Paid Sick Leave during COVID-19 Pt. 1

With the continuation of the pandemic, CUPE has taken the position that our members should not be required to use earned sick banks or take unpaid leaves during periods of unavoidable isolation, quarantine or school closure. In order to fully support effective isolation or quarantine and thus maintain the safety of our members, school staff and students, districts should be providing wage continuity throughout these times. Employers consistently say that sick time is only to be used in cases of illness or injury, so for school districts to require the misuse of sick time (either paid or unpaid) now, is totally unacceptable. We know that members across the province face the very real issue of whether to adhere to public health orders in order to keep schools safe while balancing the decision of whether they can afford the time off required.

Here is a summary of how school districts should be treating periods of isolation or quarantine (including COVID-related school closure):

• When a member is ill or injured (including COVID positive), sick time is still the appropriate coding for time lost. Locals should encourage members to file a Form 6 with WorkSafeBC if they contract COVID-19
• When a member is following a requirement by public health or the employer to isolate or quarantine, this time is to be coded as paid general leave, with no impact on sick banks. This includes time spent waiting for COVID test results
• If a member chooses to travel to an area where quarantine will be required upon their return, this is an example of ‘avoidable’ quarantine. In this circumstance, the member cannot access paid general leave and may request access to additional vacation leave for time spent in quarantine upon their return
• Retroactive reinstatement of sick leave used prior to February 1, 2021 will not be possible broadly. Members who have been required to use sick leave or unpaid time during periods of unavoidable isolation or quarantine or COVID-related school closures should be encouraged to identify themselves to their Local, with the specific details of when the leave was improperly coded. We have received assurances that those specific cases can be resolved at a local level to make members whole
• All such paid general leave is fully funded by the Ministry, therefore this resolution will not impact district budgets and any suggestion of this resulting in cuts to hours should be resoundingly rejected. Although, we know this issue has the greatest impact on CUPE’s K-12 members, we have been informed that CUPE’s advocacy on this front will result in teachers and administrators receiving the same protections

If your members continue to experience any opposition from your employer(s), please work with your CUPE National Representative and we will continue to problem solve as necessary with BCPSEA.