The NLTA has repeatedly raised the issue of paid leave for teachers experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms with the Premier, the Minister of Education, and with the school districts. It is your Association’s position that the employer does not have the right (under Articles 15 and 27 of the Provincial and Labrador West Collective Agreements, respectively) to require NLTA members to use sick leave when directing a teacher to remain out of the workplace if the teacher feels well, fit and able enough to work. The government has confirmed in writing that it is not in agreement with the Association’s position, and a policy grievance has been filed on this issue [October 14 update communication on the sick leave grievance]. An arbitration hearings did take place on this matter in November 2020, and we are now awaiting a final ruling from the arbitration panel. While the NLTA awaits the final ruling on this matter, it is important that all NLTA members observe the guidance that follows below.
If a teacher feels well, fit and able to perform their duties but, based upon their results from completing the required COVID-19 screening questionnaire, which was recently updated by Public Health, are directed not to attend school:
- Prior to communicating a decision to remain at home, report their screening results to their school administration and ask for paid leave (NOT sick leave). Principals should report screening results to their Director of Schools (DOS).
- Be advised and aware that school administrators will provide information as directed by the school district, which will be based upon direction from government.
- If paid leave other than sick leave is approved, the teacher should remain at home.
- If the teacher is directed to take sick leave, they should remain at home and contact the NLTA for assistance in filing a grievance as soon as possible – the timeline for filing a grievance is 15 calendar days from the date of the decision/event giving rise to the grievance.
- If, while the grievance process is being pursued, the teacher has exhausted their entitlement to paid sick leave, they should request paid ministerial leave pursuant to Clauses 18.11 and 29.11 of the Provincial and Labrador West Collective Agreements, respectively, and contact the NLTA for assistance.
For members who are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (asymptomatic) but are directed not to attend work as a result of being identified as a close contact of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case, the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) reached between the NLTA and both school districts secures special paid leave pending COVID-19 testing. In such circumstances, asymptomatic substitute teachers would also have access to special paid leave for all previously contracted work even if they have not yet commenced work in a particular contract(s). Should a member on special paid leave develop symptoms, they should refer to the information on sick leave above.
SICK NOTES (new)
While a MOA signed with respect to the pandemic provided that teachers did not need to provide a medical note for one period of 14 days for reported COVID-19 symptoms in order to access sick leave, this exemption has recently been expanded by agreement of the parties.
Currently, there is no general obligation to provide medical documentation in relation to multiple absences for COVID related symptoms, each of less than 14 days, and there is no cumulative limit on the total number of days over a set period of time. Put another way, there is no cumulative “cap” for COVID symptoms absences that would trigger a note requirement if each COVID symptom absence is less than 14 days.
Example: A teacher could be off for 10 days with COVID related symptoms, another 7 days for COVID related symptoms and then another 8 for COVID related symptoms, with no need to provide a medical certificate in order to access paid sick leave (unless abuse is reasonably suspected).
If a teacher:
- Does not have COVID related symptoms, they are under the usual provisions in the agreement. Medical documentation must be provided for absences in excess of 7 teaching days in the aggregate, or four consecutive teaching days.
- Does have reported COVID related symptoms, they do not have to provide a note if they are off for less than consecutive 14 days. (It should be noted that regardless of such provisions, the employer can always request a note if they reasonably suspect abuse.) This can happen numerous times in the school year.
NLTA members seeking advice/assistance on specific matters related to their individual circumstances should contact the Association via email@example.com.