The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce is advocating for governments to put more support into sick day initiatives.

The province unveiled a sick days’ program April 28, providing employers up to $200 for up to three days per employee. It aims to help keep ill workers home during the pandemic but falls short of the two weeks of sick days Ontario’s COVID19 Science Advisory Table has highlighted as key.

Chamber president Andrea Strano said it is a step in the right direction and a lot of local small businesses will take advantage of it. However, she said the days do not run long enough.

“I am not certain that three days will deter people from staying home if they are right on the edge, from paycheque to paycheque,” Strano said. “There needs to be longer support in place.”

The province will reimburse employers through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), running retroactively from April 19 to Sept. 25. The province is also pushing to add funding to the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program (CRSB), which supports people not working due to self-isolation.

“It is a tremendously positive step that the federal government has signaled their willingness to continue discussions on the CRSB. Now, we can fix the outstanding gap,” Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton said in a press release.

Strano said that proposal is encouraging but does not address other shortcomings, such as processing delays. She also said there is some confusion about who qualifies for reimbursement under WSIB.

“The process should be easy and seamless,” Strano said.

Businesses cannot bear the brunt of paying for more sick days, Strano said. She said her organization supports a program paid for by the government during the pandemic.

“Most small business owners are challenged enough,” she said. “They need all the help they can get to ensure their staff can take the time off they need.”

In a joint statement, Strano and Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO Rocco Rossi said more changes are needed.

“We would like to see all levels of governments open to further adjustments of their programs – as they have been with other programs rolled out in the pandemic – to ensure programs meet the needs of workers and the market in the Haliburton Highlands,” they said.

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