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 was 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 confirmed in writing that it is not in agreement with the Association’s position, and a policy grievance was filed on this issue [October 14 update communication on the sick leave grievance]. An arbitration hearing did take place on this matter in November 2020 and a decision was received. The decision is clear that the Employer cannot force a teacher to use sick leave if they are well enough to work in these circumstances; however, a disagreement remains between the parties as to what leave is then available to teachers, and whether such leave is properly paid or unpaid. Your Association continues to engage with Government on this issue. Teachers who find themselves in this situation should contact an NLTA administrative officer for advice.
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 (Updated September 2022)
While a MOA signed with respect to the pandemic (2020-21) 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 was expanded by agreement of the parties for the 2021-22 school year and is again being expanded for the 2022-23 school year as per below.
Currently, there is no general obligation to provide medical documentation in relation to multiple absences for COVID-19 related symptoms/illness, each of 14 days or less, 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-19 symptoms/illness absences that would trigger a note requirement as long as each such absence is for 14 days or less.
Example: A teacher could be off in October for 11 days with COVID-19 related symptoms, another 7 days in January for COVID-19 related symptoms, and then another 8 days in April because they tested positive for COVID-19, 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-19 related symptoms/illness, the usual provisions of the collective agreements apply. Medical documentation must be provided for absences in excess of 7 teaching days in the aggregate, or in excess of four consecutive teaching days.
- Does have reported COVID-19 related symptoms/illness, they do not have to provide medical documentation if they are absent for 14 consecutive days or less. (It should be noted that, regardless of such provisions, the employer can always request a note if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse.) This can happen numerous times during the school year.
NLTA members seeking advice/assistance on specific matters related to their individual circumstances should contact the Association via firstname.lastname@example.org.