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Frequently Asked Questions about the 2020 Pandemic

Home office tax benefits
COC days (updated June 9, 2020)
Vacation credits
Expiring benefits – Members on TEI and Adult Children
Overtime
Overwork due to family status
Remote work equipment
Job security
Impacts on contract workers
Return to the workplace
Unsafe work


Home office tax credits

Since I'm working from home, will I qualify for home office tax credits?

  • AMAPCEO members who are working from home may be eligible for personal income tax deductions.
  • To be eligible, your home-based workspace must be where you conducted at least 50% of your work for the tax year, and meet other criteria as defined by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
  • To claim credits for your home-based workspace, complete a T2200 form from CRA and present it to your manager for sign off. Once signed, submit the claim when filing your personal income tax return. Keep a copy for your records.
  • Eligibility determination rests with CRA. You should consult with a qualified personal tax advisor or the CRA directly on your eligibility.
  • For additional information about deducting employment expenses, please see the CRA Guide T4044: Employment Expenses.

 

COC credits (updated June 9, 2020)

Some Ontario Public Service (OPS) members have Compensation Option Credits (“COC days”) that must be used by August 1, 2020, carried over from the 2014 collective agreement. Given we must shelter in place, will the OPS Employer permit an extension to the original date so we can better use them later?

  • AMAPCEO tabled this concern with the OPS Employer in April, but on June 9, 2020, the OPS Employer announced that they will not be extending the COC deadline as members have had since August 2014 to use their time and most municipalities in the province will be entering Stage 2 of the government’s plan to “reopen Ontario.”

  • If you have remaining Compensation Option Credits:

    • You must use them by August 1, 2020, or they will be forfeited. They are not payable.

    • Consider using your remaining COC days to take time off to rest, relax, and enjoy part of your summer.

    • Use COC days before you use your vacation credits. If you have a good amount of vacation time remaining that you do not anticipate using this year, consider carrying over up to one year’s worth of your vacation time until next year. If you would like to carry over more, you can ask for special consideration from your local manager and/or your Deputy Minister, depending on your Ministry. This is outlined in Article 30 of the OPS Collective Agreement.

 

Vacation credits

While members can request vacation leave, doing so while having to shelter in place doesn’t permit members with anything more than a respite from work. Further, given that travel has been severely restricted, and that we may remain without the ability to truly enjoy our time off for months – will the Employer allow the carry over of vacation credits to 2021? 

  • AMAPCEO tabled this concern with the OPS Employer in April. 
  • Members are permitted to carry one full year of vacation credits and to start the new year with a maximum of two years worth of credits. 
  • Approval to carry more than 2 years of vacation credits requires senior management approval. If you are a member of a BPS unit, please see your collective agreement for details.
  • AMAPCEO is seeking a solution for everyone in a unit, as opposed to using a one-off approach. 
  • Vacation credits may be payable under certain conditions.
  • We will notify members of any change in this policy as soon as we know at amapceo.on.ca/covid19

 

Expiring benefits – Members on TEI and Adult Children

Two groups have come forward concerned that they are losing their final chances to use our medical benefits:

  • Those about to leave the OPS via the Transition Exit Initiatives (TEI) , who may have taken several months of salary continuance to remain on payroll and eligible for these benefits
  • Young, dependent adults who are covered until their 26th birthday

With many services mandated to be closed in Ontario (dentists, RMTs, therapy, chiropractors, etc. These opportunities to make final claims for valuable benefits are being lost through no fault of their own.

  • AMAPCEO tabled the concern for members on TEI in May and hopes to work toward a solution that would at least cover the most valuable benefits such as dental, vision and hearing. 
  • AMAPCEO will table the adult children/dependent aspect in early June.
  • Implementing any kind of solution requires the pandemic to calm to the extent that these services are permitted to safely open again. 

 

Overtime

During any crisis, there may be a greater need for overtime. In most instances, for an hour or two a day or up to ten hours a week. Anything beyond that on a regular basis should be addressed by greater staffing. 

  • Overtime rules do not change during a pandemic. 
  • AMAPCEO has several facts sheets that detail provisions of our collective agreement available at amapceo.on.ca/collective-agreements, including overtime. We encourage all members to review the fact sheets and know your workplace rights.
  • You can refuse overtime for several reasons, the most common being non-payment, overwork, (example: if you’re already at 60 hours for the week) illness, or family responsibilities.  

The following sub-bullets apply to the OPS and to many of of our BPS units. To ensure it applies to you, please refer to the appropriate collective agreement at amapceo.on.ca/collective-agreements

  • If your Manager requests you to work overtime, you may ask in the moment to be paid out for your time. The employer may approve the pay out, ask you to take the time in lieu, or change their mind about requesting overtime. If they offer you time in lieu, it is your decision whether to accept this or not. You can refuse. 
  • If you request to work overtime, your Manager may consider payment, time in lieu or a denial. If they opt for time in lieu, you have no recourse as you made the request. 

 

Overwork due to family status

The pandemic has caused many things to happen simultaneously, including remote work and the cancellation of school and the closure of childcare facilities all at the same time. What options are available for overwhelmed parents?

  • Many of our members are facing the very real pressures of dealing with work and family. The good news is that you have options. 
  • Ask your manager for a lighter workload. Managers are facing the same pressures and have been given permission to redistribute work for those whose family status is causing them to be overworked.
  • Use a credit or two to take part or whole days off to balance your competing demands.  
  • Request flexible hours of work, perhaps starting earlier or finish later to allow an extended break mid day to attend to other duties. Work longer one day and shorter the next to permit the ability to get dependents to appointments. Even consider trading a weekday for a weekend day if that permits a partner to aid in parenting or home schooling. 
  • If these options do not work or are denied you, you may ask for a Leave with Pay, wherein you may be approved to stay home without work assignment. It is an option we can pursue, but keep in mind that cases of approval are very, very rare. 

 

Remote work equipment

What equipment are members entitled to use offsite while working remotely? Can members pick up monitors, keyboards, chairs, or other supplies? If so, how?

When the pandemic started, large numbers of our members were told to work from home in the best interests of their health and safety. Some were not initially approved for remote work but thanks to AMAPCEO’s advocacy many more were provided laptops and VPN access. 
After the first few weeks of hammering on the laptop at the dining table, on the couch or in an armchair, those of us not so fortunate to have fully set up home offices began to feel the aches and pains.  

  • If you have a workplace health accommodation, you are entitled to be provided with the same set up at home or with a suitable alternative. 
  • For those without accommodations, the ability to transfer certain items to your remote location does exist. Whether it’s a chair, monitor, keyboard, or mouse, in most instances there’s no reason that equipment cannot leave the workplace as long as you seek management’s approval and sign for your items on an inventory form. 
  • In instances where a formal accommodation is not involved, your manager is not mandated to send you your equipment and you may have to go to your workplace of your own accord and pick things up. Be sure to do so off-peak hours to avoid traffic of all kinds and be sure that your manager is aware and approving of your access to the building. 

 

 Job security

Many of our members have noticed impacts on job security with other governments at municipal, provincial and federal levels. Some governments have gone as far as to lay off some employees while others have reduced hours of work, introduced job sharing or considered use of leave without pay.  With all levels of government spending money more freely to combat economic losses, members are concerned about their own job security. What does AMAPCEO foresee happening?

  • While layoffs can never be ruled out, they seem unlikely, at least for the foreseeable future for a few reasons. The sitting government has pledged that there will be no job loss for the course of its mandate and save for a buyout package in early 2019, they’ve honoured that pledge – even during the pandemic. 
  • Buyout packages combined with the hiring freeze have seen AMAPCEO lose approximately 800 members and the greater public service 5,000 in total. Even before these buyouts, Ontario’s civil service numbers were by far the leanest in the entire country per capita – and so any further reductions would harm the government’s ability to provide fundamental services let alone deliver on their policy changes. 
  • Other provinces employ far larger per capita workforces than Ontario and so their capability to downsize may very well be greater than ours given they haven’t already shaved their total human resource numbers by 5,000 that Ontario has to date.
  • For a government urging business to hang onto as many employees as possible, it would be  hypocritical to lay off its own workforce – who would then have less money to spend within the Ontario economy and have no choice but to join the federal government’s unemployment rolls.
  • So far, remote work has been not only successful but its also made for a stabilizing force during chaotic times. In fact, the Premier and the President of the Treasury Board have both said as much publicly while rebuffing extreme right-wing journalists being critical of the public service. 
  • Finally, our job security provisions are solid and well-tested. We employ an approach that permits buyout packages for those who might want to voluntarily leave, pension bridging for those closest to retirement, re-skilling for those displaced, and if necessary, bumping based on seniority as a last resort. Over the past two years, combinations of these provisions have seen almost no true job loss. 

 

Impacts on contract workers

Even pre-pandemic, contract workers are our most precarious members. If we had our way, they would be permanent. Temporary employees worry about their job security and converting to permanent roles, first and foremost, and we rely on strong advocacy and trends to try to protect their roles. 

  • Over the past 20 years, our OPS contract numbers have averaged between 8% to 12% and are presently at 10.5% of our overall membership.
  • Over the past two years, contract worker numbers have been consistent. With a loss of only 150 of a total of 1650 over that time, or about 6-7 contract employees per month. 
  • AMAPCEO believes even one job is too many to lose but leveling off at 1,500 contract workers leaves us confident the majority of our contract workers are safe until permanency is achieved. 
  • Conversion rates for temporary to permanent jobs are unusually high. This is something we anecdotally associate with the hiring freeze, in that though the freeze is stymying new permanent jobs, it seems to be solidifying contract workers’ roles who remain in place longer and longer – until they convert (if eligible to do so). 
  • Our advice is to hang in there! If your job has no incumbent, hold on to it. If your job has an incumbent with a timeline to return, be aware of it and apply for other contract or permanent work at every opportunity. Although nerve wracking, it often pays to be well-rounded and capable of filling variable roles. And, given the positive trends noted above, the odds are in your favour in the long run.

 

Return to the workplace

Many members have anxiety about returning to the workplace during a pandemic and have been asking about exceptions, and why remote work can’t simply continue indefinitely.  On top of concerns about the physical workplaces, many are also worried about transit and physical distancing. What’s AMAPCEO been discussing with the Employer in regard to timing and process? 

  • The Employer maintains the right to assign your work location. However, your collective agreements allows you the ability to negotiate alternative work arrangements.  
  • When a return to work begins, all members will have the ability to negotiate alternative work arrangements as per normal. Naturally, AMAPCEO will take a great interest in that process to ensure members are treated equitably. 
  • Members who can medically substantiate the need to maintain remote work may do so. 
  • In exceptional cases, we may be able to access compassionate approval for other reasons like sick or susceptible dependents. 
  • We strongly suspect that no across the board return to the workplace will occur until the province’s childcare systems are  back up and running – and if not, anyone in that scenario may be entitled to remote work for family status reasons.
  • AMAPCEO is pushing for the longest possible runway for its members working from home to  return to the workplace.  We’ve strongly suggested that a full return to the workplace could be delayed as long as October, or even year-end.
  • Why? Well, because there are so many complex variables for an employer to contemplate and adjust for, including the reinstatement of dependable childcare, safe transport for those who have to use mass transit, and that’s all before our members even reach the office. 
  • In the workplace, AMAPCEO will be deeply invested in ensuring the employer upholds public health regulations including distancing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), regular cleaning, the controlling of numbers of people indoors, and so on. 
  • We believe that a gradual approach is necessary. Every workplace needs to be carefully evaluated before a slow and thoughtful repatriation. Members will need several weeks’ notice to adjust, and every means of flexibility should be considered including flex hours, off peak hours, and teams working alternating shifts of 2-3 days in and 2-3 days remote to name but a few options. 
  • With the probability of multiple waves to this virus, we continue to encourage the employer to order in all necessary remote work equipment, so that we can prepare to remain at home, or return to home, for as long as necessary.

 

Unsafe work

Can members refuse to work simply because of the pandemic? Can they do so once back in the workplace?  

  • Once you’ve returned to the workplace, if you feel you’re in an unsafe situation, make your management aware of the circumstance immediately. We strongly recommend you include an AMAPCEO Workplace Rep as soon as possible. 
  • Your manager is to assess the situation. They have the right to deem it safe and to direct you to return or to replace you with another worker. However, if you have your Workplace Rep with you and they disagree, they can contact AMAPCEO and we can take you out of the equation and protect you both from the hazard and any retribution. 
  • Normally, a labour inspector would then be called to assess the situation. Often that area of the worksite can simply be avoided until such time as it can be assessed, and other work can carry on elsewhere.  If when our Workplace Rep attends no grounds to claim unsafe work can be found, then you and other workers can be reassigned the task by your manager. 
  • Remember that there are thousands of essential service workers currently in the workplace and that they are functioning in safe fashion. 
  • Simply being in the workplace and in proximity to others is not reason enough to refuse work; to do so can be subject to discipline. 
  • Likewise, if you’re directed to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and/or to take other public health mandated precautions in the workplace, failure to do so can also leave you subject to discipline. 
  • AMAPCEO has many fact sheets available to members on our website that outline specific aspects of the collective agreement (like overtime in a previous question). We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the unsafe work sheets for your unit at amapceo.on.ca/collective-agreements