The health and safety of teachers, students, families and the broader community is of the utmost importance, and the Alberta Teachers’ Association continues to monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation. Every effort will be made to keep this information up-to-date, understanding that the situation changes on an ongoing basis. The most current information will be found on the Government of Alberta website at https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx.
ATA offices are now open to the public. We encourage all visitors to wear a mask when in the building. If you have questions that are not addressed here, please call the Association at 1-800-232-7208 (Edmonton) or 1-800-332-1280 (Calgary).
See our contact page for a directory to all of our programs and services.
Links to current advisories:
Do the instructional and assignable time limits in my collective agreement still apply during the pandemic?
Yes! While the pandemic continues to impact all our lives, it has NOT impacted the collective agreement entitlements for teachers. There are likely to be issues around teacher absences, availability of substitute teachers to cover, and the direct impact that will have in the classroom.
Such staffing issues will be a challenge and could result in internal coverage happening more frequently in schools. Regardless of the challenge, teachers will need to ensure that they keep an eye on their assignable and instructional time calculations. If you are required to give up your unassigned time (formerly called prep time) to cover a colleague’s class, because there is no substitute teacher available, this will increase your total instructional time. Likewise, having to cover additional supervision will increase your total assignable time. Teachers are still limited to a maximum of 907 hours of instruction and 1200 hours of assignable time which includes instruction. While some schools have built-in cushions of time to address these situations, some have not, and will be approaching or even exceeding the time protection limits that teachers fought hard to obtain. As there is no compensation for time worked beyond the 907/1200, teachers need to be aware of their current time and reach out to Teacher Employment Services-Collective Bargaining if they have concerns. (2022 03 02)
Given the ongoing COVID pandemic, do I have to work in the classroom if I feel that it is unsafe?
Hazard assessments, a requirement of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation, play a key role in health and safety at the workplace. Hazard assessments must be completed before any work takes place at the school, and should be reviewed at regular intervals, or when something changes the way that the work is done. Typically, hazard assessments are done at the start of every school year. Under the OHS Act, school divisions have the obligation to include teachers (workers) and other workers in the building in conducting hazard assessments. Hazard assessments are specific to the work being done, and therefore some teaching assignments may require additional controls in place due to additional hazards associated with that particular assignment. School divisions (employer), via the principals (supervisors), must communicate known hazards and the controls in place so that everyone working in the school knows how to work safely.
COVID-19 is a workplace hazard. This is undeniable, particularly in the context of conventional congregated schooling. All workplace hazards, including those associated with COVID-19, should be included on the hazard assessment, as well as the measures in place to eliminate or control those hazards. This information needs to be available to all workers in the building. School divisions must eliminate the hazards where possible. If it is not possible to eliminate a hazard, the hazard must be controlled to the lowest level of risk possible by following a hierarchy:
- First choice: Engineering controls to modify the worksite to isolate people from a hazard, like installing partitions to separate workspaces
- Second choice: Administrative controls to change how and when the work is done to control a hazard, like changing schedules to stagger the amount of people in a space at a given time, requiring daily screening, or physical distancing
- Third choice: Personal Protective Equipment provided to workers to wear to protect them while working, like gloves and face masks.
While the controls are considered in a hierarchy, they are also frequently identified as a part of a suite of controls. This means that it is the combination of controls that is required to ensure the hazards are controlled as effectively as possible.
If there are concerns with hazards in the school, the controls put in place and/or their effectiveness, teachers have the obligation to report these concerns to the principal in a timely manner. The school division should have the opportunity to respond to the concerns and make any changes as necessary.
After eliminating hazards where possible and adopting reasonable and practicable hazard controls that are being followed correctly, and the school authority determines that the work is not dangerous and no dangerous condition is present at the work site, the school authority can direct you to work in the classroom in your regular assignment.
The expectation to work in your regular assignment, it is a lawful order of the board and you must comply if it is reasonable. You may, however, lodge a formal protest as provided for in Article 8 of the ATA Code of Professional Conduct. Executive Staff in Teacher Employment Services can assist with the protest.
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act requires the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, psychological and social well-being of workers. Further, in Part 4, a worker has the right to refuse dangerous work if the worker believes an undue hazard is present at the work site or the work constitutes a danger to health and safety. Please see Right to Refuse Work for more information.
I have an illness, either physically or psychologically, and am unfit to be at work. What should I do?
You should access the sick leave entitlements in your collective agreement.
If you have a diagnosed medical condition that places you at risk of injury or illness if you are required to return to the work site, this also must be taken into consideration.
- If there has been no voluntary disclosure of a medical condition with supporting medical documentation outlining the required medical restrictions, and all hazard controls have been implemented and the work site is deemed safe, but you still do not want to return to work, employers may be in a position to terminate employment.
- If you do provide medical documentation outlining your required medical restrictions, the duty to accommodate under the Human Rights Act is triggered, and as such, a conversation would be warranted.
- If you have outstanding issues or need further advice, please contact Barnett House at 1-800-232-7208. (2020 07 23)
As a teacher, will I be required to disinfect high contact areas in my classroom or school? What about student desks?
Your primary role is to teach your students. However, teachers can be asked to disinfect their immediate work area. Regular ongoing wiping down of high-touch surfaces should be done by the school custodian in order to minimize the risk in schools under OHS. Boards are responsible to ensure proper cleaning is being done. (2020 07 29)
Quarantining or Self-isolating
If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine? Is their sick leave covered and paid?
Depending on the vaccination status, teachers are encouraged to isolate for either five or ten days, or until symptoms resolve. They will remain on sick leave until such time they are healthy and able to return to work. Mandatory isolation is no longer required. (2022 06 15)
What if I have respiratory issues or have otherwise compromised health such as a weakened immune system?
Discuss your situation with your doctor. If you are required to be absent from work due to medical reasons, you should access medical leave. Most collective agreements require a note after three days of absence. (2020 03 13)
ATA Business and Events
On 2022 02 14, Table Officers Committee met and made the following decisions regarding all Association subgroups:
1. That the current COVID-19 directives with respect to meetings, activities and events of Provincial Executive Council and Association committees be deemed over on 2022 03 01.
2. That the COVID-19 directions provided to Association subgroups (locals, convention associations, specialist councils, committees other than committees of Council, etc.) with respect to their meetings, activities and events be deemed over on 2022 03 01. All meetings must comply with all orders, regulations and directives of the chief medical officer of health, regional medical officers of health, the province, the municipality or school authority in which they are occurring.
3. In alignment with a previous direction set, any previous decisions made to host an upcoming conference, convention, meeting, activity or event in a virtual format shall remain in a virtual format. (2022 02 17)
ATA Guide—Setting-up and Running Effective Hybrid Meetings
Mental Health and Coping
These are unprecedented times and can be quite stressful.
If you or members of your family are struggling with anxiety or mental health concerns related to the spread of this virus, supports are available through your Employee Family Assistance Plan accessible for most teachers through Homewood Health. See the ASEBP site for contact information.
The Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7 to provide advice and referrals to community supports near you: 1-877-303-2642.