The health and safety of teachers, students, families and the broader community is of the utmost importance, and the Alberta Teachers’ Association is closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation. Every effort will be made to keep this information up-to-date, understanding that the situation is evolving rapidly. 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 remain closed to the public. We are continuing to serve our members, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 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:
Classes Cancelled; Schools are not being closed.
Every K-12 student will receive a final mark and students will progress to their next grade level next year. Provincial assessments, such as provincial achievement tests and diploma exams for April and June have been cancelled. Every student who is eligible to graduate from Grade 12 and already has 85 credits completed this year will graduate.
Teachers and other school staff will still be expected to work, either from home or at their workplace, to ensure learning continues. Decisions on how to do this will vary depending on the school jurisdiction.
Alberta students should continue to learn while in-school classes are cancelled. Please see the Alberta Education guidelines on teaching during COVID-19.
Teaching and Other Duties
With schools being closed, will the school year be extended?
The minister of education has announced that classes will end at the end of June as per the school division’s calendar. (2020 05 12)
Can I refuse to work under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation?
If a teacher is not satisfied with the health and safety of the work environment, they need to communicate this concern to their principal promptly so action can be taken to remedy any hazardous condition in a timely manner. OHS allows workers to refuse to work or to do particular work at a worksite if the worker believes on reasonable grounds that there is a dangerous condition at the work site or that the work constitutes a danger to the worker’s health and safety or to the health and safety of another worker or another person. (2020 03 31)
More information on the right to refuse work during the COVID-19 pandemic
Will the cancellation of classes effect my pay?
Days on which classes are cancelled by a school division due to an emergency are considered “teaching days” under the Education Act. Teachers on contract should expect to be paid regular salary. (2020 03 16)
I’m a substitute teacher. Will I be paid now that classes are cancelled?
The Alberta government is cutting funding for substitute teachers while students are out of school. The cuts are intended to be temporary, however the Alberta Teachers’ Association estimates that around 6,000 substitute teachers will be affected.
The Alberta government is cutting funding for substitute teachers while students are out of school. The cuts are intended to be temporary, however the Alberta Teachers’ Association estimates that around 6,000 substitute teachers will be affected. The application for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is now opened. You can apply for the CERB here. The website takes you through the application process step-by-step and provides detailed instructions on how to complete the form. Members eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) can continue to apply for EI benefits here. If you have already applied for EI, your application will automatically be assessed for the CERB. You do not need to send in a new application. Those who had applied for and were receiving an EI benefit prior to March 15 will stay in the EI stream and continue to receive the benefits they’ve been receiving as per EI rules that were in place at the time they were approved.
While EI beneficiaries are receiving CERB payments, they will not be using up any EI-eligible weeks for payments. Those “EI weeks” are suspended.
- That means that if an individual comes to the end of the CERB benefit period of four months, the individual could resume receiving EI benefits for however many remaining weeks that person was eligible to receive benefits prior to getting a CERB cheque.
- The maximum number of weeks an individual can receive EI benefits varies from 14 weeks to 45 weeks in most cases and is based on regional labour force characteristics.
Can I have other income while receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?
As of 2020 0215 Canadians making up to $1,000 a month are now eligible to receive the CERB, this will include those who may have ran out of E.I. since January, seasonal workers who may have had jobs lined up for the summer who won’t be able to work due to the virus, artists and creators who are making $1,000 or less a month.
You can also apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit if you are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits.
If you have already applied for EI, your application will automatically be assessed for the CERB. You do not need to send in a new application.
The Association’s advocacy for substitute teachers is continuing and we will persist in exploring entitlements available for our substitute teachers under Employment Insurance, CERB and Emergency Isolation Support benefits. (2020 04 15)
With classes cancelled and me being required to work, what arrangements are in place for my own childcare needs?
Teachers should expect the following: Bringing their own children to the school will not be permitted. Teachers should speak with their administrators about the option to work from home. If this is not possible or permitted at this time, teachers will need to access the appropriate leave provisions in the collective agreement. (2020 03 31)
I understand that some teachers are allowed to work from home. Why can't I?
It is up to individual school boards to decide if teachers can work from home or if they need to report into the school building. Teachers who work from home will often need to follow certain guidelines when doing so, and should be expected to perform regular teaching duties during the work day.
While there is no provincial expectations that teachers be required to report to school, boards may direct teachers to work from their regular workplace. It is our preference that teachers who are not physically required to be at school would be allowed to work from home.
If teachers are in their classrooms and not gathering in large groups, there should be low risk to teachers at schools. It is important for teachers to note that they must follow the directive of the employer. They cannot simply choose to work at home when teachers are expected to report to work.(2020 03 19)
What work can my board assign me while classes are cancelled?
Under the definition of assigned duties in all collective agreements, teachers can be assigned teaching duties. This could include preparing or delivering course content on line. It should not include cleaning or other janitorial duties. Teachers may also be asked to complete reasonable online inservice modules as directed by the employer. (2020 03 31)
How can teachers support vulnerable children who are facing poverty, neglect or in otherwise unsafe situations?
Please see this letter from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange that outlines ways in which teachers can help children in unsafe circumstances.
Quarantining or self-isolating
I am following advice to self-isolate, will I get paid?
In certain circumstances, Alberta Health Services is directing Albertans to self-isolate, which is a precautionary measure and does not mean that the individual is infected with COVID-19. It is still a medical reason not to be at school and we would expect the absence to be paid. While only a few collective agreements have specific quarantine leave, being directed by a doctor or a public health professional to self-isolate is a medical reason not to be at work and teachers should be paid during this absence. If you are not, please contact the Teacher Welfare (TW) program area as soon as possible. Teachers who are healthy and have not been advised to stay at home by a doctor or a public health professional will be expected to report to work as usual. (2020 03 12)
Do I need a sick note to self-isolate?
While most school boards waived the requirement for a doctor's note, the Employment Standards Code has now been amended so that leave is available without a sick note. If you are directed by a public health professional not to attend work, alert your employer right away. (2020 03 18)
What if I have been advised to self-isolate and do not have enough sick leave?
The Employment Standards Code now allows for a 14-day, job protected leave for people ill from COVID 19. Federal income support policies are being clarified at this time. (2020 03 18)
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)
A member of my household has been directed to self-isolate. Do I need to stay home from work?
Take your direction from Alberta Health and Health Link (call 811). If you do need to stay home to care for a sick loved one, changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow leave for 14 days without the requirement of a doctor's note. Please inform your school board as soon as possible if you need this leave. (2020 04 22)
If I am directed to self-isolate, can I be required to still work?
If you are at home getting paid due to self-isolation, the school division can require you to conduct reasonable teaching duties from home. You are still getting paid so you could be expected to continue working, if you are medically able to do so. (2020 03 16)
I am really worried about catching COVID-19 and transmitting it to my family. Can I take a leave?
Teachers in this situation can access leave but expect that it will likely be an unpaid leave. (2020 03 12)
Can my school division deny me sick leave because I am working from home?
The collective agreement between teachers and their respective employers is still in force, as well as the provisions (like sick leave or bereavement leave). . If you are denied pay due to an absence directed by a doctor or public health professional, please phone TW immediately. (2020 04 22)
What happens if I do not follow Health Canada’s travel advisories and contract COVID-19?
Claims for Alberta Health Care or group benefits will not be paid if a Canadian resident who travels to a country, region or city that the Government of Canada has issued a formal warning notice about prior to their departure date and they incur medical expenses related to the reasons the warning was issued. (2020 03 12)
ATA Business and Events
What about planned provincial ATA events and activities?
Many ATA events and activities involving gatherings of people are now being cancelled. Alberta Health has prohibited gatherings of more than 15 people. Albertans are also encouraged to limit the time Albertans spend in large crowds and crowded spaces.
Many events are being cancelled and a few others are proceeding with the assistance of technology. Attendees will be notified.
All provincial committee meetings, with the exception of those that perform key governance or regulatory functions (PEC, Table Officers, Finance, Resolutions, Central Table Bargaining, Professional Conduct) are being cancelled.
The following conferences have been cancelled: Diversity, Equity and Human Rights (DEHR), Professional Development Area Conference (PDAC), and the Teacher Welfare Area Conference (TWAC).
The following events have been postponed until August: Annual Representative Assembly (ARA), Local Treasurer Seminar.
Other provincial ATA events will be examined on a case-by-case basis according to the criteria given, and registered participants will be notified if events will be postponed, modified or cancelled. (2020 04 22)
What about ATA local activities?
ATA local activities will also be examined on a case-by-case basis by locals to determine if events or meetings will proceed, be altered or cancelled according to the directives from the Government of Alberta. (2020 03 31)
What about specialist council and teacher convention association activities?
Specialist council conferences (including uLead) scheduled for March, April and May are being postponed. Registered delegates should be receiving further information directly from the specialist council. AGMs scheduled to occur in conjunction with those conferences may be proceeding with the use of technology.
Convention Associations are being advised to follow the advice of Alberta Health regarding any scheduled meetings: mass gatherings are limited to no more than 15 people and time spent in large crowds and crowded spaces is to be limited. (2020 03 18)
Will my ASEBP coverage be impacted with my travels?
Please check the ASEBP page on COVID-19 for the most current information. (2020 03 12)
I am an Alberta (or Australian) teacher currently teaching overseas on an exchange; What do I do?
The Educator Exchange Program has posted a series of Frequently Asked Questions specifically for Alberta teachers on exchange. Read it here: COVID-19 FAQs for Alberta Teachers on Exchange (2020 03 15)
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.