The Government of Canada implemented temporary measures to ensure that federally regulated employees can take the time off work they need in the face of the current spread of COVID-19. The measures include statutory amendments to the Canada Labour Code to address significant disruptions in the workplace as a result of the pandemic.
Section 239.01(1) of the Canada Labour Code provides that “every employee is entitled to and shall be granted a leave of absence” if they are “unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).” The Code provides that federally regulated employees are entitled to the following leaves:
1. Personal Leave
Federally regulated employees are entitled up to 4 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave in the event they have contracted or might have contracted COVID-19, have underlying conditions that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19 or they are self-isolating for reasons related to COVID-19 (Code, s. 239.01(1)(a)).
2. Caregiving Leave
Federally regulated employees are entitled up to 42 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave if they must care for a child under 12 years of age and/or they must care for a family member who requires supervised care due to the reasons specified in the Code (Code, s. 239.01(1)(b)).
To take a COVID-19-related leave, an employee must notify their employer in writing as soon as possible of the reason for the leave and the length of leave (Code, s. 239.01(8)). The Code does not require that employees provide a medical certificate or supporting documentation to substantiate the leave.
As federally regulated employees, members are entitled to and shall be granted a COVID-related leave of absence. Air Canada has breached its statutory obligations under the Code by denying leave to members who have notified the company of the reason for their COVID-19-related leave via the company’s “e-Leave” online kiosk. The union has learned that members receive an auto-generated response denying leave. In denying the members to their entitled leave, the company is demanding that members disclose “supporting documentation” to substantiate the leave. The union believes that the demand for documentation is unwarranted given the plain and clear language of the Code.
The union understands that the stress and anxiety that members are already experiencing because of COVID-19 is exacerbated by the company’s denial of your entitlement to COVID-19-related leave and Air Canada’s gratuitous and unjustified demands for confidential information. The union has filed a policy grievance (Click HERE to view) and is seeking a cease and desist order against the company for continuing to breach its statutory obligations under the Code and against Air Canada’s broad and excessive demands for confidential information.
If you have applied for a job-protected unpaid leave of absence due to COVID-19 and Air Canada has denied your request, please contact me by replying to this email or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE