Dear Stephen Lecce. Let’s try something different. Like a plan.
Premier Ford, Ministers and Elected Officials,
I am writing to tell you I am tired, my friends and family are exhausted, the 1000s of Ontario parents who make up a vast majority of the workforce are frustrated, because it feels like once again we are being pushed back into the circumstances of the start of the pandemic. But the frustration comes because we don’t have to be, we don’t need to be. We know more now than we did back in March, but we need to act now to ensure the right kind of change happens.
Two weeks ago, Ontario parents received an email from the Provincial government announcing their plans to keep schools closed after the winter break. This announcement came with no plan, no timetable on when classes will be held, no alternates offered for the children of parents who have no choice but to go to work. The frontline workers that are so vocally celebrated, healthcare workers, grocery store workers, education workers and so many more professionals who are expected to report to work on Monday with little to no family supports and a job protection legislation with too many loop holes to be effective.
9.8M working mothers, who cannot not help their elementary school child as they struggle to focus on the lesson while packing your grocery order, women who cannot monitor online learning while also intubating a patient, and caregivers who cannot maintain routine for their special needs child while working to pay rent.
Our leaders have stated that ‘nobody should have to choose between taking a day off due to illness or being able to pay their bills, just like nobody should have to choose between staying home with COVID-19 symptoms or being able to afford rent or groceries” but what we are seeing is a demographic being still forced to choose between work and family. The impact we have seen on working mothers in the last several months has been highly publicized, and is nothing less than staggering, yet there is still no Action Plan.
The number of males entering the workforce during this pandemic has increased at the same time females, predominantly working mothers have been pushed out of the work force in droves. Ontario has introduced legislation to provide worker protections for employees who need to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure, but these protections do not go nearly far enough. As a leader of the Moms at Work support group I have seen first-hand and regularly advocated for women who have been dismissed on maternity leave, parents forced into dismissal meetings for lowered productivity, employees navigating emails from company management that mothers should be home with their kids anyway. Companies citing COVID- hardship for these actions, but if it was truly COVID related, the impacts would have been proportional across our society. They are not.
We all agree that fighting this pandemic requires personal sacrifice and that the health and safety of our children and education workers is a priority. What we do disagree with is the inequity at which this sacrifice is being assigned, and the longer these inequities go unchecked, the more difficult the damages will be to reverse. A century of progress made in women’s rights is being eroded in a matter of months.
The good news is if we act now this can be slowed, maybe even stopped; parents and families are key to successful economic recovery and as part of this society are prepared to do our part, but women’s rights will not be the unnecessary tribute for the pandemic sacrifice. To do this, we need help, help from the people we elected to represent us, our leaders are needed to lead, to ensure COVID does not become an acceptable loophole for discrimination.
- Education around accommodation laws and requirements for employers. These laws already exist, but seemingly not enforced. We are asking for support to fund organizations and those uniquely positioned to disseminate information to both the employee and employers.
- A directive, with resources for employers on accommodations options they could provide employees as an alternative to leaving the workforce.
- A formalized Continuity of Education Plan for 2021–22, available to all Ontarians. We are 9 months into this pandemic, parents need a plan, a living document adaptable for all scenarios so we can adequately prepare for the year ahead.
COVID-19 is often compared to the Spanish Flu. We need our leaders to act now to ensure once we overcome this pandemic, we do not emerge in 1920.
Allison Venditti — Working parent, advocate for pay transparency and equity and Founder of Moms At Work — Canada’s Largest community for working mothers.