days until our Collective Agreement expires, we are preparing, we are united and we will make change.

Your Rights When Booked Off

* This applies to Mainline Air Canada only *

There have been recent events that have shown us the need to send this information out once again to inform the members of their rights.
The Union filed a policy grievance in 2010 relating to procedures while booking off sick. Arbitrator William Kaplan provided an award which was favourable for the Union.  A copy of Arbitrator Kaplan’s full award (CHQ-10-16) is attached HERE.  Below are excerpts from a 2010 Membership bulletin regarding your rights when booking off sick.

Based on the information provided by you, the Union grieved Air Canada’s requirement that sick Members stay home and be available to receive a telephone call from Air Canada, or risk the removal of pay credits.  The Union further grieved Air Canada’s practice of asking Members when they planned to book back on, or whether they planned on booking on for their next flight.
Chief Arbitrator Kaplan’s decision was released on November 12, 2010.  It was a win for the Membership!
Chief Arbitrator William Kaplan’s Decision
Chief Arbitrator William Kaplan allowed the Union’s grievance, deciding that this message could not be delivered to Members by Air Canada and Shepell.  He noted that this requirement to be available for the call under threat of loss of credits was “completely inappropriate”, “hardly conducive to the rehabilitation of the employee”, and contrary to the Collective Agreement.
Further, Chief Arbitrator Kaplan accepted the Union’s argument that Air Canada is not legally entitled to ask Members whether they foresaw being able to work their next flight.  Members who place a 6-hour hold, as well as Members who do not, can no longer be asked this question by Air Canada or Shepell.
Air Canada cannot:

  • require that you stay home when you are booked off to be available to receive a telephone call, under threat of forfeiture of pay credits, or
  • Ask you whether you expect to operate your next flight.

Second “Book Off” Related Victory in Three Months
This is the second absence-related grievance victory in three months.
Previously, in YVR-09-73, the Union grieved Air Canada’s practice of requiring medical substantiation where a Member – who did not have excessive absenteeism, particular attendance patterns, and did not book off after a leave request was denied – booked off from a Sydney flight.  Air Canada said that it requested substantiation “due to the high number of book offs associated with the Sydney flights.”  In August, following a hearing on this grievance, Arbitrator Kaplan issued a cease and desist order.  “Blanket Requests” for substantiation are not legally allowed.
This means that you cannot be asked to substantiate your book off simply because you booked off during a holiday period, or because a particular flight might have a higher than average number of book-offs.  Air Canada can ask you for medical substantiation but the request must be based on your individual circumstances.
Air Canada can ask you for medical substantiation if they determine that you:  

  • are on the CAMS program
  • have a particular attendance/book-off patterns
  • book off following a denied leave request or in circumstances deemed suspicious

What medical information is the Company entitled to ask for?
Local management is entitled to request a note to substantiate the use of sick leave if a pattern of book off exists, if you book off after your request for a leave was denied, or if you are on the CAMS program (Corporate Absenteeism Management System).  These notes need only state when you were unable to attend work, and when you were fit to return to work, and must be dated during your book off.  The Company must request the note during your book off – they cannot request a note after you have already booked back on. You should submit the original note, clearly marked with your name and employee number, to your Local base management within 10 days of booking back on, ensuring that you keep a copy for your records.  The note must be dated during the time of the book off, and should cover the entire timeframe of the book off.  If you had to pay a fee for the medical certificate, you should also submit an expense form to your manager to be reimbursed.  See our previous bulletin #62 entitled “Your Rights when booked off…Part 1” for more information.
A summary of your rights:

Air Canada cannot: Air Canada can ask you for medical substantiation if you:
  • require that you stay home when you are booked off to be available to receive a telephone call, under threat of forfeiture of pay credits, or
  • ask you whether you expect to operate your next flight.
  • are on CAMS
  • have particular attendance/book off patterns, or
  • book off after a leave request was denied

What if the book off is for 14 days or longer?
More detailed information may be required for an absence from work of 14 days or longer. Apparently, in some cases, Managers and Occupational Health Representatives are “suggesting” that Members forward their application for WIP benefits as substantiation for the book off, or as evidence to return to work.  We strongly caution against doing this, as you may be revealing more personal medical information than necessary.
Medical information should be sent to Occupational Health only and never to your Cabin Personnel Manager.
The Company’s Occupational Health Service (OHS) is only entitled to ask for information relevant to the medical issue causing your book off or preventing your early and safe return to work.  They are entitled to the prognosis (i.e. what you can or cannot do) not the diagnosis (the specific ailment which is afflicting you).  The request for information must be relevant to illness causing your absence and reasonable.  For example, if you were booked off due to a broken arm, it would most likely be irrelevant and unreasonable for the Company to request that you schedule an MRI exam prior to booking back on. However, it may be reasonable for them to request a copy of your latest X-ray results, to prove the bone has mended.
Attached, you will find a copy of Air Canada’s “Consent For The Release Of Medical Information” form.  The Union has currently filed a policy grievance (CHQ-10-55) on the use of this form, as we believe a note from your doctor should be sufficient.  Until this matter is settled, you may encounter resistance if you refuse to fill out this form, resulting in delays to booking back on.  In addition, should you be requested to fill this form out for any other reason than return to work, for example, to obtain permission to travel when booked off, you must modify the form to suit your particular circumstances, for example, cross out “for the purpose of assessing my health and fitness to work” and replace with “for the purpose of assessing my health and fitness to fly as a passenger.”   Once you have filled out the form, we recommend you initial the modifications and maintain a copy for your records.
If you are in doubt about what medical information you should release to Occupational Health Service (OHS), your doctor should be your first point of contact. He/she is best able to judge if the information requested by OHS is relevant to your return to work.  Your doctor is best placed to determine if you are fit to return to your job, and what, if any,  your limitations are.
In solidarity,