Poverty, health and the coronavirus

Common sense prevention advice against COVID-19 is not so easy for those living on low incomes.

If we truly want to keep our communities healthy and protect against the spread of illness, whether COVID-19 or anything else in the future, we need to pay more attention to the relationship between health and income inequality in Canada.

Let’s take the guidance around staying home when sick: Last year, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s changes to the Employment Standards Act eliminated two paid sick leave days and empowered employers to require sick notes from workers when taking time off for an illness.

Fast forward to our current situation: If you are a low-wage worker needing to do a shift at the grocery store, the local food court kiosk, or at a pharmacy front counter, and your rent or the hydro bill is due next week, might you risk the chance of going into work if feeling just a little unwell? Time off could mean financial desperation or a lost job.