does happen and they wouldn't have recourse to their respective Ministry of Labor. What if somebody has to go into self quarantine or be an isolation because they may have been exposed to something like the Corona Virus? What happens then so right now. Our Employment Standards Act legislation or or equivalent legislation province to province. Doesn't seem to anticipate that We do have some provision for declared emergencies. But when you are in the state that we are now Before we would ever anticipate at an emergency being declared I you. We don't have any measures for job. Protection people are relying on the generosity of their employers which puts people in a very precarious situation. Not Everybody has a good boss to that point. Have listen to Howard Levitt. He's an employment and labor lawyer and here's his take on on businesses giving more sick days perhaps because of a corona virus break. The problem is that employees are often not honest the claim to be sick for mental health days for any matter of real or imagined illnesses or feeling less than perfect and the employer is paying a massive burden that people take advantage of. And it's probably the biggest single source of abuse in Human Resources Law. Sarah what do you make of that I commented employs. Perhaps aren't always honest. But also that this puts the employer is a disadvantage with all due respect to Howard. I disagree. Certainly I mean. Some people are dishonest. Some of the time but your average person is going to get sick during a calendar year. They're going to need some days off of work. And if you don't facilitate that as an employer incurring broader costs so you have people coming to work sick spreading the germs around the workplace on their commute not being as productive while they are at work and potentially need longer term absences. Because they're on this becomes more serious that flew that becomes bronchitis for example when an employee could have rested stayed home and avoided that consequence. So I think it's a short term length for employers to assume that people taking a fourth day sick from work in a calendar year Is a misrepresentation when the reality is. We have hardworking folks. Earning low wages that are struggling to go to work with serious symptoms and making themselves their colleagues and their neighborhoods more sick so in the remaining seconds that we have. What do you think employers should be doing right now? Are there things? Maybe we could learn from from other jurisdictions when it comes to how this is spreading and how employees can be protected. I urge employers to take a reasonable approach and to look at what the public health and medical advice is saying and how that contradicts with basic employment standards. But I think we're making a mistake if we always act reactively to these issues and always rely on the generosity of employers to grant a reasonable exceptions to the rule to employs. What we need is acceptable. Reasonable minimum employment standards because cold and flu season comes around every year. Even if Corona virus does not employees need to be protected. You believe you're after you're exactly Sarah good to speak with you. Thank you thank you. Sorry molineaux isn't employment lawyer with Molineaux Law in Hamilton Ontario for more. Cbc PODCASTS GO TO CBC DOT CA slash podcasts.