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Frequently Asked Questions during the COVID-19 pandemic

Returning to the workplace & workplace safety

I’ve been asked to return to the workplace. How do I request more flexibility from my manager?

  • If you require more flexibility for your working arrangements, starting the process is easy.
  • Reach out to your manager to set up a conversation related to flexible working arrangements and your reason(s) for it. If you do not make this request via email, be sure to record the date and make personal notes from your conversation.
  • There are many ways to start this conversation. Some examples include:
    • “I am experiencing challenges with returning to the workplace and balancing childcare obligations.”
    • “I feel that I am struggling with feelings of isolation during remote work.”
    • “I am concerned about returning to the workplace because I have a health condition that makes me particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.”
    • “It would help if…”
  • During the conversation, identify the challenge(s) and your sought arrangement. You may be presented with an alternative or be expected to talk through another possible solution.
  • If you feel you might like support for this conversation, please feel free to contact an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative.
  • If you and your manager cannot agree on a more flexible arrangement, or you require more flexibility than your Employer can offer, it may be necessary seek a more formal accommodation.
  • If your employer is the Ontario Public Service, and
  • If you have a different employercontact a Workplace Representative at for assistance »

I have a health condition that makes me more vulnerable to COVID-19, and I'm being asked to return to the workplace. What should I do?

How do I know if my office’s ventilation system is adequately equipped to prevent the spread of the virus?

  • AMAPCEO has provided all Health & Safety Representatives with tools to help them assess whether local workplaces are complying public health best practices, including increasing ventilation and safer HVAC operation.
  • If you have questions and concerns about the precautions being taken in your workplace, contact an AMAPCEO Health & Safety Representative.

Can I continue to wear a mask or a face covering in the workplace?

  • The mask mandate in OPS workplaces (except in high-risk congregate settings) is being lifted on April 4. While masks are no longer mandatory in many workplaces, AMAPCEO encourages you to continue to wear them until you are personally comfortable. Masks are still a requirement if an employee has:

    • returned from international travel in the past 14 days
    • had a close contact in the past 10 days
    • recovered from COVID-19 in the past five days
  • For information on non-medical face coverings, and how to properly wear, fit, remove, and clean them, please see this guidance from the Government of Ontario.
  • If you work in a healthcare or laboratory setting, you may be required to wear additional or different personal protective equipment (PPE). Learn more in this guidance from Public Health Ontario.
  • If you have a concern about the safety of your workplace, please contact your manager immediately, and notify an AMAPCEO Health & Safety Representative.

I usually commute via public transit but am uncomfortable doing so during the pandemic. Am I still required to report into the office?

Why can’t remote work simply continue indefinitely? What’s AMAPCEO been discussing with the Employer regarding timing and process of a return to the workplace?

  • Ultimately, your Employer maintains the right to assign your work location.
  • AMAPCEO is reviewing all return-to-workplace plans to protect the health, safety, and interests of members. The union is deeply invested in ensuring your employer upholds all public health regulations.
  • If your employer is the Ontario Public Service:
  • If you have a different employerContact a Workplace Representative for assistance »
  • AMAPCEO is also advocating that the “workplaces of the future” include more flexibility for members, including expanded access to remote work and other alternative work arrangements.

Can I refuse to work in the workplace simply because of the pandemic? 


You and your household

I am a fixed-term member in the OPS and have tested positive for COVID-19. Will I experience a loss of pay?

  • Fixed-term members in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) are not entitled to sick leave the way permanent members are.
  • By way of an agreement, AMAPCEO has negotiated income protection for fixed-term members in the OPS who test positive for COVID-19 and for whom a 10-day self-isolation period would result in a loss of pay. This protection comes by way of an income “top-up” from the OPS Employer.
  • FXT members must provide confirmation of their diagnosis and/or symptoms to the Employer and must first use their available attendance credits to cover their time off. Top-up payments are to ensure that fixed-term members maintain the income they would have received based on their regular schedule.
  • Payments for fixed-term members who were not scheduled for the 10-day self-isolation period will be based on an average of the 12 weeks’ earnings for regularly scheduled hours that immediately proceeded the self-isolation period.
  • The agreement is retroactive to January 1, 2022 and extends to March 31, 2022.

A dependent family member is affected by the virus. What should I do?

I am not immunocompromised, but I live with someone who is. Can I seek an accommodation?

  • Workplace accommodations are meant to apply to an individual employee’s wellness. Family status accommodations apply to your family members’ personal care if they are dependent on you, and if their health is vulnerable.
  • If a loved one that you provide care for is especially at risk of the virus, speak with your manager about the flexibility you need that would allow you to help protect your dependents and meet your Employer’s operational requirements, where that is possible.
  • If you and your manager cannot agree on a more flexible arrangement, or you require more flexibility than your Employer can offer, it may be necessary seek a more formal accommodation.
  • If your employer is the Ontario Public Servicelearn more on our fact sheet on family status accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic »
  • If you have a different employercontact a Workplace Representative at for assistance »

I have been experiencing challenges in terms of my mental health. What resources are available?


Vaccination

What if my vaccine appointment is scheduled during my work hours?

Vaccines can help protect you, your family, your colleagues, and your communities from COVID-19. For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, eligibility, and safety, visit ontario.ca.

If your employer is the Ontario Public Service, and your vaccine appointment is scheduled during your typical work hours:

  • you will not be required to use a credit or take unpaid time off to attend your appointment
  • you must provide as much notice to your manager as possible

In an announcement from the OPS Employer on March 16, 2021, managers have been told to provide flexibility to staff on this.

If your employer is Public Health Ontario, your Employer is encouraging you to book your appointment after working hours. If that is not possible, and it is scheduled during your typical work hours:

  • you will not be required to use a credit or take unpaid time off to attend your appointment
  • you must provide as much notice to your manager as possible
  • laboratory-based staff may book their vaccine appointment individually or through Health Care Worker priority vaccination channels.

If you have a different employer, and your vaccine appointment is scheduled during your typical work hours, talk with your manager about your options, which may include:

  • requesting paid leave time for your appointment,
  • requesting to use flex time to accommodate your appointment, or
  • failing those, using a paid credit (e.g, vacation, or sick time) to cover your appointment.

If you need additional assistance, contact a Workplace Representative

After I am vaccinated, can I stop practicing other preventive measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask?

You are still required to follow the rules put in place by public health authorities for workplaces. In addition, the Employer can also put in place reasonable rules that are specific to your workplace to protect the health and safety of employees and/or the public.

Ontario Public Service

Will employees be required to have the COVID-19 vaccine in order to physically return to the workplace? Will the Employer require proof of vaccination?

As of October 1, 2021, the OPS Employer requires all employees reporting to a workplace to provide:

  • proof that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (and 14 days have passed since receiving your final dose),
  • written proof of a valid medical exemption, or
  • proof that you have completed an OPS educational program on the importance of vaccination.

If you are not fully vaccinated you will be required to undergo regular rapid testing for COVID-19 when attending the workplace. More information on this is below.

The OPS Employer has since announced that this policy will be lifted starting April 4, 2022, except for workplaces in high-risk congregate settings.

What is a valid medical exemption?

Per Appendix A of the OPS COVID-19 Safe Workplace Directive:

“In accordance with guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health/Ministry of Health, valid medical exemptions apply to those with certain medical conditions, who have been assessed by an allergist/immunologist or specialist for possible (re)administration of a COVID-19 vaccine. A medical exemption applies if an allergist/immunologist or specialist determines that an individual is unable to receive any COVID-19 vaccine. True medical exemptions are expected to be infrequent and should be supported by expert consultation.”

What if I am not fully vaccinated or do not wish to provide proof of vaccination to the OPS Employer?

Starting November 1, 2021, the OPS Employer will require you to complete regular rapid antigen testing every 48 hours and provide proof of the negative test results before entering the physical workplace. Negative test results are valid for 48 hours from taking the test.

Starting on November 1, 2021, the OPS Employer will provide rapid antigen tests to unvaccinated employees. Starting March 18, 2022, if you do not have a valid medical or other human rights exemption, the expense will be the responsibility of unvaccinated employees.

And if you do not have a valid medical or other human rights exemption, you will also be required to take an educational program about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination through LearnON.

The OPS Employer has since announced that this policy will be lifted starting April 4, 2022, except for workplaces in high-risk congregate settings.

What if I’m only partially vaccinated?

Then you are not fully vaccinated and the answer above applies.

As of April 4, the OPS requirement to provide proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing will be lifted, except for workplaces in high-risk congregate settings.

What if I don't comply?

The OPS Employer may place you on an unauthorized, unpaid leave of absence and/or take disciplinary action. Please contact an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative.

As of April 4, the OPS requirement to provide proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing will be lifted, except for workplaces in high-risk congregate settings.

Isn’t this a violation of my human rights?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has found that vaccination requirements are generally permissible. See their policy statement from September 22, 2021.

Public Health Ontario

Will employees be required to have the COVID-19 vaccine? Will the Employer require proof of vaccination?

As of November 1, 2021, the PHO Employer requires all employees must provide proof that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (and that 14 days have passed since receiving your final dose) by Friday, January 14, 2022.

The PHO Employer policy stipulates that requests for valid medical exemptions and other valid exemptions under the Ontario Human Rights Code must be made by November 13, 2021. Further details on this are available in the Employer's policy, which is on the PHO intranet.

If you are not fully vaccinated, the PHO Employer will place you on unpaid leave starting January 14, 2022. You may be terminated one month later.

If you have questions on the policy, please contact an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative at PHO. You can find out at amapceo.on.ca/workplace-representatives.

What if I am not fully vaccinated or do not wish to provide proof of vaccination to the PHO Employer?

If you have not provided proof of vaccination or valid exemption by Friday, January 14, 2022, the PHO Employer will place you on unpaid leave. You may be terminated one month later.

What if I’m only partially vaccinated?

Then you are not fully vaccinated and the answer above applies.

Isn’t this a violation of my human rights?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has found that vaccination requirements are generally permissible. See their policy statement from September 22, 2021.

Other units

Other units may have other requirements. If you are a member of another unit and have a question, please contact a Workplace Representative or Workplace Advisor.


Work/life balance

I’ve been doing a lot of overtime. How much is too much? Can I say no?

I believe my workload during the pandemic is unsustainable. What options are available to me?

When can I restart my alternative work arrangement?

What should I do if I cannot work my regular hours due to family-related responsibilities?


Working from home

Do I qualify for home office tax credits?

Can I ask my manager for the appropriate equipment to work from home? Can I pick up a monitor, keyboard, chair, or other supplies? If so, how?

  • When the pandemic started, many AMAPCEO members started working from home in the interests of their health and safety. Others were not initially approved for remote work, but thanks to AMAPCEO’s advocacy, were able to do so. 
  • 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. Speak to your manager about your needs.
  • If you do not have a formal need for accommodation, ask for your manager’s approval to borrow the equipment you may need. They may ask you to record these items on an inventory form. Your manager is also not mandated to send you your equipment, so you may have to go to your workplace of your own accord to pick things up. Try to do so during off-peak hours to avoid traffic, and be sure that your manager is aware and approving of your access to the building. 

Job security

With all levels of government spending money more freely to combat economic losses, I am concerned about my 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. For example, in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), 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 5,000–6,000 in total. Even before these buyouts, Ontario’s civil service numbers were by far the leanest in the entire country per capita. Any further reductions would harm the government’s ability to provide fundamental services, let alone deliver on their policy agenda. 
  • Remote work has not only been successful, it has also made for a stabilizing force during chaotic times.
  • Finally, AMAPCEO’s 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, 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. 
  • If your employer is the Ontario Public Service, learn more on our fact sheet on surplussing and layoffs »

I’m on contract in the OPS and uncertain of my future. What should I do?

  • Over the past two years, contract worker numbers have been consistent in the Ontario Public Service (OPS)—and is currently at around 10% of our overall membership.
  • AMAPCEO believes even one job loss is one too many, but we are confident the majority of our contract workers are safe until permanency is achieved. 
  • The conversion rate for temporary to permanent jobs is unusually high at the moment. This is something we anecdotally associate with the hiring freeze, in that while 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.
  • Learn more in our fact sheet for fixed-term employees »