Subsequent to the interruption of sick leave management administrative procedures at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers across Alberta have resumed their active management of teacher sick leave. Some have developed new administrative procedures, and others have amended or reinstated existing division policy.
A shortage of substitute teachers across Alberta has led to escalating pressure on contract teachers to provide internal coverage for their absent colleagues and has generated an increase in active sick leave management on the part of many employers.
Teachers must be afforded the time necessary for illness and for medical and dental appointments. However, employers are increasingly articulating that teachers are expected to return to work once their appointments have concluded. From the perspective of some employers, teachers should remain at work or return to work if the appointment time reasonably allows them to do so. They are also strongly encouraging teachers not to book full days for appointments.
Employers cannot inquire as to the diagnosis or the particulars of a teacher’s medical condition; therefore, they cannot know if taking a half day or a full day is appropriate for a specific appointment. There are many sound reasons for taking a full day of sick leave for an appointment. Factors such as travel time and, especially, if the appointment coincides with particularly difficult medical news, are part of determining the time needed for an appointment. In other circumstances, the preparation for or recovery from a procedure necessitates the time away.
Employers have the ability to
· meet with a teacher in relation to absences,
· inquire as to prognosis and functional limitations,
· know whether sick leave is for a mental or a physical illness for long-term absences,
· inquire into supports or accommodations that might be required,
· implement a plan for further monitoring and follow-up meeting and
· direct a teacher to attend an examination by a physician of the employer’s selection (under section 226 of the Education
Depending on the specific collective agreement, the employer can ask the teacher to provide
· the time of an appointment,
· the geographical location of an appointment (that is, whether it is in or out of town, but not the address or the name
of the clinic or doctor),
· a signed statement providing the reason for a leave or
· a doctor’s note after a specified number of days of absence.
The employer cannot
· prevent the teacher from accessing sick leave entitlements,
· prorate sick leave by the hour (sick leave entitlements are either full or half days),
· require the teacher to return to work after an appointment,
· require the teacher to stay at work until the appointment time,
· require the teacher to provide a diagnosis of the medical condition,
· direct the teacher to attend school if the teacher is ill,
· prescribe medical treatment for the condition or
· require the teacher to provide a list of medications.
Employer sick leave management administrative procedures cannot disentitle teachers to leave provisions in their collective agreement. Teachers must be afforded the time necessary for illness and for medical and dental appointments. If you have questions about your employer’s policies on sick leave management, contact Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232‑7208. #WEAREATA
Updates from ATA Provincial