Return to Campus Frequently Asked Labour Relations Questions

This memo was emailed to AAPS members on October 4, 2021. If you did not receive the memo, please contact the AAPS Office to ensure you are on our email list.


Dear AAPS Members,

I hope that you are all keeping well during this busy time of year.

We have received a wide variety of correspondence from members regarding UBC’s Return to Campus plans. While many of you have enjoyed increased in-person activities and feel comfortable with UBC’s approach to safety, others are concerned.

In an effort to address some of the issues that have been raised with AAPS around returning to in-person activities, we have put together a general FAQ.

I want to be very clear that these FAQs address labour relations and what is possible under the law.

They are not necessarily an association viewpoint or the views of the AAPS Board or staff. We appreciate that not all members will be satisfied with the parameters presented in these FAQs. We are trying our best to set appropriate expectations for how we might be able to assist your individual matters by providing broader responses to commonly asked questions.

I also want to remind all members to please continue to take good care of your mental health. If you are feeling anxious or worried about the changing workplace landscape due to the pandemic or have reached a point of feeling burnout or overwhelmed, please take a few days to assess and regroup. If your situation is more complex, you can access mental health coverage through your UBC Extended Health Benefits and the EFAP program. If you have questions about sick leave, accommodations, or taking an unpaid leave of absence, please make an advocacy appointment.


FAQs Regarding UBC’s Return to Campus plans


1. Isn’t a vaccine mandate a human rights violation?

No. AAPS works with a number of different legal counsels at the forefront of human rights and employment law in BC. There is general consensus within the legal community that reasonable vaccine requirements are not human rights violations.


2. Why is my employer allowed to require me to declare my vaccine status and require testing? Isn’t that a violation of my rights?

Employers have certain rights to determine safety protocols in the workplace. While staff are required to declare a vaccine status, one of the choices in the declaration is a choice not to disclose. In addition, under the law, a nasal swab is not considered an overly invasive medical procedure.

 

3. I am concerned that not disclosing my vaccine status will negatively impact my job and working relationships. How is this fair?

There are a number of reasons you may not wish to disclose your vaccine status to your employer or be vaccinated. It is your choice not to disclose the information, even if you are vaccinated. You are not required to disclose this information to UBC, but you still need to complete the declaration. If you choose not to disclose your vaccine status or are not vaccinated, regardless of the reason, you are required under the current UBC protocols to be regularly tested.

 

4. How do I know that my medical status and information will be kept private?

As a public sector employer, UBC is subject to the highest privacy standards in the province under FIPPA. UBC manages a wide variety of private data of its students and employees, including finance and medical documentation. We assume the same privacy standards will be upheld in this case. If you experience a privacy violation, please let us know.


5. I am immune compromised. I am concerned about returning to an in-person working environment. What can I do?

If you have a personal medical situation, please contact AAPS for a confidential conversation about the medical accommodations process and the documentation that would be required from your doctor. While the accommodations process will involve your manager and some discloser of information to your employer, it is the process that is available if it is unsafe for you to return to in-person work for medical reasons.

 

6. I have immune compromised family members that I care for and/or young children that cannot be vaccinated. I am concerned about returning to an in-person working environment. What can I do?

We hope that you will be able to reach a reasonable agreement with your manager regarding your specific family situation and work requirements. If you want assistance preparing for that conversation, you can contact AAPS, but please allow for some lead time. Please note that the employer may not, under the law, be obligated to make an accommodation for you in these circumstances. Please contact the office for specific advice regarding your individual situation.


7. I have to take public transit into my worksite, and I am feeling unsafe about it. What can I do?

From an employment standpoint, you have a choice about how you get to a worksite. Given the challenges of on-campus parking and commute times, we hope that departments and units are being reasonable and employing flexible work arrangements for staff who need to come in to do so on staggered hours.

 

8. I have been working well, even better from home, for the last 18 months. I don’t understand why I need to come back into the office, given the potential risks of COVID-19.

We do not doubt that many members have made significant productivity and wellbeing gains through the ability to work from home. Unfortunately, your employer decides how much flexibility they want to give employees regarding alternative work arrangements. UBC is currently exceeding the guidelines that have been set out by the Provincial Health Authority for COVID health and safety measures in a post-secondary institution.


9. What is UBC doing to enforce their safety protocols?

Last week, UBC sent out a broadcast memo explaining how to verify your vaccination status (if you have chosen to disclose and stated that you are vaccinated.) They also further explained the rapid testing protocols for those who have chosen not to disclose their vaccination status or stated that they are not vaccinated. Our general understanding is that UBC is currently taking an educational approach to safety issues and looking at situations on a case-by-case basis. If you have safety concerns as an employee you can contact AAPS, if you want to know how to respond to safety concerns in your role as manager, please contact your HR Advisor.


We appreciate that the situation is complex and information continues to evolve. Please be patient with one another.


Sincerely,

Joey Hansen, Executive Director