As we continue to work remotely, it is more important than ever for us to understand what health and safety supports are available to us as members of OPSEU/SLC Faculty Local 417.
The longer we work from home, sitting on uncomfortable chairs, at dining room tables that are too high, with computer screens that are too small, and even small children tugging at our pant legs, the more we may find ourselves with new stresses, new aches and pains, and perhaps even injuries.
Members of OPSEU Local 417 — that is Full-time and Partial Load Faculty — have access to ergonomic assessments, short- and long-term disability, paramedical benefits like massage therapy and physiotherapy (if you signed on for them), and access to therapy and counseling through the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).
You can always reach out to a union steward for information and help in navigating these supports. Visit www.slcfaculty.ca to find a steward.
Workplace Injury Report
All employees at St. Lawrence College are covered under the Workplace and Insurance Act, which states that the “College will take all precautions reasonable in the circumstances to ensure conditions of safety and health in the employees’ work areas…” (Collective Agreement, Article 24).
If you experience pain or injury and you have reason to believe it is the result of work, whether on campus or remotely during the pandemic, tell your manager about your injury and that you would like to file a Workplace Injury Report. Your manager should provide you with the link for the report and alert Human Resources and Organizational Development. The report is short and simple and will trigger various supports, for example, an ergonomic assessment or recommendations for workspace improvements. The response to a report is quick, and while the process for implementing changes can sometimes be slow, it could potentially result in access to equipment or software that could prevent further injury and help you heal.
The Workplace Injury Report and supporting documents can be found here: https://intranet.sl.on.ca/FacilityMgmt_Health&Safety.htm
Otherwise known as sick leave or “taking a sick day”, short-term disability (STD) is accessed when we are too sick to do our job or the need to access medical care prevents us from doing our job. Full-time Faculty have access to 20 days of STD/sick leave per year, and those days do carry over from year to year. For example, a Full-time Faculty member with five years of service, but without taking any sick leave, will have accumulated 100 days of STD/sick leave. More about Short-term Disability for Full-time Faculty is in the Collective Agreement, Article 17.
Partial Load Faculty do have STD benefits similar to Full-time Faculty. There is a waiting period, but Partial Load Faculty also have 20 days of STD, prorated. STD for Partial Load Faculty is fully explained under Article 26 of the Collective Agreement.
While on STD, you are paid 100% of your salary.
To access STD, communicate with your manager, letting them know of your absence due to illness. Documentation may be requested after three days of absence due to illness. Keep in mind, if you are too sick to teach in person and so move your class online and then continue to mark, prep, and communicate with students, that is not a sick day. Sometimes, we are reluctant to truly take time away from work when we are sick, concerned that our students will fall behind and that our courses may not be salvageable if we are away from them for too long. Tell your manager you are taking time off work because you are too sick to work. And then do not work, but focus instead on your health and recovery. It is the manager’s job to find solutions, not yours.
Long-term Disability (LTD), generally, is not accessed until STD is used up, but this is not always the case. More about LTD is available in the Collective Agreement and the Sun Life Benefits Book, under Article 18. LTD is not available to Partial Load Faculty.
While on LTD, your salary is paid by Sun Life Insurance and is 60% of your salary. LTD lasts until your health care provider deems it no longer necessary or you reach traditional retirement age (65).
SLC Faculty Local 417 members sometimes need to communicate or meet with representatives from Morneau Shepell, the college’s external service provider for accommodations, STD, and return to work. You have the right to have a union representative or steward attend any and all meetings with Morneau Sheppell. Find a union steward at www.slcfaculty.ca
Massage/Physiotherapy/Chiropractic Care/Acupuncture and more
If you have opted into the Extended Benefits Plan — and you should, as it is 100% paid for by the employer — you have access to massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and more. There are annual limits and generally, 85% of costs are covered; however, a referral from a physician is not necessary. Visit mysunlife.ca and see the Sun Life Benefits Books (Full-time, Partial Load) for more information.
Employee and Family Assistance Program
Like many larger employers, St. Lawrence College provides access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). An EFAP offers confidential support for you and your family, for a range of issues and concerns. Visit https://www.workhealthlife.com/ for more information.