To: All OPS Local Presidents
From: Roxanne Barnes, Chair, Central Enforcement and Renewal Committee
On April, 1, 2013, provisions for the compensation rate for employees on short-term sick leave changes. The new Article 44.1 reads:
44.1.2 Effective April 1, 2013, an employee who is unable to attend to his or her duties due to sickness or injury is entitled to leave of absence with pay as follows:
(a) with regular salary for the first six (6) working days of absence,
(b) with sixty-six and two thirds per cent (66.67%) of regular salary for an additional one hundred and twenty four (124) working days of absence, in each calendar year; or
(c) notwithstanding 44.1.2 (b), with seventy-five per cent (75%) of regular salary for an additional one hundred and twenty-four (124) working days, if a certificate of a legally qualified medical practitioner is forwarded to the employee’s manager or designee certifying that the employee is unable to attend to official duties due to a severe mental or physical illness or injury (e.g. stroke, serious accident, hospitalization in excess of two (2) days, Quarantined, declared Pandemic event, shingles), or serious chronic mental or physical illness or injury (e.g. cancer, Crohns, Multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis).
We know that the employer will treat sixty-six and two-thirds per cent salary payment as the default rate for any employee who is off due to illness or injury. In order to get the higher rate (seventy-five per cent) the employee will have to provide a note from a “legally qualified medical practitioner,” which is broader than just physicians.
We understand that the employer is developing a Form to use which can cover multiple absences and anticipated absences of the same nature in the future.
This article only affects the rate of compensation. Failure to provide this note or denial of the higher rate should in no way effect whether the member gets short-term sick pay, only the rate. It should also have absolutely no effect on any accommodation issue or attendance support issues.
OPSEU has also advised the employer that it is our position that an absence related to an illness or injury that qualifies as a disability under the Ontario Human Rights Code must be compensated at the higher rate. This is in addition to serious and severe illnesses or injuries which qualify but may not be a disability under the Code.
We expect problems with the employer’s implementation of this article. The employer has said that they plan to leave it to individual managers to contact employees who are currently on short-term sick leave and advise them that their compensation rate is being reduced to two-thirds, and that they need to provide a note under 44.1.2 (c) in order to receive the higher rate. We also expect that whoever is in charge of processing the requests for the higher rate will quickly be overwhelmed and not able to respond to and process them in a reasonable, consistent, or timely manner. Please note that front-line managers will not approve or deny the higher rate. This is being done by the employer centrally.
Any members who are unfairly denied the higher rate of compensation based on the points listed above should file a grievance. Members who submit a note for higher compensation and do not receive a response in a timely manner should also file a grievance.
Suggested grievance wording is as follows:
“I grieve that the Employer has violated the Collective Agreement, including but not limited to Article 44 and Article 3, and any related employment statute, by denying me proper compensation for short-term sick leave.
Settlement desired: “Full redress.”
As with any new process or practice, there will always be implementation problems…especially with a bargaining unit as large as the OPS. OPSEU continues to monitor the emerging issues on Article 44, and will respond accordingly.
If you have any questions on this issue, or need to discuss details on specific or unique cases, please contact your Local’s Staff Representative.