Saskatchewan

Sask. unions say workers using sick days to self-isolate are being 'penalized'

Two Saskatchewan unions say their members are being penalized for following public health orders to self-isolate, because it is costing them sick days.

Union say workers risk loss of income to follow health orders

A nurse in personal protective equipment walks with a patient into a Saskatchewan Health Authority assessment centre. Both CUPE and SGEU say workers forced to self-isolate should not lose sick days. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Two Saskatchewan unions say their members are being penalized for following public health orders to self-isolate, because it is costing them sick days.

On Thursday, CUPE Local 5430 president Sandra Seitz said it is "very concerning" that workers sent home following public health orders are losing sick days.

A public health order issued last month required all staff members in provincial health care facilities, including personal care homes, to have their temperature checked before entering and at the end of their shift. 

"Staff members who display or disclose signs or symptoms of COVID-19 shall be denied entry to the facility," the order reads.

Public health orders also require those who have come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 to self-isolate for 14 days. 

"Our collective agreement does have an article where if you are quarantined as determined by the medical health officer this should not be coming out of your sick time, it should be coded differently," Seitz said.

Seitz said that in some cases workers may have run out of sick days and would be losing money by taking unpaid days to stay home.

She said the uncertainty is compounding the difficulty of working during a pandemic.

"It is a very stressful time for our members dealing with COVID-19. They are stepping up to the plate and working very hard to ensure that the residents of Saskatchewan and their patients and clients are being cared for."

CUPE Local 5430 is Saskatchewan's largest health-care union, representing 13,600 members.

SGEU says workers risk losing pay to stay home

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU) raised similar concerns on behalf of its members.

It said the public service needs a "province-wide standard that ensures employees are not being penalized for doing the right thing and staying home."

"Workers are being hit twice," SGEU president Bob Bymoen said Thursday.

SGEU said workers who are sent home for two weeks by their employer for precautionary reasons should not risk losing their sick days and potentially income. 

"Essential workers have to put themselves and their families at risk to do their jobs, often working longer hours with no top-up or bonus pandemic pay. Then, when they are sent home for safety reasons, they risk losing their income. It's simply not fair."

SHA says options exist for sick or self-isolating workers

The Saskatchewan Health Authority provided a statement on sick leave and COVID-19 among health-care staff.

"Criteria has been provided to managers on the use of paid leaves during COVID-19. There are a variety of scenarios to determine whether an employee's situation warrants the use of sick days, paid leaves, paid pandemic leave or a WCB claim," the statement said.

The SHA said the following rules apply, regardless of union affiliation:

  • Like any other illness, sick days are to be utilized when staff are sick.
  • If staff are well or asymptomatic, but are directed to self-isolate by the MHO, Healthline, or the online self-assessment tool, there are other options including paid pandemic leave that does not draw on staff's sick bank.
  • There is potential for domr employees required to self-isolate, who are well or asymptomatic, to work from home.  

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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