Can You Tell Me?
Listed below are topics of potential interest to our AESES membership. As you work your jobs, you may encounter situations that require clarifying. We hope this information proves useful. Check back often, as we will continue to add material, reproduced from articles that appear in our print newsletters. If you require any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact the AESES business office.
Work Schedule Changes
AESES frequently receives questions from members about schedule changes. Can the employer change your work schedule? The simple answer is yes. The employer can change your work schedule to meet their business needs, but they must give you proper notice.
At both The University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba, when a schedule change lasts one to four days, members must be given three days’ notice of the upcoming change. In emergency situations, the employer can issue a notice of schedule change before normal quitting time the day previous to the change. Where a schedule change is in effect for longer than four days, members must be given one weeks’ notice. At UW, schedule change provisions can be found in the Collective Agreement under Article 12.4, whereas at UM this information can be found under Article 12.5 of the Collective Agreement.
One thing to keep in mind is that a schedule change should not be used to increase hours of work in a single day. In other words, a schedule change does not mean you can be required to work more than your normal hours (usually 7 hours for most AESES members), at regular rates of pay. For example, members should never be asked to extend their workday and subsequently come in late the next day to balance out their hours; this is not an appropriate use of schedule change provisions.
Schedule changes can be used to alter the start and end times of the work day, provided that the employer has given proper notice. Where appropriate notice has not been given, overtime rates apply for the first day of the change.
As always, please contact the AESES Business Office for further clarification if you have questions or concerns.
Members frequently ask this question and want to know if and how they can work remotely. Is this a possibility? Unfortunately, it’s not an easy answer and the proper answer is, “it depends.”
First and foremost, our Collective Agreements are silent on this issue. Where the Collective Agreement is silent, the Employer retains the right to control their operations, and this includes the ability to work remotely. All this means is that the Employer has discretion over whether they will allow working remotely or not, and that this would furthermore be handled on a case-by-case basis.
It’s fairly obvious that some jobs are not able to be done remotely. For example, if you work in a customer-service area that requires you to meet students or other staff in-person, then it’s unlikely that working remotely will be an option for you. Additionally, individuals who are relied upon at the worksite most likely would not be eligible to work remotely.
However, your job might be one where you could be away from the office for one or more days per week. If granted the ability to work away from the normal worksite, members should get the agreement in writing and it should include a plan for the workday and workflow, so that expectations are clear. For example, you may be allowed to work remotely but you could be directed to complete your work during normal working hours. Also, the opposite could be true; you may be allowed to work from home and establish your own hours of work, so long as the Employer has agreed to this practice. In all cases, when working remotely, the length of your work day should be the same as if you were at your usual workplace.
If you are interested in working from home, the first step is discussing the possibility with your supervisor. It’s important to remember that the decision to allow members to work remotely belongs to the Employer, and they can decide the length of time, which day(s) would be worked remotely, and if this is a one-off situation or an ongoing agreement.
AESES members at both universities have access to time off for family care.
At The University of Winnipeg, members have access to “Emergency Leave” through Article 16.4 and 16.4.1 in the AESES-UW Collective Agreement. This type of leave allows for up to one (1) working day leave with pay to make appropriate arrangements for continuing care and supervision of a parent, spouse, or child during serious illness. Members should be aware that if they choose this option, they will need to make up the time on an equal time basis at a time mutually agreed upon between the appropriate Manager and the employee.
At the University of Manitoba, members are allowed up to one (1) paid day off for “Unscheduled Family Care,” as per Article 18.3 of the AESES-UM Collective Agreement. In order to be eligible for this type of leave, members must have an unscheduled event arise (such as daycare sending home a sick child) and it can only be used for the member’s following immediate family members: parents, spouse, or dependent child. Members cannot use this type of leave for taking family members to scheduled events, such as medical appointments. Unlike UW, members at UM do not need to make up time after accessing this type of leave.
In any of the cases listed above, members should be aware that the employer is entitled to ask questions to confirm that the member is entitled to these types of leaves. Examples of questions may include asking which family member is being looked after, whether it is a scheduled or unscheduled incident (particularly at UM), the circumstances relating to why it is necessary for the member to be absent from work (such as needing to pick up a sick child from daycare), and any other reasonable questions that would allow the employer to determine eligibility.
At UM and UW members may also take up to three (3) unpaid days off per calendar year to deal with family responsibilities or illness, as per Manitoba’s Employment Standards Code. This leave option is available once members have worked a minimum of thirty (30) days of employment and they must provide the employer with as much notice as is reasonable and practical. These three unpaid days cannot be carried over to the next calendar year if they remain unused. Eligible family members include: children, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses, common-law spouses, brothers, sisters, stepbrothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. It also includes those who are not related, but are considered a family member.
This type of leave can be used for scheduled events, such as medical appointments, or unscheduled events, such as picking up a sick child from school.
If you have any questions relating to Family Care, please contact the AESES Business Office at (204) 949-5200.
Workplace Injuries (UW)
Our AESES members at the UW do not have Workers Compensation coverage. As such, if there is ever a workplace or work-related accident or injury that takes place, they will need to fill out a university Incident Report Form, which can be downloaded here:
If the affected member requires medical care due to the accident/injury, they would then also have to contact UW’s Employee Benefits department in Human Resources to arrange for payment of any resulting services required (such as chiropractor, physiotherapist, etc).
Most importantly, if any member has difficulties with Employee Benefits denying their claim, they should contact the AESES Office for assistance at the earliest opportunity.
Compassionate Care Leave
Both universities offer AESES members Compassionate Care Leave, which is an unpaid leave of up to eight (8) weeks duration in a twenty-six (26) week period. This leave allows them to provide care and support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of forthcoming death.
To qualify, members must have been employed for 30 calendar days, provide the university with at least 10 working days notice where possible and also provide a certificate from a medical doctor who is caring for the eligible family member. The certificate should state that the eligible family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks of it being issued, and that they require the care and support of one or more family members.
At UW, an eligible family member refers to the employee’s parents, spouse, child, in-laws, sibling, ward or relative residing in the same household. At UM, an eligible family member is defined by the Employment Standards Code of Manitoba, meaning it can be anyone related or not related if the employee considers them to be like a close relative.
Further leave rules indicate that the leave of absence must be taken in no more than two (2) periods and a period can not have a duration of less than one (1) week, except where it is immediately followed by Bereavement Leave.
In addition to the Compassionate Care Leaves offered by the universities, all Canadians can receive financial assistance of up to 55% of their earnings (to a maximum of $547 a week) through Employment Insurance for up to 26 weeks during the 52 weeks following the date the person is certified by a medical doctor/nurse practitioner to be critically ill and in need of end-of-life care. Important eligibility criteria to note are that applicants must have accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of their claim, or since the start of your last claim, whichever is shorter.
In order for AESES members to receive the top-up through EI and extend their Compassionate Care Leave from 8 to 26 weeks (the EI version will supersede the AESES contract version), they can apply here – https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/caregiving/apply.html
Our AESES collective agreements will be updated to match the allowable leave periods permitted through the federal Employment Insurance program’s terms over the next round of bargaining, so that they are once more compliant with the recently updated legislation.
In all cases, the employee shall return to his/her former position after the leave and has the option to continue receiving all their benefits during the leave, but paid by them and subject to Canada Revenue Agency restrictions.
Certain odours can trigger an attack for allergic and asthmatic patients, as well as those with multiple chemical sensitivities, even in the smallest dose. The severity of these symptoms can vary, but none of them are particularly enjoyable, especially if dealing with them on a regular basis, or in a workplace, where a person can spend a large portion of each day.
Symptoms of chemical sensitivities can include: confusion, difficulty with concentration, dizziness and light-headedness, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, nausea, shortness of breath, skin irritation, and weakness.
Some people report mild irritation, while others are incapacitated and must give up normal activities to avoid exposure to triggers. Environmental sensitivities are chronic and those affected react adversely to chemical levels that are generally tolerated by most people.
Symptoms are only relieved by leaving the area or avoiding contact with the substance, though antihistamines may give symptomatic relief in some cases.
Accommodation is required under federal and provincial human rights acts. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “This medical condition is a disability and…those with environmental sensitivities are required by law to be accommodated.”
Symptoms can be triggered by any scented product, including personal hygiene items, fragrances, soaps, air fresheners and household chemicals, among others. Workplaces are thus implementing scent-free policies on a more regular basis, which all staff are then required to adhere to.
Chemical sensitivities are a reaction to chemical exposure, not simply a choice or preference. If your department requests that you refrain from using scented products, it is not a personal affront, but an accommodation. In these cases, reduce the harm being inflicted on those affected, by switching to fragrance-free products.
For help finding a list of fragrance free products, visit this website: https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/products
Job Description Rewrites
Has your university position undergone significant changes since it was last reviewed and classified?
If so, consider rewriting your job description and submitting it to your university’s Human Resources department to initiate a review of your position’s classification. This can lead to a potential change in the position’s Hay Points rating, or a change in classification.
Employees can get the ball rolling on this process themselves as no managerial approval (supervisor or otherwise) is required to start the classification review process. All members are encouraged to take advantage of this contract provision to ensure their job description is up-to-date and that there is minimal delay in the inclusion of significant new duties.
To get started, members will need to fill out, sign, and date a Request for Classification Review form, which can be downloaded from HR’s webpage. This should then be submitted, along with a revised job description, to HR. Copies of each of these documents should also be provided to your Supervisor.
It is important to sign and date the Request for Classification Review form at your earliest opportunity as the date of the earliest signature on the form will be used to calculate any back pay if the position is eventually reclassified upwards.
More information about this can be found in Article 23.3 of the UW-AESES collective agreement and Article 25.5 of the UM-AESES collective agreement.
Annual Performance Reviews are encouraged for all regular full-time and part-time employees employed at UM and are required at UW. Usually they are completed in conjunction with an employee’s upcoming Step Increase Review Date/Anniversary Increment Date.
Performance Reviews are used by the employer to fairly evaluate the employee’s performance, ensuring it’s acceptable, and assisting the employee in developing and improving their skills.
An employee should always be given a copy of their Performance Review, with a chance to look it over and discuss it with their supervisor. They also have the right to add their own comments to the form. Many members don’t agree with what their supervisors state in the review, but they have the right to respond with their own view.
Each employee is required to sign their Performance Review form upon its completion, to indicate that its contents have been read. This does not mean that the employee agrees with their supervisor’s assessment and statements, but rather only that they’ve read the document. Members cannot refuse to sign the document if they’re instructed to do so, as this action may lead to a charge of insubordination and result in discipline.
Performance Reviews are not intended to be disciplinary, but rather to guide performance and set goals. As they aren’t disciplinary, members don’t have a right to union representation at a meeting for performance review/evaluation.
If it is determined that an employee’s performance is unsatisfactory, the ways and means for improvement and remedial action shall be identified by the employer.
The complete language surrounding Performance Reviews can be found in Article 30 of UM’s collective agreement and Article 24.7.3 of UW’s collective agreement.
Mental Health Supports for Members
There are many reasons to feel stressed or frustrated or even at wits’ end. Even more so with the holidays approaching. Life can be draining, and the responsibilities hefted upon us, as well as those we take on, can overwhelm. We are constantly busy, and yet potentially alone, though surrounded by people. Who do we turn to for help? Where do we find support? Are there services available to us?
The answers are that yes, there are many reasons to seek assistance, but equally yes, there are also more resources than ever before for those struggling under heavy loads, those dealing with strained family dynamics, those weighed down with mental health concerns and those chained to addictions.
You don’t have to find answers on your own, seclude yourself from society, or pull back from activities you enjoy doing, while you seek treatment or learn to cope with these very real and very debilitating issues. Instead, access materials, professional advice and support. And most importantly, talk to someone about what you’re dealing with, so you can face it with a team of trained professionals and support staff.
The University of Winnipeg has stated that “maintaining a healthy workplace to support the physical and psychological well-being of faculty and staff in the workplace is an important UWinnipeg priority.” As a result, they recently asked their staff to participate in an online survey, to help them determine which organizational factors are contributing to overall employee health issues. This was done with the hope that the material collected could help shape eventual policies and initiatives like a mental health strategy for employees.
At the University of Manitoba, wellness information is sent out on a monthly basis from the University’s Employee Wellness Specialist. Health related sessions, including those dealing with mental health issues, are regularly offered through UM’s Learning and Organizational Development team.
Additionally, each University offers employees and their family members access to an Employee & Family Assistance Program. This 24-hour service provides personalized supports and can be easily accessed over the phone, through a website, and in the case of UM, also using a mobile app.
At UM, access Shepell via:
Mobile app: My EAP
At UW, access MB Blue Cross EFAP via:
(log in to see all available services)
There is no cost for staff or their immediate family members to access the EFAP plan.
The EFAP plan acts as a one-stop solution, offering interactive tools, educational resources and referrals. Users can receive confidential help, including immediate access to a counsellor through e-counselling or video counselling sessions. Experienced and caring professionals help users select the best support option for their unique circumstances, and EFAP use is completely confidential so that no one, including the employer, knows who is accessing the service.
We encourage our members to make the most of these valuable benefits by accessing their Employee & Family Assistance Program’s resources. Whether seeking greater awareness, wellness training, or treatment, don’t struggle on your own; reach out. The mental health of individuals is fundamental to our collective well-being.
Employee and Family Assistance Program
As part of the University’s commitment to addressing the complete health of its employees, the Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provides personalized supports for university staff and their families. The 24-hour service can easily be accessed over the phone, through a website, and more recently, a mobile app. Users can receive confidential help, including immediate access to a counsellor through e-counselling or video counselling sessions. Best of all, there is no cost for staff or their immediate family members to access this plan.
The EFAP plan acts as a one-stop solution, offering interactive tools, educational resources and referrals. Financial guidance is provided via advice on issues such as credit and debt management, budgeting, bankruptcy, and financial emergencies. Legal advice covering issues such as separation and divorce, wills and estate planning, custody and child support, real estate, landlord and tenant issues, and civil litigation, can also be provided. Users can learn to achieve well-being, in dealing with stress, depression, anger or life transitions; better manage relationships, including separation and divorce, conflicts, parenting, and elder care; deal with workplace challenges like work-life balance career planning, conflict and bullying and harassment; address addictions; improve physical health with nutrition counselling, identify health conditions, manage symptoms, and create an action plan.
At UM the plan was implemented on January 1, 1991. At the time, AESES was the first and only union at UM to negotiate for an Employee & Family Assistance Program, after noticing that members were regularly requesting benefits coverage for counselling related to problems at work or home. Many private sector companies and a few Canadian universities were already offering similar programs. UW began offering its plan as of January 1, 1993.
In each case the EFAP plan is managed by a third-party provider; LifeWorks at The University of Winnipeg, and Shepell at the University of Manitoba. Experienced and caring professionals help users select the best support option for their unique circumstances, and EFAP use is completely confidential so that no one, including the employer, knows who is accessing the service.
We encourage our members to make the most of this valuable benefit by accessing its resources.
At UW, access LifeWorks via:
- Website: www.lifeworks.com
- Phone: 1-877-207-8833
- Mobile app: LifeWorks
At UM, access Shepell via:
- Website: https://www.shepell.com/en-ca/totalhealthsolutions/yourefap/, or www.workhealthlife.com
- Phone: 1-800-387-4765
- Mobile app: My EAP
Work Responsibility Changes
As a result of the many changes going on within departments over this past year, AESES is deeply concerned that our members are taking on new work, or are being assigned new duties and responsibilities, without formal approval of those responsibilities.
It is important to understand that employees do not normally control which duties or responsibilities are included in any position. Only the appropriate manager or supervisor can approve any changes and bind the employer to any additional compensation that might result from changes on a temporary or permanent basis.
If work comes your way that is significantly different than your position description outlines, you should seek confirmation that this work is legitimately assigned to you (use email to confirm this or request a revised position description). Failure to follow this step could permit the employer to deny any additional compensation that may be appropriate for the new work being carried out.
It is critical for the member to initiate the confirmation of the new or additional duties and responsibilities at the start of any changes to ensure that they are being compensated fairly at all times.
Given the current fiscal environment, it is also not uncommon for department managers or supervisors to raise concerns over the potential costs associated with new duties and responsibilities, where there may be an increase in classification. While this is understandable, it does not form a part of any review process normally. If a revised position description results in a higher classification, then the department has a choice to either pay for the work as outlined, or to eliminate the work from the position and consequently the employee does not perform these tasks. Ultimately, the department can control the classification of a position by including or excluding specific duties and responsibilities from it.
AESES members have the right to use the Classification Review Process, regardless of any department review that might be in process. Members can complete a position description draft, complete the request for classification review form, and send it to the HR consultant they are supported by in the Human Resources Office. Without these steps completed, the position review process is not formally triggered. Delays commonly occur due to improper form completion, when position description drafts are not being completed, or when they are being held up in the department.
Please contact the AESES office if you need assistance with any portion of the process.
At UW, Bereavement Leave is addressed in article 16.7, which states that a full-time continuing employee shall be granted four paid consecutive regular working days’ leave to attend to the death of a parent, parent of spouse, spouse, or child. Three paid days leave will be granted in the case of the death of an employee’s sibling, ward, or any relative who has been residing in the same household. And, in the case of the death of an in-law (other than parent), aunt, uncle, grandparent, or grandchild, an employee will be granted one paid day’s leave.
Where the burial occurs in excess of 225 kms outside of Winnipeg, up to two additional paid days will be provided to accommodate travel.
In all situations, upon request by the employee, these leave days may be separated to coincide with the date of the funeral service, if it is delayed.
In situations where the employee is serving as a pallbearer at a funeral for an individual whose relationship to them is not listed above, they will be granted one paid day of bereavement leave.
For all other employee categories, only those days that the employee was scheduled to work during the leave period will be eligibile for pay.
Much of the coverage at UM is similar, though there are also some notable differences to be aware of. Bereavement Leave is covered under article 18.4 in UM’s Collective Agreement, which states that a regular or project employee shall be granted four paid consecutive regularly scheduled work days leave in the case of the death of a parent, spouse, sibling, child, parent-in-law, or any second-degree relative residing in the same household. One paid day leave will be granted in the case of the death of an employee’s brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparent or grandchild, or anyone for whom the employee is the primary caregiver.
Again, where the burial occurs outside of the city, the leave may be extended by an additional two paid days.
Where the funeral or service is delayed, the employee will, upon request, be allowed to separate the days of leave to coincide with the date of the funeral service.
All other categories of employees are eligible for unpaid bereavement leave in accordance with the Employment Standards Code of Manitoba.
Scenario 1: My grandfather passed away. I have a lot of family coming in for the funeral and they will be staying with me. Can I ask for a week off to handle all of this?
According to the Collective Agreements at both universities, in this situation a full-time regular employee would be eligible to receive one day of paid bereavement leave for a grandparent, plus two additional unpaid days bereavement leave as per the Employment Standards Code of Manitoba. Any additional time off would be unpaid and granted at the discretion of the employee`s department.
Scenario 2: My cousin passed away. We were as close as siblings. My supervisor says that I have to use holidays to cover the day of the funeral. Why is that
According to the Collective Agreements at both universities, the death of a member`s cousin is not covered under their respective bereavement leave articles. However, the Employment Standards Code of Manitoba grants any employee three days unpaid leave to attend to the death of a family member, also defined as any person whom the employee considers to be like a close relative, whether or not they are related by blood, adoption, marriage, or common-law relationship. So, the employee in this case could take three days unpaid leave, and would not be required to used their holidays to cover this absence. However, they could use vacation time to avoid not being paid for the absence.
Scenario 3: The Employment Standards Code says that I get three days off for bereavement leave when a family member dies. I submitted that on my time card when my mother-in-law died but my supervisor told me I could only have 1 day off. Is this accurate?
In short, no, this is not accurate.
At UW, the Collective Agreement grants full-time continuing employees four paid days leave in the death of a mother-in-law, but other employee categories are only eligibile to be paid for those days they were scheduled to work during the four-day leave period.
At UM, the Collective Agreement grants regular and project employees four paid days leave in the death of a mother-in-law. All other categories of employees would be eligible for three days unpaid leave under the Employment Standards Code.
Out-of-Country University Health Benefits Coverage
Out-of-country emergency care is covered if it is required as a result of a medical emergency arising while the person is outside Canada for vacation, business, or education and the person is covered by the government health plan in their home province. A medical emergency is a sudden, unexpected injury or an acute episode of disease and does not apply to pre-existing conditions (additional travel insurance is recommended in these cases). Each claim for benefits is individually assessed by the insurance company, based on the severity of the incident.
For full-time employees at UM, reimbursement for emergency expenses involve in-hospital benefits and emergency ambulance services being reimbursed at 100%, while out-of-hospital benefits are reimbursed at 80%, until $500 in benefits has been paid in a policy year and 100% for the remainder of the policy year.
For part-time employees at UM, reimbursement for emergency expenses involve in-hospital benefits and emergency ambulance services being reimbursed at 70%, while out-of-hospital benefits are reimbursed at 55%, until $500 in benefits has been paid in a policy year and 70% for the remainder of the policy year.
For both employee groups, coverage amounts for in- and out-of-hospital benefits are unlimited.
Additionally, Global Medical Assistance is covered if it is required as a result of a medical emergency arising while the person is traveling and the person is covered by the government health plan in their home province. Assistance is provided through a worldwide communications network that operates 24 hours a day. The network assists in locating medical care and in obtaining prior approval of covered services. The network can also approve on-site hospital payment when required for admission, to a maximum of $1,000. Coverage for travel within Canada is limited to emergencies arising more than 500 kilometres from the person’s home.
For a full list of what situations are or aren’t covered, please refer to UM’s Human Resources Staff Benefits webpage.
At UW, the Travel Health Plan is covered under Flex Options 1, 2, 3 and 4. The Travel Health Plan protects signed up employees, as well as their eligible family members from unexpected emergency health care costs, if required outside Manitoba.
Subject to exclusions and limitations, this plan covers 100% of expenses related to: hospital in-patient and out-patient charges for services and supplies; medical and surgical charges for services provided by a legally qualified physician; ambulance charges for service from the place of illness or accident to the nearest hospital capable of providing appropriate treatment; economy air transportation by stretcher if the patient has received treatment at a hospital as an in-patient; charges for dental care service to natural teeth when necessitated by a direct accidental blow to the mouth only, and not by an object wittingly or unwittingly placed in the mouth; charges for the treatment for emergency relief of dental pain to a maximum of $300; in the event of loss of life, up to $5,000 towards the cost of transporting a deceased subscriber to the home city in Canada or for cremation or burial at place of death; blood and blood plasma if not available free of charge.
Additionally, the International Travel Assistance service offers 24-hour worldwide assistance to travelers in emergency medical situations. Insured travelers, physicians or hospitals are expected to contact the International Travel Assistance provider immediately in all situations where medical services are required.
For a full list of what situations are or aren’t covered, please refer to UW’s Human Resources Health Benefits webpage.
Again, please be aware that the Universities’ plans may not cover all emergency situations or pre-existing conditions. If you have travel plans, you are encouraged to review your health coverage plan and/or contact your university’s Staff Benefits team to enquire whether you may require additional out-of-country health coverage.
The Classification Review Process
Contained within each Collective Agreement is an article dealing with requests for classification reviews (see 25.5 at UM and 23.3 at UW). Members at both universities can initiate a review of their position’s classification; no managerial approval is required to start this process.
Members simply need to send a draft job description to their Human Resources department, along with a signed and dated Request for Classification Review form. This form can be downloaded from HR’s webpage. A copy of each of these documents should also be submitted to the member’s Supervisor.
It is important to sign and date the Request for Classification Review form, as the date of the earliest signature on the form will be used to calculate any back pay if the position is reclassified upwards.
Remember, AESES members don’t have to wait for the University to begin a classification review process of their position. All members are encouraged to take advantage of this provision to ensure their job description is up-to-date and that there is minimal delay in the inclusion of significant new duties.
Please contact the AESES office for assistance with writing your job description.
Attendance Management Programs
What is an Attendance Management Program?
Attendance includes being at the workplace on time when scheduled to be at work, including break times.
Alternately, absences refer to any time an employee who is scheduled to work, is not at work. Some absences are non-culpable, where they result from factors outside of the control of the employee, such as illness or injury. An employee should always promptly report any illness or injury to their manager in accordance with the Collective Agreement and subsequently maintain regular contact to provide information on the expected duration of absence and a possible return-to-work date, if known.
Culpable absenteeism refers to lates or absences for which the employee should be held responsible because the problems are within the employee’s power to address and correct. Four key types of potentially culpable absenteeism are lateness/leaving early; failure to notify; absence without leave; and abuse of sick leave.
Attendance Management Programs track employee absenteeism from their workplace over a set time period, looking for patterns and unexplained absences. Being placed in a program is non-disciplinary in nature.
The University of Winnipeg doesn’t employ a formal program. However, they have begun paying particular attention to instances where an employee’s absences exceed the University average. In these cases an initial meeting may be called, with HR and the supervisor present, to determine if there are any underlying issues that need to be dealt with, and to lay out attendance expectations for the employee going forward. As this is a non-disciplinary meeting, the employee is not usually entitled to have union representation at the meeting.
At the University of Manitoba an Attendance Management Program has already been in effect for the past number of years. Its purpose is to encourage and promote attendance in a manner that strikes a balance between the needs of the University and individual employees. According to their policy, the University believes that although attendance management is the responsibility of all parties (University, supervisor, employee), every employee has a contractual obligation to attend work as part of their job requirements.
At UM, where an attendance concern has been identified, the following corrective action steps will be followed:
STEP 1 – Informal Attendance Review – Where attendance suggests an emerging absenteeism problem, the supervisor will conduct an informal interview with the employee. The meeting will serve to identify attendance concerns, determine what has caused the absences and if they are culpable or not, discuss available resources, and provide expectations for improvement.
Where absences are culpable in nature, the employee is not eligible for pay for the time not worked and the basic principles of progressive discipline will be administered. But where absences are non-culpable in nature, the university may request medical documentation, explore the possibility of reasonable accommodation, inform the employee of other options available to them (for example, a leave of absence, reduction in hours, move to casual status).
STEP 2 – Attendance Review Meeting – Following a consultation with HR, the supervisor will meet with the employee to discuss the absences. The employee is entitled to bring along a union representative. The meeting will serve to review the employee’s attendance record, allow the employee to discuss the situation, determine if the absences are culpable or not, identify attendance expectations and improvements, restate available resources, inform the employee that their attendance will continue to be monitored and if attendance issues persist, further action may be warranted.
STEP 3 – Attendance Management Meeting – This meeting is held when the employee’s attendance has not improved following previous meetings. Following a consultation with HR, participants will include the supervisor, employee, HR representative, and union representative if requested. The meeting will serve to follow up on items discussed at the previous meeting, state that the employee’s attendance remains unacceptable, seek a further response from the employee, determine if the absences are culpable or not, reinforce attendance requirements, and finally identify a specific course of action to be taken and possible consequences. The discussion and meeting outcome will be documented in a letter to the employee.
STEP 4 – Attendance Management Hearing – This hearing is held if absenteeism continues to be excessive following previous meetings and it appears that the absences are non-culpable. The supervisor must consult with HR before holding this meeting. Meeting participants will include the supervisor, employee, HR representative, and union representative if requested. The meeting will serve to review the employee’s attendance record, summarize previous attempts to resolve the issue, explain the impact the absenteeism is having on the employee, co-workers and the organization, give the employee an opportunity to respond, determine if the absences are culpable or not, and determine if there is any indication that attendance will improve in the future. If yes, the employee will be advised of their last chance to show that they can attend work regularly, but if not, they will be advised that other options may be pursued, including potentially non-disciplinary termination. Again, the discussion and meeting outcome will be documented in a letter to the employee.
Employees are encouraged to contact the AESES union office, if they require advice related to attendance management.
When are Medical Notes Required by the Employer?
When an employee is ill, it is their responsibility to alert their supervisor of their absence at the earliest opportunity, preferably by phone. If the supervisor can’t be reached, then the department or Human Resources office should be alerted. As noted in the AESES Collective Agreements, if the sickness is of some duration, it is also important that the employee keep in regular contact with their supervisor. If proper notification does not take place, this could be viewed as an unauthorized absence by the university and pay could be withheld accordingly for missed days of work.
Generally a medical certificate is not required for brief absences due to illness or injury. Where the illness is of a longer duration, or if the absence is dubious, the employer has the right to request a medical note from the employee. The requested medical note will need to be submitted within a reasonable amount of time and must contain basic information such as the dates on which the employee was unable to attend work, the pertinent details relating to the sickness or injury and, in the case of an absence for a lengthy duration, a prognosis as to the expected date of return to work.
In the event that the employer is not satisfied with the information contained in the initial medical note, or requires clarification, the employer may request additional information via a supplementary medical note, consisting of a form supplied by the employer that your doctor will need to fill out.
It is important to point out that in contrast to the initial medical note that requires only basic information, subsequent medical notes may require more detailed information, in particular where workplace accommodations are being recommended to facilitate a return to work. It is therefore imperative to emphasize that this additional information should not be provided before it is appropriate to do so.
In cases where long-term or frequent sick leave claims take place, the employer may require a second medical opinion, by having the employee take part in an independent medical examination with a doctor appointed through the employer. The cost of obtaining a second medical opinion is covered by the employer.
Additionally at UW, in cases of misuse or frequent use of sick leave, the employer may require that a medical certificate be provided for any and all future cases of sick leave/illness, for a period up to six months and, if needed, this may be extended for an additional six months.
Who needs to see the information contained in the medical note?
Employees often find it confusing and are unsure as to whom they should submit their medical note, wanting to do what is required of them and at the same time keeping their health information private. AESES advises its members to submit their medical certificates directly to Human Resources, as it is the responsibility of HR to maintain confidentiality of the information received, in keeping with the Personal Health Information Act. At UW medical notes should be sent to Pamela Stanton, Employee Health and Wellness Specialist, and at UM they should be sent to the Disability Case Coordinator in HR, Bryan Wiebe. In turn, HR would pass only the necessary information on to the employee’s supervisor, alerting them to the fact that the note has been received and any planning related impact, including possible restrictions or accommodations.
Employees are encouraged to contact the AESES union office, if they have any concerns or require advice related to absences or medical notes.
The Discipline Process
The discipline process at both campuses consists of four formal steps. They must be successively followed as outlined in Article 9 of each Collective Agreement, in order for discipline to take place (except for just cause). The discipline process steps include:
1. Oral Warning – the University is required to notify the employee in advance that an Oral Warning will be taking place. This meeting is intended to clarify the issue of concern and outline any remedial steps for resolving it. The University will then summarize the meeting in writing. This will be placed in the employee`s personnel file for six months. A difference to note is that at UW union representation is permitted during an Oral Warning meeting, whereas at UM it is not.
2. Letter of Warning – if the previous issue is not resolved, or another issue presents itself while an Oral Warning is in effect, then a formal Letter of Warning shall be issued. Again, the University is required to notify the employee in advance that a meeting to discuss the disciplinary action will take place. Union representation is permitted. The letter will be placed in the employee`s personnel file for six months.
3. Suspension – if the previous issue is not resolved or another issue presents itself while a Letter of Warning is in effect, then an employee may be suspended without pay for up to three days. The Suspension will be confirmed in writing, which will be placed in the employee`s personnel file for a period of 24 months at UW and indefinitely at UM.
4. Dismissal – if the issues dealt with in the previous steps are not resolved, or if another issue presents itself following a Suspension, then an employee may be dismissed within 24 months of the Suspension. The dismissal will be confirmed in writing. An Employee who is suspended or dismissed shall not require advance notice of this action.
If the employee feels any disciplinary proceeding is unjust, he/she should contact the AESES office at their earliest opportunity to begin the grievance process. This needs to be done within 20 days of the event being grieved, as a deadline exists for a grievance to be filed.
The hours of work for AESES members are 7 hours per day and 35 hours per week. Any variation to these hours (i.e. 37.5 or 40 hours) exists only by special agreement between AESES and the University.
Any time worked by an AESES member that is over and above their regular full-time hours of work (i.e. more than 7 hours in one day or 35 hours in one week) is considered overtime.
Overtime is paid at a rate of 2x the employee’s hourly rate of pay for all overtime hours worked. But importantly, overtime must be authorized in advance by the University. This means the employee’s direct supervisor, department head or director needs to give their approval, preferably in writing, before the overtime hours are worked. If no pre-authorization is granted, then the hours will not be recognized as overtime, except in emergency situations.
It is important to note that no employee is required to work in excess of their regular full-time hours unless it is authorized. This includes no need to work through coffee breaks or lunch hours. You are being paid for 35 hours per week, so you should be working 35 hours per week. Extra time deserves extra compensation. Refusing to work extra time without being paid overtime is your right, and there can be no disciplinary action or reprimand by the Employer.
The default for earned overtime is for the employee to be paid for the time worked. Only if an employee elects to bank their overtime for time off at a later date, and their supervisor agrees, can that happen. If an employee does not wish to bank the time, they must be paid.
The Collective Agreement does provide for another situation, the exchange of extra time worked for time off at a straight time rate (1 hour for 1 hour). This can occur only at the request of the employee, and requires the agreement of the University. Under no circumstance can your supervisor, manager or director suggest or require this type of straight time exchange.
Please call or e-mail AESES for further clarification or if you are experiencing difficulty with an overtime situation.
Contained within each Collective Agreement is an article dealing with requests for classification reviews. Members at both the UM and the UW can initiate a review of their position’s classification; no prior managerial approval is required.
Members simply need to send a draft job description to their Human Resources department, along with a signed and dated Request for Classification Review form. This form can be downloaded from the HR webpage. A copy of each of these documents should also be submitted to the member’s Supervisor.
It is important to sign and date the Request for Classification Review form, as the date of the earliest signature on the form will be used to calculate any back pay if the position is reclassified upwards.
Remember, you don’t have to wait for the employer to begin the classification review process. AESES strongly urges all members to take advantage of this provision to ensure their job descriptions are up-to-date and there is minimal delay in the inclusion of significant new duties.
Please call or e-mail AESES for further information or assistance with writing your job description.
Excessive Employee Workloads
In the fall, AESES sent out a survey to our UWinnipeg members, seeking proposals and input for the eventual bargaining process with the University. Among the comments submitted by participants were a number of questions about excessive employee workloads.
A Letter of Understanding was entered into between AESES and The University of Winnipeg during the 2011 round of bargaining regarding exactly this topic. The LOU states:
The parties acknowledge the desire and responsibility of employees to perform at an effective and productive level. The parties further acknowledge the importance of providing a mechanism for employees to voice concern without fear of retaliation or reprisal if they perceive that their ability to fulfill this desire and responsibility is hampered by an excessive workload. In that regard, the parties agree as follows:
1. If a concern regarding excessive workload arises, the Employee should first discuss the concern with his/her supervisor who shall attempt to resolve the matter either on their own or through discussion with the appropriate senior manager;
2. If the Employee’s concern remains unresolved, the Employee should contact AESES and should it be required the matter shall thereafter be discussed in a timely manner between AESES and the Human Resources Department. If the parties are of the view that the concern is a reasonable one which is likely to remain in effect for a significant period of time, the parties agree to discuss and consider possible options to assist the Employer in efforts to resolve the concern;
3. It is agreed that there shall be no retaliation by the Employer against an Employee by virtue of the fact that the Employee has raised a concern regarding workload in accordance with this Letter of Understanding; …
Similar wording exists as part of the AESES-University of Manitoba Collective Agreement. If you perceive an issue with your workload, please contact the AESES office at 204-949-5200 for assistance.