Filing an Occupational Health and Safety Complaint
In Alberta’s occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation, teachers are considered workers, the principal is the supervisor, and the school division is the employer. The Occupational Health and Safety Act does not define or determine appropriate assignments or tasks for teachers to complete—only that the work that happens at the school must be done in a safe and healthy manner.
Legislation defines the obligations of the parties at the worksite. Teachers have a role in ensuring the safety of themselves and others at the worksite, including participating in the hazard assessment creation, and reporting health and safety concerns to the site supervisor as soon as possible. If the health and safety concern is not addressed, a complaint can be filed. A complaint is for reporting unhealthy or unsafe conditions at a workplace. Anyone can file a complaint about unhealthy or unsafe conditions.
Reporting unsafe work occurs when a worker believes that an unsafe or harmful work site, condition or act exists or has occurred. The teacher (worker) must report the unsafe or harmful work site condition to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor).
If you are unsure of the best way to proceed, please contact Teacher Employment Services (TES) at 1-800-232-7208 or the OHS Contact Centre.
Before you call, ask yourself:
· Did you report unsafe work to your supervisor? What was the response?
· Did the site or school division’s health and safety committee review the unhealthy or unsafe condition? What
was the response?
Please note: According to section 5 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a teacher (worker) who believes that an unsafe or harmful work site condition or act exists or has occurred must report it to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor).
Second, have you reviewed the hazard assessment for your school?
· Does the hazard assessment address the unhealthy or unsafe condition for which you are filing a complaint?
· If not, why not? Suggest that the supervisor discuss the issue with the health and safety committee.
Then, consider whether the hazard can be eliminated:
· What controls are in place to limit the hazards associated with the unhealthy or unsafe condition to the
lowest level possible?
· How were the teachers and other worker groups at the school involved in the creation and review of the hazard assessments?
· How were the teachers and other worker groups informed of what they need to do in order to work in a
healthy and safe manner?
· How is healthy and safe work monitored by the employer?
· Is the focus of the complaint in the hazard assessment? Why or why not?
The internal responsibility system is the foundation of OHS legislation in Alberta. It includes the responsibility of the school division (employer), the principal (supervisor) and the teacher (and other workers in the building) to work in a safe manner and ensure their safety and the safety of others in the school. Is there evidence of the internal responsibility system in use at the school?
· If a teacher or other worker in the school makes a suggestion or requests that a health and safety issue be
considered or discussed by the health and safety committee, what happens?
· Where is this suggestion logged?
· What is the discussion?
· What is the reply to the suggestion?
· Is there an assessment of what is needed or not needed?
· How is this information shared with all workers at the school?
A suggestion from a teacher or other worker in the school can make a practice or condition healthier or safer. If a suggestion is not considered or is rejected by the health and safety committee, the teacher or worker can still file a complaint with OHS. However, if the work site is compliant with OHS legislation, an order will not be issued even if the suggestion has not been considered.
Finally, if you determine that it is appropriate to file an OHS complaint, this can be done by calling the OHS Contact Centre or through an online form. If you are filing online and the nature of the complaint has to do with harassment or immediate danger, you will be directed to phone the OHS Contact Centre. The online form is for non-urgent situations only.
You will be asked if you want to make an anonymous complaint. If you answer yes, you will go to the form for submitting an anonymous complaint. If you are not making an anonymous complaint, you will need to sign into MyAlberta Digital ID or create an account. If you choose to be anonymous, the information you will be required to provide will be the same, with the exception of your personal information. Once the complaint has been filed, the response time is typically 10 business days, or two hours if the danger is immediate.
Resources—Government of Alberta
ATA OHS Information
File an OHS Complaint
OHS Act, Regulation and Code
OHS Work Site Inspections: What to Expect
Report Unsafe Work
Hazard Assessment and Control: A Handbook for Alberta Employers and Workers
Teachers must report unsafe or harmful work site conditions to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor). Anyone can report unhealthy or unsafe conditions at a workplace. Teachers may choose to remain anonymous when filing a complaint through OHS. #WEAREATA
The Alberta Teachers’ Association is calling for the Government of Alberta to stop all work on the piloting and implementation of the draft curriculum until an independent, open and full review and rewrite can occur.
The Association is publishing full-page ads in daily newspapers across Alberta tomorrow to issue the call for a moratorium and to show support for school boards and teachers that decide not to participate in piloting.
“Alberta’s students and teachers require an appropriate and workable curriculum. The government is being told loudly and clearly that this curriculum is unacceptable. We now need the government to announce a stop to their implementation plans and to spell out a new way forward.”
—Jason Schilling, ATA president
ATA president Jason Schilling says the Association supports school boards that have decided not to pilot this draft curriculum, and he calls on all school authorities to refrain from directing their teachers to participate in piloting.
“Teachers who believe this curriculum is unsound and potentially damaging to student learning have the professional responsibility and moral right to refuse to participate in voluntary piloting. The government and school boards must respect the decision of individual teachers to not participate in piloting.”
—Jason Schilling, ATA president
Although the teaching profession is frustrated by being left out of the curriculum development process, Schilling says teachers are more than willing to assist the government with a rewrite that reflects their extensive expertise and knowledge.
“We are committed to supporting the development of a high-quality curriculum, and the ATA is prepared to work constructively in partnership with the Government of Alberta toward that end. It is the only workable path forward. We just need to be invited.”
—Jason Schilling, ATA president
The call follows the release of preliminary survey results showing that 91 per cent of teachers and school administrators are unhappy with the draft curriculum, with three in four teachers stating that they are “very unhappy.” The survey also showed that 90 per cent of elementary school teachers feel uncomfortable about teaching the new K–6 curriculum, and 95 per cent of principals feel uncomfortable about supporting the curriculum in their school and community.
The ATA is directing parents and the public who are concerned about the draft curriculum to pledge support for the moratorium and review by visiting curriculum.thelearningteam.ca
COVID-19 and School Safety
Alberta’s third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is being driven by highly contagious variants of the coronavirus. Last November, secondary schools moved online with 1,700 cases in schools. Currently we have 2,400 cases in schools—many of them variants of concern—and nearly one in five schools have alerts or outbreaks.
School leaders and support staff are spending hours calling students and staff to instruct them to isolate after families report a positive test result for COVID-19. A concerning number of Alberta teachers and their students have tested positive for COVID-19, and thousands more have been required to isolate. An interactive map of COVID-19 school status can be accessed here.
Public health measures are in place to support the safe operation of schools, which includes mandatory masking, physical distancing when possible, enhanced cleaning and daily symptom screening. Further, President Schilling and the Alberta Teachers’ Association tirelessly advocate for school workers and for increased protective measures to help prevent spread in schools. However, because of various factors, working in schools may not be possible for all teachers, specifically those who have certain health concerns.
Some teachers may have a compromised immune system or other medical condition that necessitates special accommodations to ensure their health. In that case, the teacher must have medical documentation showing that they require the employer to make changes to certain rules, standards, policies, workplace cultures or physical environments to ensure that school conditions do not have a negative effect on the teacher. This may mean extra PPE, barrier protection or, in more complex situations, a teacher not being able to work in a regular school setting. Medical documentation that supports substantive accommodations requires the teacher to work closely with their health care provider, Teacher Employment Services (TES) and their employer.
It is the duty of the employer to make accommodations for medical disability to the point of undue hardship. This will require working with the employer to establish the medical limitations of the teacher’s disability and ensure that the employer best accommodates the teacher’s disability. Teachers must bear in mind that employers have the ability to direct them to attend a medical examination under section 226 of the Education Act.
Further, teachers also have the obligation to enforce public health directives to ensure the safety of their school communities. If students refuse to comply with public health orders, teachers have the authority to address the noncompliant behaviour. Under section 36 of the Education Act. a teacher may suspend a student from one class period if “the student’s conduct, whether or not the conduct occurs within the school building or during the school day, is injurious to the physical or mental well-being of others in the school.” This would require that the teacher direct the noncomplying student to the school office. While out-of-school suspensions are often reluctantly considered, under the act, principals may suspend a student for up to five days, without a recommendation for expulsion, to ensure the safety of students and staff.
As workers in a school, teachers have an obligation to ensure the safety of their workplace. Teachers must report unsafe conditions to their site supervisor (usually their principal). Moreover, teachers can contact Alberta Health Services, Environmental Public Health or the medical officer of health with respect to COVID restrictions and enforcement of compliance with public health orders. Occupational Health and Safety and Alberta Health can coordinate efforts to ensure safely and compliance, dependent on the concern raised.
Teachers should have a work environment that is safe for themselves and for their students. Although working from home is not a right, if a medical accommodation to work in isolation is necessary, the employer must accommodate to the point of undue hardship. Teachers requiring accommodation should call the Association at 1-800-232-7208 and request the assistance of Teacher Employment Services. #WEAREATA
Planning your 2021 RRSP contributions
The RRSP deduction limit for the 2021 tax year is 18 per cent of pretax earned income or $27,830, whichever is less. For example, if you earned $90,000 in 2021, your RRSP deduction limit is 18% ´ $90,000 = $16,200. However, your Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund pension contributions reduce the amount you can contribute to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Those amounts are recorded in box 52 on your T4 from your employer. This amount is then reported on line 206 of the Income Tax T1 General.
Pension adjustments (PA) reflect the value of contributions to your Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund. These earned amounts take up RRSP room.
The tax formula used to determine the benefit is (9 ´ yearly benefit) - $600.
Let’s look at an example of a teacher who earns $90,000. The yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) for 2021 is $61,600.
$61,600 ´ 1.4% = $862.40
$90,000 - $61,600 = $28,400 ´ 2.0% = $568.00
Yearly benefit is $1,430.40 (862.40 plus 568.00)
PA = (9 ´ $1,430.40) - $600 = $12,273.60
18% of $90,000 = $16,200
$16,200 – $12273.60 = $3,926.40
***If you have both a regular RRSP and a spousal RRSP, the deduction limit is the maximum amount you can contribute to all your RRSP accounts combined.
RRSP deduction limit vs contribution limit
The RRSP deduction limit differs from the contribution limit as it does not consider past unused RRSP contributions. The RRSP contribution limit reflects your current year maximum contribution, plus any unused contribution room from previous years. Your contribution limit is the total of this year’s deduction limit and any unused contribution room.
How to find your RRSP contribution limit
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tracks individual contribution limits and reports this on the individual’s Notice of Assessment each year under the heading “Available Contribution Limit.” If you set up an account with CRA, you can also check your RRSP contribution limit online. Additionally, you can also access the status of your refund, check for benefit amounts, see previous years’ tax information and notices of assessment and make payments to your tax account.
Where to report RRSP contributions
You are required to report all RRSP contributions on line 208 of your T1 General Income Tax Return. Contributions made from March to December in each year are reported in the calendar year they are made. Contributions for the first 60 days of the next year can be reported in either calendar year. Your financial institution will provide you with RRSP receipts.
Understanding how your ATRF pension contributions reduce the amount you can contribute to an RRSP can help you better plan your retirement savings. Pension adjustments (PA) reflect the value of contributions to your Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund. These earned amounts take up RRSP room. Contact your financial planner/tax accountant with specific questions concerning your own RRSPs and tax account. #WEAREATA
Updates from ATA Provincial