Frequently Asked Questions
On July 7, 2021 the Government of Saskatchewan announced that Prekindergarten to Grade 12 schools will return to regular prepandemic operations for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. The STF will continue to monitor the situation, advocate for members and provide updated advice to members as more information becomes available.
REFUSAL TO WORK
Yes, the Saskatchewan Employment Act states that an employee may refuse to perform any particular act or series of acts at a place of employment if the employee has reasonable grounds to believe that the act or series of acts is unusually dangerous to the employee’s health or safety, or the health or safety of any other person at the placement of employment until sufficient steps have been taken to satisfy the employee otherwise; or the occupational health and safety committee has investigated the matter and advised the employee otherwise.
Refusing to work on the grounds of an unsafe work environment are your rights as an individual and are specific to your work environment or assignment under Occupation Health and Safety legislation. Refusal to work is not covered by the collective bargaining agreements, nor is it an action that the Federation or a local can lead on behalf of the membership. The Federation’s role is to ensure members are aware of their rights and provide access to information.
A work environment or duties that are unusually dangerous to the health or safety of self and/or others could qualify as an unsafe work environment. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020, employers are required to have an exposure control plan in place. This applies to COVID-19. Additional information is available in the Q & A from the Government of Saskatchewan.
The pandemic combined with other factors specific to your circumstances may constitute an unsafe work environment, such as: your age and health; rates of infection of COVID-19 and variants of concern in your school community; implementation of COVID-19 prevention measures in your division; or factors related to your specific duties. Please refer to the Advisory for additional guidance.
The process is outlined in the Refusal to Work advisory. If you believe your work environment is unusually dangerous, your first step is to inform your employer. The process will involve working with your employer and Occupational Health and Safety committee. If the concerns are not addressed, the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Government of Saskatchewan will investigate and make a determination.
No. While you can’t be disciplined or terminated there is no guarantee that you will be successful with your claim.
The Federation’s position is that you should continue to be paid while exercising your right to refuse unsafe work. If your employer allows you to work from home or otherwise removes the unsafe working conditions while your concerns are being investigated, you will be expected to perform those duties which you can do safely until your concerns are resolved.
VACCINATIONS FOR TEACHERS, SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF
Will teachers be eligible to participate in the in-school vaccine clinics? Since April we have been advocating for the inclusion of all eligible school staff, including teachers, for the in school vaccine clinics. Because the in-school clinics will administer Pfizer, not all teachers eligible for a second dose would be able to participate in this delivery method as some teachers received other vaccinations.
It has been raised and discussed at the Response Planning Team meetings, which includes Executive Directors from the STF, SSBA, SASBO and LEADS along with senior government officials. Not only would this approach reduce the requirement for substitutes to accommodate vaccine leaves, it would also ensure teachers are prioritized for second doses and redirect some of the booking pressures on other clinics, including pharmacies and drive-thrus.
The Government of Saskatchewan announced that all teachers and educational staff working directly with students will be eligible to receive their vaccine as of Friday, April 30. Please refer to the Government of Saskatchewan for information on eligibility, how to book and what to expect.
You may call to make appointments or use existing drive-thru or walk-in clinics, if they are available in your area. You can book your appointment by phone at 1-833-SASKVAX (1-833-727-5829). The call centre is available 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
You are also eligible for up to three consecutive hours leave to receive your vaccine. More information is available in the Vaccine Leave Advisory.
Teachers should take proof of employment with them prior to attending mass vaccination sites. This may include a pay stub no older than March 1, 2021, a letter from your school division or a copy of your SPTRB certificate.
RETURNING TO WORK AND ABSENCES FROM WORK
The Government of Saskatchewan confirmed that teachers are expected to clean and sanitize their own workspace and shared workspaces (photocopier after use, etc.), but are not to do additional cleaning and sanitizing. This work will be completed by custodial staff throughout the day.
You should not purchase cleaning and disinfecting supplies. It is the responsibility of school divisions and the province to provide these and ensure proper disinfecting by using appropriate products, hiring adequate custodial staff and training custodial staff as necessary.
The STF recommends you contact our office prior to requesting a leave of absence without pay to discuss and receive guidance based on your individual circumstances. We also encourage you contact Service Canada to see if you may qualify for any of the federal government’s support programs.
If you reasonably believe that your work environment or duties are unusually dangerous to the health or safety of you or your students, inform your employer and let them know that you are refusing to work. The right to refuse work is outlined in section 3-31 of The Saskatchewan Employment Act. If they do not take sufficient steps to solve the issue, Occupational Health and Safety will conduct an investigation and determine whether or not there is a reasonable risk of unusual danger.
The right to refuse work because of COVID-19 will depend on factors. Please reference the school re-opening advisory for additional details and process.
As teaching contracts do not specify subject or grade, teachers are contractually obligated to provide teaching service in whatever assignment their employer determines so long as it complies with the expectations of the 2019-2023 Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement.
No. Sick leave and long-term disability are for addressing your own health. In this case, the concern is for your family member who is at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, not you.
If your family member is living in your household and has been advised by a duly qualified medical practitioner to eliminate, or severely restrict contact with the public as a result of COVID-19, speak to your employer about the possibility of accommodation on the basis of family status. Please also contact your Senior Administrative Staff should you need support in securing an appropriate accommodation.
Long-term disability is a benefit that may be an option once your sick leave is used up. Medical documentation is required as part of the application process. It is important to note:
- Being immune-compromised, without being sick, would not lead to an approval of disability benefits. Being immune compromised does not in and of itself prevent someone from engaging in the essential duties of their own occupation and as such would not satisfy the definition of disability outlined in our Plan Text.
- Being immune-compromised is an employee and employer issue to resolve such that, where a physician has concluded that the employee has a condition impacting their ability to be at work or perform their duties, the employer has a duty to accommodate. Accommodation is a matter between the employer and its employees, not between the long-term disability plan and its members.
Teachers have a duty to provide service or access an appropriate leave (sick leave, leave of absence, etc.).
It is for a doctor to determine whether you are medically unfit to be at work or for you and your doctor to identify your limitations in support of an accommodation.
Any medically related absence from work must begin with medical documentation from your doctor (Form 7-1 Verification of Sickness). This form does not provide details about your medical condition, but specifies a period of time that you will be absent as per your doctor’s recommendation. This information should be shared with your principal/immediate supervisor first, who will then provide guidance and next steps. This will likely require communication directly with the human resources superintendent for the school division.
In some cases, accommodations may be possible rather than a leave. In the case of an actual disability, your employer has a duty to accommodate. Please contact your Senior Administrative Staff should you need support in securing an appropriate accommodation.
It is for a doctor to determine whether you are medically unfit to be at work, and your doctor to identify your limitations in support of an accommodation.
Any medically related absence from work must begin with medical documentation from your doctor (Form 7-1 Verification of Sickness). This form does not provide details about your medical condition, but specifies a period of time that you will be absent as per your doctor’s recommendation.
First, submit the form to your Superintendent of Human Resources, or the person responsible for medical records in your division. You should then inform your principal or immediate supervisor that you have submitted a Verification of Illness form and work with them on any next steps required.
As per Article 7.4.3 Health of Foetus of the 2019-2023 Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement; A teacher who is expecting a child is eligible for benefits in accordance with this Article when: (a) the teacher is assigned to a location where, in the opinion of her physician, the teacher is at risk of damage to her foetus as a result of environmental or health conditions; and (b) there is no mutually agreed-upon re-assignment.
Any medical leave taken prior to the anticipated due date will be deducted from accumulated sick leave. The due date or the actual date of birth is when maternity leave, Employment Insurance and Supplemental Employment Benefits commence.
No. Article 12.2 of the Provincial Agreement entitles teachers to up to 20 days (annual limit) pay while in quarantine. An “order of a medical health officer or the Ministry of Health” is required before the quarantine provision kicks in. It’s likely the order to quarantine will occur over the phone (811). Verification of that order will be required – take note of the time, date and name of the health officer as well as any other information that can be obtained (case or file number).
If you’re using up your quarantine days (max 20 annually) then you should not be providing service. The quarantine provision in the Provincial Agreement is based on the premise that you are unable to continue regular teaching duties during that period of time.
If you are able to provide service, contact your employer to see if they can accommodate you with a working from home assignment. Working from home, even during the quarantine period, should be regular teacher pay and not deducted from either your sick leave or quarantine allocation.
You could then access sick leave and would need to obtain medical documentation as per the process.
If mask wearing became mandatory from the Public Health Officer, then the school division would have to implement that. As it would be considered a "Lawful Order of the Board,” then all employees would have to abide. If that were the case, not abiding would likely lead to some form of discipline as it would be considered insubordination.
Not abiding by Public Health Orders can have other consequences, including fines.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS
All collective agreements, provincial and local, remain in effect. Teachers need to pay attention to the specific wording of their own LINC agreements.
Teachers should also ensure they are aware of relevant policies and administrative procedures specific to their school division.
Because there are a host of new and emerging social norms and rules designed to preserve student and staff safety during the pandemic, it is not always clear what teachers should and should not do. Teachers will continue to operate according to their legislated and contractual duties, rights and responsibilities. Accordingly, the following items remain unaffected:
- Teacher and principal duties, as articulated in The Education Act, 1995, s. 231 and s. 175, respectively;
- The 2019-2023 Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement, including section 17.9(b) which states that assigned time is not to exceed 1,044 hours in a given school year;
- LINC agreements, many of which have provisions for professional development funds, prep time, lunch time and recess supervision compensation;
- Teacher occupational health and safety rights and responsibilities, as articulated in The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996 and Part III of The Saskatchewan Employment Act;
- The right to reasonable accommodation, as articulated in The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
- Entitlement to additional compensation for providing services outside of the 197-day school year, as per the 2019-2023 Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement.
If situations arise where members are asked to take on additional duties that are clearly the responsibility of another staff member (for example if teachers are told or feel compelled to take on cleaning responsibilities) please advise the STF so we can help co-ordinate responses and approaches across school divisions, and offer you guidance and support.
Teachers are entitled to a duty-free lunch period unless, in accordance with the local association agreement provisions, they volunteer to provide noon-hour supervision and to receive compensation in return. Teachers are encouraged to review the provisions of their local collective bargaining agreement to ensure they are aware of their entitlements and commitments. Please reference the school re-opening advisory on noon-hour supervision for additional details and processes.
Yes. Teaching contracts do not specify subject or grade, and a Professional A Certificate confers eligibility to teach all subjects to students in all grades in Saskatchewan schools. As such, teachers are contractually obligated to provide teaching service in whatever assignment their employer determines so long as it complies with the expectations of the 2019-2023 Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement.
A school division can request your services (i.e., attend an event) prior to the first day of school. Such a request need not come directly from the board of education, but can also be made indirectly through your administrator, the Ministry of Education or the Government of Saskatchewan. Upon receiving such a request, STF members should confirm via email with their superintendent or administrator that:
- The school division is requesting their attendance at the event.
- Their attendance is expected.
- If they attend, compensation will be provided as per Article 2.6 of the 2019-2023 Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Yes, in order to ensure compensation please be sure to:
- Document the date of the event and the time spent at the event.
- Report your attendance to the human resources superintendent/supervisor for your division.
- Monitor your pay stub to ensure you receive compensation for attending the event in accordance with Article 2.6.
If you did not receive the deserved compensation, you should:
- Confirm with the human resources superintendent/supervisor that the employer was aware of the additional service and the provisions of Article 2.6.
- Seek clarification as to why the compensation was not provided.
- If there is disagreement between you and the employer in respect to the language and intention of Article 2.6, contact the STF senior administrative staff assigned to your local association.
- Work with the senior administrative staff to reconcile the situation with your employer.
PRINCIPALS AND VICE-PRINCIPALS
The principal will need to take the appropriate protective measures that would allow them to approach the student and still mitigate the risk of exposure. The principal will need to follow the quarantine plan for their specific school in order to isolate the student and prevent the potential spread of the illness.
Check with your employer for protocol on how to address this. If the situation presents itself and you do not have clear direction you may:
- Express your concern and encourage them to call 811.
- If they resist and you remain concerned, let them know you will contact the superintendent for further guidance.
See the Collective Bargaining Agreements section above for answers to this and other related questions.
Substitute teachers will be called upon to provide service this coming school year. You are encouraged to become familiar with the Safe School Plan for your particular school division. Expect to be briefed on all safety measures for the schools where you provide service. Please contact the school division with specific questions related to substitute teaching and the Safe School Plan.
As the employer, a board of education has the legislated authority to hire teachers and to assign those teachers to the position that meets the needs of the students in the division.
In responding to the current global pandemic, it is possible that boards of education may restrict substitute teachers to providing service in fewer schools. The restriction of the movement of substitute teachers among schools would be considered as a means to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus between separate populations of students and to minimize the risk for substitute teachers contracting the virus by limiting the number of individuals they are exposed to.
Should a board of education choose to restrict the movement of substitute teachers between schools, it is within their legislated authority to do so. Unfortunately, such a restriction may result in reducing the number of days that a substitute teacher can provide service and thus would restrict the potential income of the substitute teacher.
It is within the authority of a school division to require employees to complete a daily COVID-19 Health Screening/Declaration form as another means to mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Teachers who have concerns with what is being asked on the form should contact the school division or call the STF.
Substitute teachers do not have guaranteed access to quarantine leave available through Article 12.2 – Quarantine. The Federation encourages substitute teachers to contact any school divisions for whom they are providing service for the 2020-21 academic year and inquire as to whether the school division will provide additional support to substitute teachers.
Substitute teachers play an important role in maintaining a quality public education system in Saskatchewan; it is why the Federation has continually brought forward proposals to the provincial bargaining table that sought to provide a contract of employment that respects the role of substitute teachers. The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee refused to discuss such a proposal in the latest round of bargaining. Unfortunately, this means substitute teachers do not have the same protection and support as other teachers.
If you believe you contracted COVID-19 while providing service as a substitute teacher, you may be eligible for WCB. The criteria to qualify for WCB in regards to COVID-19 in the workplace include:
- There is confirmed exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace; and
- The time period that the illness is contracted is in close proximity to the confirmed workplace exposure; and
- The nature of employment creates a greater risk of exposure to the employee than to the general population.
- If you believe you meet and can verify the specified criteria, access the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board (“WCB”) website and file a claim. Claims submitted to WCB due to COVID-19 are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.
To be prepared in the event that a claim may need to be filed, the Federation advises substitute teachers to adopt the following protocol:
- Document – keep a daily journal of your substitute teacher service including:
- the date of service; and
- the name of the school; and
- the classroom; and
- the names of any individuals outside of the classroom with whom you interacted (this may be a challenge but is highly recommended for the purpose of contact tracing and to verify if you were a close contact); and
- if you become symptomatic, the date you first developed symptoms.
- In the event that you develop symptoms of COVID-19, stay home from work and call the Healthline at 811 for directions. Tell 811 that you are a teacher for priority service.
- In the event that you are directed by public health to self-isolate for any reason (whether symptomatic or not):
- Contact the school division(s) where you provide service to inform them of your need to self-isolate and inform them of your work history with their division over the past 14 days.
- Contact Service Canada to see what other support program might be available to you while you self-isolate due to COVID-19. (refer to the information "Are there any other supports available to me if I am impacted by COVID-19?")
The Federation advises substitute teachers to:
- Set-up a My Service Canada account or a Canada Revenue Agency account. Either of these accounts can be used for applying for federal government support such as CERB, CRB, CRSB or EI.
- If you already have one of these accounts, ensure you are able to access it.
- If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 contact HealthLine 811 and follow the order/directive.
- If the order/directive is to remain at home, substitute teachers should seek federal government support through their Canada Revenue Agency account or My Service Canada account.
- Changes have been made to the EI program. If you are not eligible for EI, you may be eligible for another program such as CRB or CRSB.
STF’s ROLE AND POSITION ON THE PLANS
The Federation serves on the Government of Saskatchewan’s Education Sector Response Planning Team along with the SSBA, LEADS, SASBO and the Ministry of Education. Our role on the RPT is limited to providing feedback and making recommendations to the government.
Although our role was to provide recommendations only, the Federation deemed it important to join our educational partners to ensure teacher voice could be represented in discussions.
The Federation still has concerns and questions. STF President Patrick Maze has been very visible outlining these in the media. The Federation is concerned that the plans are not consistent with broader public health measures such as social distancing, avoiding crowded places and closed spaces, and keeping your number of contacts small.
There are also concerns about how some of the provisions can be implemented. For example, access to sinks and washrooms creates hand hygiene challenges, many schools have had windows sealed up which limits opportunities for air flow, etc.
Ultimately, the Government of Saskatchewan is responsible. The government released guidelines for divisions to adhere to and approved each division’s plan. The government has also stated it will move between the levels identified in the Safe Schools Plan based on advice from the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer.
Provincially, the Federation will continue to advocate for and represent teacher voice. If you are concerned with your employer’s plan, your concerns should be addressed with your employer. In the case of components of the plan not aligning with LINC agreements, collective bargaining agreements and legislation, please contact the Federation for guidance and support from a Senior Administrative Staff member.
If you are dissatisfied with the overall approach, you can also communicate your concerns to your MLA, the Minister of Education and the Premier. Writing a letter and sharing on social media are options. If you choose to voice concerns, please take care to ensure you are maintaining professionalism in your language and approach.