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Check Your Pay Statement!
The Mediator’s Recommended Terms of Settlement Has Increased Teachers’ Pay
The Mediator’s Recommended Terms of Settlement, ratified on June 10, 2022, included 0.5 per cent upon ratification and another 1.25 per cent on September 1, 2022. This compounds upon the 0.5 per cent received upon ratification. There will be another 2 per cent due to teachers on September 1, 2023.
A teacher’s annual salary is based on years of education (as determined by the Teacher Qualifications Service) and years of experience (as determined by the teacher’s collective agreement). Click here to see your updated salary grid.
Teachers are paid according to the Education Act, which states that teachers are paid 1/200 for each day they work (with a few variations). Since funds are allocated to school divisions over 12 months, paying teachers 1/12 of their annual salary each month from September to August is easier for everyone to budget, including school divisions.
Due to the improvements to the salary grid, teachers must review their September pay statements to be certain that their pay has been adjusted correctly. Teachers should continue to review their pay statements at the end of every month, particularly if they are still moving up the salary grid and are expecting to earn an increment. If a teacher reviews their pay statement and it appears that they have not been paid correctly, it is their responsibility to contact their employer to resolve the discrepancy. If the teacher is not able to correct the error with the employer forthwith, the teacher must contact Teacher Employment Services so that the Association can provide support in a resolution. Delays in reporting an error in pay could result in a loss of income, so it is critical that every teacher closely scrutinize their pay statement.
1) For full-time contract teachers, the simplest way to check for an error is to multiply the amount listed on the pay statement as gross pay or total earnings by 12 and then compare that sum to the salary grid in the collective agreement.
2) For part-time contract teachers, confirm annual salary on the grid in the collective agreement, multiply that sum by the teacher’s FTE (for example, 0.50 or 0.86 or 0.25) and divide by 12. This sum should be the gross pay or total earnings figure on the pay statement.
3) For teachers in receipt of an allowance, the simplest way to check for an error is to multiply the amount listed on the pay statement as gross pay or total earnings by 12, subtract the annual allowance and compare that sum to the salary grid in the collective agreement.
It is also important to review the deductions to confirm they are correct. Maximum annual employee premiums for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and employment insurance (EI) are reached partway through the year. Teachers often see an increase in net pay once those maximums are reached and are no longer deducted from monthly cheques.
Check your pay statement every month to ensure that your salary is correct. Review the deductions and make sure they are correct. Remember, you may reach maximum deductions for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and employment insurance (EI) partway through the year. #WEAREATA
Effective September 1, 2022, Bill 85 amended the Education Act by adding
Criminal record and vulnerable sector checks
The entirety of section 2 of Bill 85 was proclaimed into force by Order in Council 224/2022, effective September 1, 2022. Section 2(7) of Bill 85 amends the Education Act by adding section 229.1: Criminal record and vulnerable sector checks. Bill 85 applies to those whose employment requires a certificate of qualification as a teacher, a leadership certificate or a superintendent leadership certificate.
Alberta teachers have long been required to provide criminal record and vulnerable sector checks to their school division upon hiring. However, this legislative change demands that the individual teacher now provide these documents every five years, and the board must be satisfied that the results of those checks demonstrate that the teacher continues to be suitable for employment in their position.
If you have not provided a criminal record and vulnerable sector check to your division in the last five years, you will be required to do so within 16 months of this new section coming into force. Some divisions, however, may require teachers to comply sooner than the 16-month legislative deadline of January 1, 2024.
Teachers should not have to incur the cost of the five-year criminal record checks. The last round of central table negotiations achieved reimbursement of the cost by the division to teachers. This appears in the Mediator’s Recommended Terms of Settlement, ratified on June 10, 2022. However, teachers starting new employment are still responsible for the cost of the initial check.
If you have a criminal conviction (or charge, subject to the terms of your employment contract) and failed to report this to your division, you should seek the advice of Teacher Employment Services (1-800-232-7208). In this situation, most members would benefit from proactively addressing the issue with their division rather than waiting until their updated criminal record and vulnerable sector check is submitted.
Legislative changes in Bill 85 now require that teachers provide an updated criminal record and vulnerable sector check to their division every five years after their initial submission. Divisions, however, must reimburse teachers for this cost. If you have questions or concerns regarding your current status, you should seek the advice of Teacher Employment Services (1‑800‑232‑7208). #WEAREATA
Starting with a New School Division
A teacher’s annual salary (found in the collective agreement) is based on years of education (as determined by the Teacher Qualifications Service) and years of experience (as determined by the teacher’s collective agreement).
Teachers hired to a teaching position with a new school division are responsible for submitting proof of their experience and education in accordance with the timelines stipulated in clauses 3.3 and 3.4 of the Central Table Terms of their collective agreement.
Teachers must also review their pay statements every month, particularly if they have delayed submitting their documentation to their employer. If a teacher reviews their pay statement and it appears that they have not been paid correctly, it is their responsibility to contact their employer to resolve the discrepancy. If the teacher is not able to correct the error with the employer forthwith, the teacher must contact Teacher Employment Services (TES) so that the Association can provide support in a resolution. Delays in reporting an error in pay could result in a loss of income, so it is critical that teachers closely scrutinize their pay statements.
For newly employed teachers to the school division, until such time as the school division receives satisfactory proof of teacher education or proof of application made to Teacher Qualifications Service and proof of experience is submitted, the teacher will be placed at four years of education and zero years of experience on the salary grid.
The adjustment dates for increased teacher education and experience shall be September 1 and February 1.
Proof of Education
Clause 3.3 above of the collective agreement requires that the evaluation of teacher education for salary grid purposes shall be determined by a statement of qualifications issued by the Alberta Teacher Qualifications Service. If proof of teacher education or application is received within 60 operational days, payment shall be made retroactive to the above-mentioned adjustment dates; however, if this documentation is not submitted within 60 operational days, salary will be adjusted the month following such submission.
Proof of Experience
Clause 3.4 requires employers to recognizeexperience gained while holding a valid Alberta teaching certificate or its equivalent in the relevant governing jurisdiction and working in a position that requires a teaching certificate as a condition of employment. While a teacher on contract earns one year of experience after 140 operational days with the school division, substitute teachers can earn one year of experience after working 140 operational days in the preceding five years with the school division.
It is important to remember that no experience is gained during vacation periods and leaves of absence without salary, and a teacher shall be granted only one experience increment during any one school year. However, uncredited experience shall be carried over for the calculation of experience increments.
Teachers continuing with their employer are not reassessed for grid placement, unless they have completed further education and applied for a revaluation through Teacher QualificationsService, unless those teachers are included under the new special consideration for vocational,trade, and other education and experience provided in the Mediator’s Recommended Terms of Settlement.
Special consideration for vocational (formerly CTS), trade, and other education and experience
—CHANGEEffective 2022 09 01
·Last round, language was introduced to divisions where it did not already exist, but there was no requirement to implement the evaluation.
·Now the “may” has been changed to “shall” and will require those evaluations to be added to the grid.
—CHANGE Effective 2022 09 01
· Last round, language was introduced to divisions where it did not already exist, but there was no requirement to implement the evaluation.
· Now the “may” has been changed to “shall” and will require those evaluations to be added to the grid.
This would apply to teachers in 21 bargaining units.
If you have been hired to a new school division, it is your responsibility to submit proof of your experience and education in accordance with the timelines stipulated in your collective agreement. Check your pay statement every month to ensure that you have been placed appropriately on the grid and that your salary is correct. #WEAREATA
The Nature of Teaching Duties (Part 1)
The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably altered the work of teaching, and many Alberta teachers are feeling stretched past their limits. Clarifying the nature of teaching duties can help teachers manage the responsibilities of the profession and balance the ever-increasing demands on them.
Teaching duties are all the professional tasks encountered by teachers in the course of their activities related to the instruction of students, including
· conducting classes and presenting lessons,
· preparing lessons,
· requisitioning materials and equipment,
· evaluating and reporting on student progress and
· maintaining such classroom order as is necessary to promote a healthy learning climate.
Sections 196 and 197 of the Education Act form the legislative basis for these duties.
196(1) A teacher while providing instruction or supervision must
(a) provide instruction competently to students;
(b) teach the courses of study and education programs that are prescribed, approved or authorized pursuant to this Act;
(c) promote goals and standards applicable to the provision of education adopted or approved pursuant to this Act;
(d) encourage and foster learning in students;
(e) regularly evaluate students and periodically report the results of the evaluation to the students, the students’ parents and the board;
(f) maintain, under the direction of the principal, order and discipline among the students while they are in the school or on the school grounds and while they are attending or participating in activities sponsored or approved by the board;
(g) subject to any applicable collective agreement and the teacher’s contract of employment, carry out those duties that are assigned to the teacher by the principal or the board.
(2) At any time during the period of time that a teacher is under an obligation to the board to provide instruction or supervision or to carry out duties assigned to the teacher by a principal or the board, a teacher must, at the request of the board,
(a) participate in curriculum development and field testing of new curriculum;
(b) develop, field test and mark provincial achievement tests and diploma examinations;
(c) supervise student teachers.
The Act further implies an expectation for teachers to carry out such general supervision of their students as may be required by law, by regulation or by agreement, in order to assist to a reasonable extent with the school program as agreed to by the staff. This expectation extends to cooperating with other teachers in the best interests of students and generally to acting as an engaged member of the school’s educational team.
While collective agreements provide Alberta teachers with limits on their assignable and instructional time, many duties required of teachers to fulfill their obligations fall into the category of professional time. In general, this professional time can be defined as the time that is directed by the teacher, including decisions about when and where the duties are done. Tasks that fall under professional time include the following:
· Planning and creating instructional materials
· Personal professional development
Ø Attending conferences and workshops
· Professional reflection
· Self-directed contact with parents outside assigned meetings and admin directive contact
· Providing additional assistance to students
· Collaborating with colleagues
The work time for these functions is not regulated in collective agreements, but they are obligations of the profession under the Education Act.
Along with instructional time and assignable time, teachers have a professional responsibility for activities such as planning, preparation, marking and reporting. The work time for these functions is not regulated in collective agreements, but they are obligations of the profession under the Education Act. #WEAREATA
Pension Contribution Reductions for 2022
Every year the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) develops an annual report that covers a wide variety of topics, including ATRF’s investment results, funding status, member services statistics and financial reporting. In 2021, ATRF continued to manage the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic and the transfer of assets to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), while still providing excellent service to members and excellent value for Alberta teachers and plan sponsors.
ATRF’s 2021 annual report, Together Through Change, provides teachers with detailed information on the following topics:
· ATRF’s performance and resilience over the past year during a period of major change
· A discussion of ATRF’s strategic plan
· Results from the most recent member survey
· Detailed information around plan structure and funding
· Funding objectives based on ATRF’s funding policy, and the funding status of the plans
· ATRF’s fund performance
· The transition of assets to AIMCo
· The announcement of another reduction in contribution rates
Management of Contribution Rates
Effective September 1, 2022, the total rates for the Teachers’ Pension Plan will be reduced by two per cent of salaries (one per cent for the Government of Alberta and one per cent for teachers). Several considerations went into this decision, including
· strong investment returns;
· prudent management that continues to build margins and reinforce the plan’s long-term sustainability; and
· the determination that the plan will be able to continue to meet funding objectives of benefit security, intergenerational equity, and contribution rate stability and affordability.
Managing the plan’s funded status requires making long-term decisions that maintain the health of the plan, with proactive measures in place in anticipation of future challenges. There are three main levers for the management of funded status of any pension plan. The first is the level and type of benefits offered, which are the plan sponsors’ decision. The ATRF board manages the two remaining levers to achieve long-term sustainability. First is the funding policy and setting the contributions paid by teachers and the government/employer, which determines how the plan is funded, and second is the investment policy, which sets out how the assets are invested. Contributions and investments provide capital with which to pay plan benefits as they become due and to fund the operations of ATRF.
ATRF regularly works with the plan’s actuary to assess contribution rates as part of its broader accountability to manage plan sustainability and funding. Effective September 1, 2022, the total rates for the Teachers’ Pension Plan will be reduced by two per cent of salaries, which will result in a one per cent increase to teachers’ net pay. Teachers can access more information in the ATRF 2021 annual report.#WEAREATA
Changes to Public Health Policy and School Safety
Alberta premier Jason Kenney has announced that effective Sunday, February 13, 2022, at 11:59 pm, the province will no longer require masking for children and youth in schools or for Albertans aged 12 and under in any setting. The target date for the second phase of the government’s plan is March 1, when the province plans to remove the remaining restrictions, including the indoor mask mandate, work-from-home requirements, remaining capacity limits, limits on social gatherings and screening for youth activities.
The abrupt changes during the latest COVID-19 provincial update have left Alberta teachers with many questions about the safety of their workplaces and their employers’ responsibilities. Here are some key points of information:
· School divisions are legally able to maintain a mask mandate; however, even if they maintain the mandate, divisions cannot refuse entry or access to students because of their individual and personal choice not to wear a mask.
· Amendments made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) in December 2021 significantly changed the concept of dangerous work and the right to refuse dangerous work (section 17 of the OHS Act). Currently, the OHS Act enables workers to refuse work only if they reasonably believe that there is an undue hazard at the work site or that particular work poses an undue hazard to themselves or others.
o In this section of the OHS Act, “undue hazard” in relation to any occupation includes a hazard that poses a serious and immediate threat to the health and safety of a person.
o The act provides examples of undue hazards, such as
§ sudden infrastructure collapses that result in an unsafe physical environment or
§ a danger that would normally stop work, such as broken or damaged tools/equipment, or a gas leak.
· An undue hazard is a serious and immediate threat to health and safety that the refusing worker actually observes or experiences at their work site.
· In refusing the work, in s 17(3) of the OHS Act, the worker needs to ensure, as far as it is reasonable to do so, that the refusal does not endanger the health and safety of any other person. This could create a challenge for a teacher refusing the work and its impact on the students.
General health and safety concerns are not dealt with under the work refusal process, as they are not considered undue hazards. While a respiratory virus can be serious, it can be open to interpretation as to whether a respiratory illness is seen as a serious and immediate threat, particularly in the context of the experience gained with COVID-19. This is where the hazard assessment and controls come into play. A possible avenue to discuss the controls in place and to address potential refusals to perform work based on concerns related to coronavirus could be to work with the joint health and safety committee. Employers must work with the committee in responding to concerns.
What Can Teachers Do?
Alberta teachers can raise concerns about their work environment if they reasonably believe there is an “undue hazard.” They need to do this promptly and with their supervisor, who is likely the principal or the designated person on the health and safety committee.
Teachers can also reach out to their local and the health and safety committee and request that masking be discussed. Even with the changes announced by the Government of Alberta, employers are still required to conduct hazard assessments and use the suite of controls, which include
1. engineering controls—ventilation and physical barriers;
2. administrative controls—training, hand hygiene, physical distancing and so on; and
3. personal protective equipment (PPE).
The abrupt changes during the latest COVID-19 provincial update have left Alberta teachers with many questions about the safety of their workplaces and their employers’ responsibilities. Teachers can access more information by calling Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232‑7208. #WEAREATA
Your principal will be formally evaluating your teaching practice. What does this mean? What do you need to do?
Teacher evaluation is a formal process of gathering information or evidence about a teacher’s competence in relation to the Teaching Quality Standard (TQS). While evaluation processes vary based on the context of the teacher’s teaching assignment, one way for an evaluation to take place is through several planned and unplanned classroom observations. Evaluation processes differ across the province based on each school division’s administrative procedures, but all school divisions must follow the provincial Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy framework.
The policy articulates that teacher evaluations may be conducted
(a) upon the written request of the teacher;
(b) for purposes of gathering information related to a specific employment decision;
(c) for purposes of assessing the growth of the teacher in specific areas of practice;
(d) when, on the basis of information received through supervision, the principal has reason to believe that the teaching of the teacher may not meet the teaching quality standard.
Teachers Without a Continuing Contract
Teachers without a continuing contract are often evaluated in accordance with reason (b) above. School divisions must evaluate teachers with probationary contracts to decide on their potential future employment. Depending on the school division’s teacher growth, supervision and evaluation administrative procedure, a teacher with a temporary contract may be evaluated for the same reason.
Teachers With a Continuing Contract
Teachers with a continuing contract are assumed competent because the division has already evaluated them when they worked on a probationary contract. Generally, teachers who have demonstrated competence during the supervision process are not evaluated. However, if the principal identifies concerns, an evaluation may be initiated in accordance with reason (d) above.
The Supervision Process
The supervision process that precedes a potential evaluation must focus on growth, support and guidance. If a principal has concerns about a teacher’s teaching practice, the principal should work with the teacher to identify the concerns and offer feedback, guidance and support. Ideally, the teacher would respond appropriately to these concerns and make changes to their practice accordingly. It is only after unsuccessful attempts to improve the teacher’s practice that a principal may initiate an evaluation. If you are a continuing contract teacher and your principal wants to formally evaluate your teaching practice without identifying any areas of concern or offering to support and guide your practice, an evaluation may be premature. Call Teacher Employment Services (TES) for advice.
The provincial Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy identifies several processes that school divisions must follow when a principal conducts a teacher evaluation to ensure that the evaluation is fair and provides a clear, stable, achievable target for the teacher to achieve. For example, a principal must explicitly communicate to the teacher the reasons for and purposes of the evaluation; the process, criteria and standards to be used; the timelines to be applied; and the possible outcomes. While the provincial policy provides these safeguards for teachers, it does not dictate the exact process that must be used. More specific processes, such as a minimum number of individual classroom observations or applicable time frames, are generally found in the school division’s administrative procedure.
At the conclusion of an evaluation, the teacher should receive a copy of the completed evaluation report that includes the information and evidence that were collected, identifies areas of strength and growth, and shows how the evidence applies to the TQS and whether the teacher’s practice meets the TQS. When being presented with this evaluation report, teachers should also be provided with the opportunity to share their thoughts. Sometimes the report requires a teacher’s signature, which does not mean that they agree with all of its contents but rather confirms that they have received a copy.
Next Steps After an Evaluation
For teachers with continuing contracts, the outcome of the evaluation generally informs the next steps. If the teacher meets the TQS, the evaluation process ends and the principal’s usual supervisory practices would follow. If the TQS is not met, a period of remediation with significant, targeted supports should follow. Call TES for any questions regarding remediation.
For teachers with probationary contracts, it is common for the principal to recommend potential future employment status with the school division. Because staffing is based on various factors, this recommendation is not a guarantee of employment.
Teachers have the right to Association advice throughout the entire process. If you have any questions about an evaluation or the process of supervision that you believe may be leading to an evaluation, please call TES for advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
If you have been informed that your principal will be conducting a formal evaluation of your teaching practice, specific processes must be followed that provide safeguards for teachers. For contextual advice, call Teacher Employment Services at 1-800-232-7208. #WEAREATA
New Year’s Resolutions—How Do Your Benefits Help with That?
As 2021 draws to a close, many of us will be making resolutions for the new year. Alberta teachers covered under the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) and other insurers can access coverage for a variety of medical services and supplies that complement their provincial health care insurance plan and support their self-care goals. After a year like this, self-care is a necessity!
Self-care is a perfect New Year’s resolution, and although we have discussed this a lot lately, at times some concrete ideas are required. If you take a holistic approach to overall wellness, many of our employee benefits can help with that. You can focus on what is best for you and where you are right now in your life. Fortunately, focusing on your self-care is made easier through accessing the wide range of benefits available through health and wellness spending accounts, and your regular group benefits.
The following are some ideas for planning self-care strategies to incorporate in the new year while fully maximizing your benefits coverage. Every calendar year (January to December), you and your dependants can access up to
• $700 for acupuncture services;
• $250 toward the purchase of medically necessary compression garments and support hosiery;
• $200 toward the purchase of foot orthotics and/or arch supports;
• $700 for massage therapy services;
• $200 for naturopathy services, including telephone and video call sessions;
• $700 for physiotherapy services, including telephone and video call sessions;
• $700 for podiatric services, including X-rays related to treatment; and
• $1,200 for psychology services, including telephone and video call sessions.
*Please note that teachers covered under insurers other than ASEBP should refer to their own providers’ plan documents.
Other services and supplies are accessible but may be based on a rolling three-year period or lifetime maximum. Visit www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/other-medical-services-supplies for details.
Health and wellness spending accounts are entitlements in your collective agreement and can act as a flexible complement to your regular group benefits. Your health spending account (HSA) can be used to pay for eligible health-related expenses that are not fully covered under your benefits or provincial health care insurance plan. Your HSA also provides you with a tax advantage by using tax-free dollars to pay for eligible expenses.
Your HSA can be used to cover medical expenses that are not fully covered by your extended benefits. This exhaustive list is found here and can change yearly.
· Extend your massage and pay the extra through HSA (but not more than one a day).
· Purchase the prescription glasses you want and extra costs may be covered by your HSA.
· If you have a wellness spending account (WSA), you may allocate credits (dollars) to your account when prompted by ASEBP, which you can use to pay for eligible wellness-related expenses—for example, health-related technology, and health support, fitness and sports activities and equipment. However, unlike your HSA, your reimbursed WSA expenses are taxable.
Planning self-care strategies to maximize the utility of your health insurance coverage is a perfect New Year’s resolution to support overall wellness. Click here for more. #WEAREATA
Teachers and Violence in the Workplace
Part 27 of the Occupational Health and Safety Code identifies violence as a workplace hazard, and it is defined as “the threatened, attempted or actual conduct of a person that causes or is likely to cause physical injury.”
Examples of workplace violence follow
· threatening behaviour such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects;
· verbal or written threats (any expression of intent to cause harm); and
· physical attacks such as hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking.
Teachers may face violence while at work in various ways. Unfortunately, it is becoming common for teachers to experience violence when dealing with students who have behavioural difficulties. Teachers may also face violence from parents, colleagues and members of the public, and by being in close proximity to an altercation between other people.
The first step is to ensure that violence is recognized as a hazard on the hazard assessment. It is important to note that the potential behaviour is the hazard, not a specific person. A hazard assessment applies to the entire work site, not just a classroom or a situation where a student with violent behaviour has been identified. It is also possible that in a work site where no student with violent behaviour has been identified, that work site may experience a violent event, and that possibility must be noted on a hazard assessment.
When a hazard is observed, the teacher must evaluate their own risk regarding the potential frequency exposure to the hazard as well as the potential severity of any injury as a result of the hazard. This level of risk may be different for each individual teacher depending on their circumstance and assignment.
Like many workplace hazards, elimination is ideal but may not be possible. Therefore, controls must be identified and implemented to mitigate the risk associated with the hazard to the highest degree possible. Hazard assessments and the identification of controls require participation by all work site parties affected by the hazard.
The first choice of these controls is to engineer the workplace to isolate people from the hazard. For example, school doors are often locked, and visitors must check in at the office. In a classroom, the configuration of furniture and placement of the teacher’s desk and workspace should reduce a student’s ability to aggressively approach the teacher.
If the hazard cannot be controlled by engineering alone, adding administrative controls is the next choice. This involves changing how people work and implementing procedures. When working with a student with behavioural challenges, many of the administrative controls should be found in the student’s behaviour support plan. This may include a process for intervention from administration or the student’s parents.
Finally, if the hazard is still not controlled, personal protective equipment is added to the suite of controls in place. This includes any equipment that would act as a barrier between the teacher and the student so that if the student becomes aggressive, injury to the teacher would be unlikely.
Often, hazards are controlled by a combination of engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment. If a teacher believes that the hazards are not being adequately controlled, they should contact Teacher Employment Services (TES) for advice (1‑800‑232‑7208).
Everyone at the school must follow the protocols put in place to control identified hazards. As well, any concerns about unsafe conditions or controls that are not working or not being followed must be promptly communicated to the principal. This can result in a review of the hazard assessment and a modification of the controls in place, helping to ensure the health and safety of everyone at the school.
Teachers can provide health and safety feedback to the principal at any time. Promptly report an unhealthy or unsafe condition, including violence, at the school. If you have suggestions for improving safety, let the principal know that you would like to discuss these matters at a health and safety committee meeting. #WEAREATA
Travelling During a Pandemic (Information as of 2021-11-01)
With borders reopening and the holiday season fast approaching, information to assist teachers with decision making related to travel is important. An employer cannot direct what teachers do on their personal time. A decision to travel may have consequences, but that decision remains with the teacher. As always, the Association advises teachers to call for assistance with personal situations, as every situation may be slightly different.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) guidelines and restrictions remain in effect and can be found at www.albertahealthservices.ca. As well, travel advisories greatly affect travel plans, and it is the traveller’s responsibility to check on these. Remember that not only are there international travel restrictions, but there are also provincial restrictions. These restrictions continue to change. Be sure to check on all travel advisories at https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories.
Here are some questions you should consider:
· What is the destination country’s vaccine requirement?
· What documentation do you need upon arrival or departure?
· What is required if you start to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms?
· What is your plan if self-isolation is required, either upon arriving at your destination or upon returning to Canada?
Some of these requirements may affect your ability to return to work after the holiday and may exacerbate potential issues with your employer.
If you are sick, for whatever reason, you are entitled to sick leave provisions in your collective agreement. If you are required to quarantine because you are exhibiting symptoms and are sick, you are entitled to sick leave as per your collective agreement. (Some teachers have 90 days and some have statutory sick leave of 20 days per year.) Sick leave entitlement is not affected by travel in any way.
Problems with a return to work as the result of other issues (such as a delayed flight) are managed with collective agreement days off, such as personal days or days off without pay. If you are not sick but are required to quarantine, you must take that time without pay, as travel is a personal choice and is unpredictable at this time, or use applicable leaves in your collective agreement (such as personal days) for the quarantine period.
As for benefits and travel, some aspects of your medical coverage may not be in effect if you travel internationally when advised not to do so. Check with your medical benefits insurer for the specific details of your plan. If you have Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) coverage, contact ASEBP before you travel and review the details at www.asebp.ca/my-benefits. If you are a teacher with coverage other than ASEBP, contact your benefits provider before travelling to ensure that, in the current conditions, you are covered for all aspects of the trip (from quarantine costs, such as hotel rooms, to costs related to having to change flights).
Further information or assistance is available by calling Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232‑7208.
With the holidays approaching, teachers may be considering travel. Teachers should check current travel advisories and consider all potential consequences of travelling during a pandemic. #WEAREATA
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
The general purpose of education is the full development of the potential of each individual. Society, of which teachers are a part, establishes the goals of education and the organizational framework within which formal education occurs. In its broadest sense, teaching is a process which facilitates learning. Formal teaching activities are based on the specialized application of the learning process adapted to meet the educational needs of the learner. A teacher has professional knowledge and skill gained through formal preparation and experience. A teacher provides professional service to pupils by diagnosing their needs and by planning, selecting, and using methods and evaluation procedures designed to promote learning.
In Alberta, a teacher is a member of The Alberta Teachers’ Association (Association). Membership in The Alberta Teachers’ Association and support of it through the provision of fees is beneficial to the cause of education and the teaching profession in Alberta.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association holds that teachers are entitled to the following rights and must accept the corresponding responsibilities.
1. Teachers have the right to base diagnosis, planning, methodology and evaluation on professional knowledge and skills, and have the responsibility to review constantly their own level of competence and effectiveness and to seek necessary improvements as part of a continuing process of professional development.
2. Teachers have the right to expect standards of pupil behaviour necessary for maintaining an optimal learning environment and have the responsibility to use reasonable methods to achieve such standards.
3. Teachers have the right to a voice in all decisions of a professional nature which affect them and have the responsibility to seek the most effective means of consultation and of collaboration with their professional colleagues.
4. Teachers have the right to criticize educational programs and have the responsibility to do so in a professional manner.
5. Teachers have the right to work in surroundings that are sanitary, healthful and conducive to teaching and learning, and have the responsibility to assess conditions encountered and to seek improvement of unacceptable conditions.
6. Teachers have the right to a reasonable allotment of resources, materials and services of support staff and have the responsibility to use them in an efficient manner.
7. Teachers have the right to fair and reasonable evaluation of professional performance and have the responsibility to give sincere consideration to any suggestions for improvement.
8. Teachers have the right to protest and, in extreme cases, to refuse the assignment of teaching duties when they believe their qualifications and experience will not provide adequate service and safety to pupils and have the responsibility to consider any special circumstances under which the duties were assigned.
9. Teachers have the right to be protected against discrimination on the basis of prejudice as to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, physical characteristics, disability, marital status, family status, age, ancestry, place of origin, place of residence, socioeconomic background or linguistic background and have the responsibility to refrain from practising these forms of discrimination in their professional duties.
10. Teachers, collectively and collegially, have the right to:
a) be members of the organization representing their professional, economic and contractual concerns,
b) serve the organization and be represented by it,
c) adhere to and to expect other members to adhere to the organization’s code of professional conduct,
d) have a voice in determining criteria and procedures for the evaluation of professional performance of teachers,
e) be protected under provisions outlined in contracts of employment with the employer,
f) bargain for salaries and working conditions which include fair and equitable grievance procedures,
g) receive an adequate income while teaching and upon retirement,
and have the responsibility to actively support their professional organization in its objectives to regulate relations between teachers and their employers and to improve the quality of education, the status of teachers and the status of the teaching profession.
This Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities for Teachers forms part of the Constitution of The Alberta Teachers’ Association.
Rights and responsibilities are often viewed as a whole in balance with other rights and responsibilities. Individual rights of are often viewed in balance with individual responsibilities. Similarly, individual rights have to be balanced against the rights of others and the rights and responsibilities of the collective.
While individual teachers may hold diverse opinions on specific issues, the Association is not responsible to represent all of those opinions. The Association is guided by policy, that has been established through democratic processes. Democratically elected and appointed teacher representatives who attend the Annual Representatives’ Assembly (ARA) are the voice and vote of their local’s teachers and therefore have the power and authority to establish Association policy and direction.
In Alberta, a teacher is a member of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. The Association holds that while teachers are entitled to professional rights, they also must accept the corresponding responsibilities as set out in both legislation and Association policy, as directed by the Annual Representative Assembly. #WEAREATA
What’s the Difference Between Assignable and Instructional Time?
·Supervision of students (transition times between classes).
·When teacher is on call and expected to be in a position to intervene in student behaviour.
·Assigned time before and after the school day to manage cohort and social distancing.
·Preparation time is considered assigned timeifthe teacher is assigned to duties in their preparation time. If preparation time is not assigned, teachers may leave the school.
·If assigned, cleaning and sanitizing are considered assignable time.
·Staff and other meetings/Teacher’s Convention/PD days/student registration days.
·Universally includes time scheduled for the purposes of instruction and other activities for children where direct child–teacher interaction and supervision are maintained.
·Teachers can calculate their own assignable and instruction hours by using the two calculatorshere.
·Tracking instructional time is important, especially if teachers are required to cover teaching assignments of absent colleagues. Instructional time caps are enshrined in collective agreements and are enforceable.
A ½-hour duty-free break every day is not assignable (cannot be at the beginning or the end of the day).
Which teachers have assignable time limits?
Any teacher whose primary function is to provide instruction to students is subject to the applicable teacher instructional and assignable time limits. This includes lead teachers and teachers who are in receipt of an allowance but who do not have administrative designations. Part-time teachers are prorated on the average instructional time of a teacher at that school. Refer to your collective agreement for times, or call Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232‑7208.
Which teachers are not subject to assignable time limits?
These are teachers with administrative designations whose primary function is not instruction, including those teachers who have principal in their titles (that is, principals, vice-principals, assistant principals). Central office staff (for example, psychologist, director of special education, interschool coordinator) may not be subject to the time limits, provided that their primary function is not instruction of students.
Which teachers are subject to the instructional time limits?
• Any teacher whose primary function is to provide instruction to students is subject to the applicable teacher instructional and assignable time limits.
• This includes lead teachers and teachers in receipt of an allowance but who do not have administrative designations.
• This also includes teachers who are supervising the instruction provided by another certificated teacher or nonteacher (for example, preservice teacher or instructor of students in the Registered Apprentice Program).
Tracking instructional time is important, especially if teachers are required to cover teaching assignments of absent colleagues. Teachers should calculate their own assignable and instruction hours by using the two calculators here. #WEAREATA
Changes to Employment Insurance
The employment insurance system has been amended as of September 26, 2021. Many of the key changes will apply only to new claims made for benefits beginning September 26, 2021 and are still pandemic related.
Teachers applying for employment insurance (EI) will need to have worked a minimum number of hours to qualify for benefits. Previously, teachers needed 600 hours to qualify for maternity or parental benefits; if they applied for regular benefits, the number of insurable hours required to qualify varied in different parts of the province, based on local labour market conditions.
Over the last year, all new EI applicants received a one-time hours top-up to help them qualify, but this requirement has been amended. As a result, teachers will need to have accumulated 420 hours of insurable employment during their qualifying period to be eligible for EI benefits until September 24, 2022.
Further, to access EI sickness benefits, teachers will now be required to submit a medical certificate proving they are ill and unable to work. The requirement was waived temporarily over the last year because of COVID-19.
Maternity and Parental Benefits
Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits entitle teachers to receive 55 per cent of their earnings, to a maximum of $595 per week. If a teacher’s claim starts between September 26, 2021 and November 20, 2021, the teacher will receive at least $300 per week before taxes, but could receive more. For extended parental benefits, teachers will receive at least $180 per week before taxes, but could also receive more. The weekly floor is planned to apply to claims made between September 26 and November 20.
No one with an existing EI claim will experience any changes to the value or duration of their benefits under these new rules.
Recent changes to Employment Insurance will affect Alberta teachers as of September 26, 2021. Teachers will need to have accumulated 420 hours of insurable employment during their qualifying period to be eligible for EI benefits until September 24, 2022.#WEAREATA
Check Your Pay Statement
Teachers are paid according to the Education Act, which states that teachers are paid 1/200 for each day they work (with a few variations). Since funds are allocated to school divisions over 12 months, paying teachers 1/12 of the annual salary each month from September to August is easier for everyone to budget, including school divisions.
Teachers must review their pay statements every month, particularly if they are still moving up the salary grid and are expecting to earn an increment. If a teacher reviews their pay statement and it appears that they have not been paid correctly, it is their responsibility to contact their employer to resolve the discrepancy. If the teacher is not able to correct the error with the employer forthwith, the teacher must contact Teacher Employment Services (TES) so that the Association can provide support in a resolution. Delays in reporting an error in pay could result in a loss of income, so it is critical that every teacher closely scrutinize their pay statement.
1) For full-time contract teachers, the simplest way to check for an error is to multiply the amount figure listed on the pay statement as “gross pay” or “total earnings” by 12, then compare that sum to the salary grid in the collective agreement.
Deductions must also be reviewed to confirm that they are correct. Maximum annual employee premiums for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) are reached partway through the year. Teachers often see an increase in net pay once those maximums are reached and are no longer deducted from monthly cheques.
Check your pay statement every month to ensure that your salary is correct. Review the deductions and make sure they are correct. Remember, you may reach maximum deductions for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) partway through the year. #WEAREATA
Retirement Sessions—Mark Your Calendar!
The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), through its Teacher Employment Services program area, offers a variety of retirement information sessions and consultation opportunities for teachers.
The following events are available to attend (either virtually or in person) in your area.
Together, teachers and their pension partner will explore planning for retirement, the changing character of retirement and the process of making important decisions. Teachers will learn about financial and lifestyle planning before, during and after retirement from a teacher’s perspective. They will investigate various aspects of retirement, including building a financial plan, the Alberta Teachers’ Pension Plan, wills and estates, benefits, and lifestyle planning for a successful and rewarding retirement.
2021/22 Workshop Dates
Saturday, October 30, 2021 (Edmonton Public teachers only)—To register, go to the Edmonton Public Teachers website or call 780-455-2164.
Saturday, November 13, 2021 (Calgary Catholic teachers only)—To register, access this Google Form.
Saturday, December 4, 2021 (Regional—South)—Information to follow.
Saturday, January 22, 2022 (Edmonton Catholic teachers only)—Information to follow.
Saturday, January 29, 2022 (Calgary Public teachers only)—Information to follow.
Saturday, February 5, 2022 (Regional—North)—Information to follow.
Saturday, February 26, 2022 (Regional—Central)—Information to follow.
Saturday, March 5, 2022 (All regions—for teachers who missed the earlier workshop dates)—Information to follow.
Understanding Your Pension—Pension Education for Early Service Teachers (Online Only)
This evening session for early service teachers will be offered twice during the school year. General information will be presented on the Alberta Teachers’ Pension Plan, personal savings planning, federal benefits and other retirement income sources. The focus will be on the value of forward planning early in a teacher’s career. Debt reduction and savings planning will be emphasized. Pension partners are also encouraged to attend.
2021/22 Session Dates
Wednesday, October 20, 2021 (7:00 pm)—Information to follow.
Wednesday, March 2, 2022 (7:00 pm)—Information to follow.
Retirement Planning for Women (Online Only)
This session will focus on retirement planning specifically for female teachers. Women and men face different challenges in their lives, and those challenges can have financial consequences. Women live longer, which means that they will likely spend more years alone; therefore, they need more retirement savings so that they don’t outlive their money. Teachers will have the opportunity to engage in this interactive workshop that aims to improve women’s financial literacy and confidence.
Wednesday, October 27, 2021 (7:00 pm)—Information to follow.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022 (7:00 pm)—Information to follow
Visit the ATA website for up-to-date information about sessions planned for your area. The website will be updated with registration information closer to each date.
Extracurricular activities are a great way to work with students in a noninstructional setting and can often be a rewarding experience for teachers as they watch students develop new skills and have fun. For this and a host of other reasons, many teachers choose to help organize and facilitate extracurricular activities for students each school year. Although many teachers choose to do so on a voluntary basis, sometimes teachers are pressured or directed to do so. What are a teacher’s obligations in such a situation?
To determine a teacher’s obligations regarding mandated extracurricular activities, it is necessary to review several areas. One is the teacher’s individual contract of employment. Although many contracts of employment are silent on the matter of extracurricular activity, some teaching contracts may include clauses that state the teacher agrees they will be required to perform “any extracurricular duties as may be required by the Division, through its administrators, from time to time, and as may be reasonably required.” It is recommended that teachers review their individual contract of employment to see if such clauses exist.
The second area is the Education Act. Even if a teacher’s individual contract of employment is silent on the matter of extracurricular activities, a principal has the authority to direct a teacher to perform certain tasks. This right of a principal is found in section 197 of the Education Act:
197 A principal of a school must
(e) direct the management of the school,
Although this is quite a general clause, it does give the school’s principal the statutory right to direct a teacher, which could include a directive to perform an extracurricular activity. However, a directive such as this does come with some limits. Any such directive must be reasonable in the circumstances, and cannot be contrary to any rights of a teacher in the collective agreement, which is the third area to review.
Collective agreements across Alberta vary widely on a teacher’s rights and obligations regarding extracurricular activities. Some collective agreements include language that clearly articulates that a teacher’s involvement in such activities is strictly voluntary, while other agreements state that the extent of staff involvement in extracurricular activities “shall be determined by the principal and the principal’s staff.”
Another important consideration with the collective agreement is assignable time. A teacher’s collective agreement may contain a clause that limits the amount of time, called assignable time, that a teacher can be assigned to perform tasks. If a teacher is directed to perform extracurricular activities, and the teacher’s collective agreement permits, such activities can be assigned to a teacher, but only to the limit allowed by any existing assignable time clause in the collective agreement and within a reasonable work day.
It is important to note that teachers have always had the ability, within contractual limitations, to decide for themselves what extracurricular activities they are willing to do. As they progress through their careers, a teacher’s ability to donate their time and talents may change. This may be the result of many factors, such as but not limited to, family commitments, birth of a child, and general workload. Teachers need to be sure they find a balance that allows them to meet their commitments, both professional and personal. Give your best, not your all.
Given the wide variation possible in a teacher’s individual contract of employment, clauses in their collective agreement and potential directives by their principal, a teacher’s rights and obligations regarding extracurricular activities can be highly contextual. It is recommended that teachers call Teacher Employment Services for advice specific to their individual circumstances.
Many teachers in Alberta choose to voluntarily organize and facilitate extracurricular activities for students. But what about when a teacher is directed to do so? The answer is specific to a teacher’s circumstances and is found by reviewing their individual contract of employment and their collective agreement. For contextual advice, call Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232-7208. #WEAREATA
Health and Wellness Spending Accounts
A majority of teachers have a combined health spending account (HSA) and wellness spending account (WSA) as part of their collective agreement. Teachers are responsible for allocating the credits for the health and wellness accounts; however, understanding Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules about HSAs and WSAs will assist in this process. There may be some variances between alternate health benefit providers such as the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP), Manulife, Sun Life or Canada Life.
On a yearly basis, teachers are asked to reallocate credits to their HSA and WSA accounts. This will prompt teachers to choose a percentage amount for each account with their health care provider.
Health benefit providers receive the credits for teacher accounts from the employer and then deposit those credits into the HSA or WSA (as allocated). Credits cannot be transferred between accounts once they have been deposited. If a teacher changes employers or is terminated during this period, credits remain accessible for 60 days following the date of change or termination. Note that expenses are eligible only if incurred prior to the date of change or termination.
As a single person with access to both a WSA and HSA, a teacher can submit eligible wellness-related expenses for themself. As a member on a family plan, eligible expenses related to themself and their dependants can be submitted.
WSAs are similar to HSAs, but there are differences regarding what can be submitted. While the HSA covers health-related expenses, the WSA covers wellness-related expenses. These are items that are outside the scope of prescriptions and dental or vision care, and are items such as health support and fitness expenses (such as purchase of a treadmill, gym memberships or other sporting equipment/clothing).
Remember that WSA expenses are taxable and that a T4A is sent at the end of each tax year for WSA claims that were reimbursed in that tax year. You are not taxed on money which has been allocated to your WSA but remains unused.
When submitting claims, remember to always include the date of service or purchase date, the provider or store name, the total cost, a detailed description of the service or item and, finally, proof of payment (that is, a receipt) when applicable. The number one reason that WSA claims are rejected is that one of these five vital items is missing. Save time (and get reimbursed faster) by ensuring that everything is included the first time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Should I use HSA or WSA first?
It is always advantageous to use HSA credits first, because HSA credits are tax free. There are many ways to use HSA credits, and teachers should familiarize themselves with the complete list. If using WSA credits, the plan provider will provide a T4A slip that must be declared as income in the annual tax return. For this reason, it is always better to use HSA credits first.
2. How can I spend my HSA?
HSA can be used to cover any expenses that could be deducted as medical expenses on the CRA tax return. Below are some examples:
· Dental services not covered by the plan
· Massage therapy sessions that cost over and above what the benefit plan pays
· Glasses or contact lenses that are more expensive than what the benefit plan pays
· Travel expenses for medical services
For a complete list of medical expenses, see the following link to CRA’s website: Details of Medical Expenses.
Teachers are encouraged to review the list regularly. Be wise consumers of HSA dollars and use them for everything that is available.
3. How can I spend my WSA?
Use the HSA to purchase items according to the list agreed to at central table bargaining:
· Health support, fitness and sports activities, and equipment expenses that support the overall well-being and physical health of the member and dependant
· Professional development and education courses
· Family expenses that support the member’s dependants
For a complete list of WSA items, see the following link to ASEBP’s website: www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/spending-accounts. Note that “WSA 2 (For Teachers)” describes WSA expenditures in detail. This list applies whether or not the WSA is with ASEBP or another health benefit provider.
4. How do I know how much I have left in my HSA or WSA?
If the HSA/WSA is with ASEBP, this information is available on the ASEBP website by logging into MyASEBP or on the app.
· MyASEBP (under “Benefits, Spending Account Activity”): There will be a summary of the credits added, what was paid to the member and what credits are still available. To the right of that summary is “Unused credits at risk of forfeiture.” That number indicates how many dollars may be returned to the employer if credits from the previous year are not used by August 31.
· ASEBP App (under “Usage”, click “Account Details” under either the HSA or WSA heading). This will show the opening balance as well as what was added and paid out and what is currently available.
If the HSA/WSA is not with ASEBP, teachers are encouraged to contact their payroll administrator to determine the HSA/WSA credits available.
5. When do my credits appear in my HSA /WSA account?
Depending on how it was set up, employers will deposit HSA/WSA monies. Money may be added on a monthly or yearly basis.
6. How do I assign credits into my WSA?
On an annual basis, teachers are required to notify the WSA administrator of their choice.
· If with ASEBP, the teacher will receive an e-mail in August requesting allocation of credits between the HSA and the WSA. To make changes, log into MyASEBP and allocate the percentage for each.
· If with another health care provider, log onto their website for information and instructions.
· Remember that this decision is locked in for one year.
7. If I am taxed on WSA spending, why bother?
Here’s an example to consider:
Suppose there is $100 in the WSA. The teacher uses that to purchase a $100 gym membership. The teacher will be reimbursed the full $100 when the expense is submitted to the WSA. A T4A slip for $100 of income will arrive for that taxation year. Because the typical teacher has a marginal tax rate of 30 per cent, they will have to pay $30 more tax because of the T4A income slip. This means that the teacher received a $100 gym membership but only paid $30 (a savings of $70).
8. Who directs my allocation for the HSA or WSA? How do I decide?
The teacher does! Review how much HSA has been used in the past. Take the remaining amount and move that to the HSA to use as much of the allocated amount as possible. For example: $725.00/year is allocated but only $500.00 is used. Convert that to percentage and allocate an approximate percentage to the HSA if anticipating that expenses will be similar.
This year, it is especially important to use the benefits you have! Be sure to access wellness activities for you and your family that are funded through your HSA/WSA. #WEAREATA
Accommodation of Pregnancy in Schools
Pregnancy can be a time of joyful expectation and excitement for teachers and their families; however, the coronavirus pandemic raises many concerns. Teachers who are pregnant are understandably very concerned about coronavirus and want to do everything they can to avoid contracting the virus. For women with underlying or complex medical conditions, typical precautions (including wearing a mask, handwashing, physical distancing and immunization) may not be sufficient.
However, teachers in Alberta who are pregnant can work with their physicians to arrange for workplace accommodations to ensure that they are able to protect their own health and the health of their family.
As every woman experiences pregnancy differently, the form of accommodation adopted must be suitable to the individual. Pregnant women are not ill and, in most cases, areboth willing to work and capable of working throughout their pregnancy. However, some pregnant teachers need special accommodations to ensure their health and the health of their baby. In these cases, teachers must have medical documentation showing that they require the employer to make changes to certain rules, standards, policies, workplace cultures or physical environments to ensure that school conditions do not have a negative effect on their health. This may mean extra personal protective equipment (PPE), barrier protection or, in more complex situations, a teacher not being able to work in a regular school setting.
Accommodation is intended to operate as a dialogue whereby both the employer and the teacher attempt to find a workable solution for both parties, and each party has certain roles and responsibilities. It is teachers’ responsibility to work with their health-care provider and Teacher Employment Services (TES) to provide the appropriate medical documentation. As a first step, teachers looking for accommodation are encouraged to call TES to discuss their options.
Unfortunately, accommodation of pregnancy in the workplace is one of the most misunderstood areas of human rights law. Employers sometimes view pregnancy as a personal choice that does not require any obligations on the part of the employer. This viewpoint is inaccurate and unfair to women.
Section 44 of the Alberta Human Rights Act notes that “whenever this Act protects a person from being adversely dealt with on the basis of gender, the protection includes, without limitation, protection of a female from being adversely dealt with on the basis of pregnancy” (emphasis added). Equal opportunity does not exist if women are penalized for participating in an activity that is beneficial to society as a whole, such as raising a family. Employers must take measures to accommodate pregnancy, and this duty goes further than some realize.
It is the duty of the employer to make accommodations for medical disability to the point of undue hardship.Given the temporary nature of pregnancy, accommodation in this context is unlikely to meet the threshold of undue hardship except in very specific circumstances. Thus, this will require working with the employer to establish the medical limitations of the teacher’s disability and to ensure that the employer best accommodates the teacher’s disability. Teachers must bear in mind that employers have the ability to direct them to attend a medical examination under section 226 of the Education Act.
Pregnant teachers need a safe working environment for themselves and for their babies. Teachers who need information about their options for workplace accommodation can call Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232-7208. #WEAREATA
Transfers Initiated by School Divisions
If a teacher is interested in teaching closer to home, looking for a teaching position at their dream school or simply looking for a change of scenery, the teacher can request a transfer to another school in their school division. This can be a very exciting time! However, if a teacher does not request a transfer and is informed by their employer that they will be transferred to another school, this can sometimes be met with hesitation, reluctance or even refusal.
A superintendent has the statutory authority to transfer a teacher to another school within the school division. Section 212(1) of the Education Act states:
212(1) A superintendent may, at any time during a school year, transfer a teacher from one school operated by the board to another of its schools.
However, that authority does come with some rules and limitations. The teacher must receive a written notice of transfer that identifies the reason(s) for the transfer, and the transfer cannot become effective less than seven days after the teacher receives the notice of transfer. Additionally, if the teacher wishes to formally object to the transfer, the teacher can appeal the superintendent’s decision at a hearing before the board of trustees in accordance with section 212(3) of the Education Act:
212(3) When a teacher is given a notice of transfer, the teacher may, within 7 days from the day on which the teacher receives the notice of transfer, make a written request to the board to have a hearing before the board for the purpose of objecting to the transfer.
If the teacher chooses to appeal the superintendent’s decision, the hearing must not be heard sooner than 14 days after the teacher received the notice of transfer (unless the teacher agrees in writing), and the transfer cannot take effect until after the hearing.
The authority to transfer a teacher to another school must also be exercised reasonably by the employer. While the term reasonably is highly contextual, generally speaking, a teacher should not be transferred to teach a broad age level or subject area for which they have no background, training or experience. While it may be reasonable to transfer a senior high biology teacher to a junior high school to teach science, transferring that same teacher to teach Grade 1 at an elementary school may not be reasonable, depending on that teacher’s background, training and experience. Likewise, it may be reasonable to transfer a Grade 1 teacher to another school to teach Grade 5, but it may not be reasonable to transfer that same teacher to a high school to teach social studies, depending on the teacher’s background, training and experience. In addition, transferring a teacher to a school that is a very long distance from their current school may not be reasonable either, depending on the circumstances. Also, other existing circumstances may cause the teacher to believe that the transfer is unreasonable.
If you are given a written notice of transfer to another school, call Teacher Employment Services (TES) to learn your rights and obligations. Remember, there are deadlines to adhere to if you wish to formally dispute the transfer, so call TES as soon as possible to preserve this timeline. If your employer asks you to complete a form regarding the transfer, do not complete the form until you have spoken with an executive staff officer in TES. When you call TES, an executive staff officer can help you make an assessment as to whether the transfer is reasonable given your circumstances. After you make this assessment, you have the option to either
1. accept the transfer,
2. formally appeal the transfer at a hearing before the board of trustees or
3. resign by giving 30 days’ written notice.
It may also be possible to resolve the matter informally with your superintendent. If you choose to dispute the transfer, a TES executive staff officer can assist you with preparing the documents to initiate the hearing process, assist you with preparing for the hearing and offer representation at the hearing itself.
If you have been informed that you will be transferred, call TES and an executive staff officer can explain your rights, obligations and options. You can also receive advice about a path forward that considers your specific circumstances.
When a teacher is transferred to another school in their division, rules and limitations are in place. Learn your rights, obligations and options—call Teacher Employment Services at 1‑800‑232-7208. #WEAREATA
Bill 71: Employment Standards (COVID-19 Vaccination Leave) Amendment Act, 2021
Bill 71 took effect on April 21, 2021. It amends the Employment Standards Code to ensure that working Albertans can access paid, job-protected leave to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The aim of the bill is to support the rollout of the vaccination program in Alberta. With the rising number of COVID cases and proliferation of COVID variants, the best way to address the crisis is to suppress replication, which means stopping infections.
Although Alberta teachers have yet to receive priority for vaccination despite the intense advocacy by the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the expansion of the vaccine program has created the opportunity for more Alberta teachers to get vaccinated. Now, every teacher who is eligible to be vaccinated can schedule time for a vaccination that could save their life and protect others. Find out who’s eligible now.
The passing of this legislation should reduce barriers for Alberta teachers who are currently eligible to be vaccinated. This is particularly important for teachers on a temporary or probationary contact who may have exhausted all of their paid sick leave. Teachers who are entitled to only statutory sick leave (no more than a total of 20 teaching days under section 220 of the Education Act) no longer need to be apprehensive to book a vaccination appointment, because the amendment to the Employment Standards Code provides for up to three hours of paid leave to receive each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Teachers who are eligible for vaccination can book their appointments as half-day absences. Where possible, indicate that these bookings are for the purpose of receiving COVID-19 vaccination. Note that teachers are not required to provide medical certificates or records of immunization or to disclose to their employer any underlying medical conditions to prove entitlement to the vaccine or the leave. Employers must, by law, provide paid, job-protected leave to teachers (whether part-time or full-time and regardless of how long they have been employed or their contract status) for the purpose of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. These absences should not be counted against a teacher’s sick leave. Employers have the responsibility of ensuring that employees taking this vaccination leave do not lose any earnings or other benefits. Book your jab.
COVID-19 vaccines will help prevent you from being infected and will protect you against severe illness if you are infected. All vaccines are safe and effective and save lives. Until most Albertans are protected, fully vaccinated people must still follow all health measures: no indoor gatherings, keep two metres apart, wear a mask in public and stay home when sick.
Bill 71 amends the Employment Standards Code to ensure that teachers who are eligible to be vaccinated, regardless of how long they have been employed or their contract status, can access up to three hours of paid leave to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Schedule time for a vaccination here. It could save your life and protect others. #WEAREATA
Filing an Occupational Health and Safety Complaint
In Alberta’s occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation, teachers are considered workers, the principal is the supervisor, and the school division is the employer. The Occupational Health and Safety Act does not define or determine appropriate assignments or tasks for teachers to complete—only that the work that happens at the school must be done in a safe and healthy manner.
Legislation defines the obligations of the parties at the worksite. Teachers have a role in ensuring the safety of themselves and others at the worksite, including participating in the hazard assessment creation, and reporting health and safety concerns to the site supervisor as soon as possible. If the health and safety concern is not addressed, a complaint can be filed. A complaint is for reporting unhealthy or unsafe conditions at a workplace. Anyone can file a complaint about unhealthy or unsafe conditions.
Reporting unsafe work occurs when a worker believes that an unsafe or harmful work site, condition or act exists or has occurred. The teacher (worker) must report the unsafe or harmful work site condition to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor).
If you are unsure of the best way to proceed, please contact Teacher Employment Services (TES) at 1-800-232-7208 or the OHS Contact Centre.
Before you call, ask yourself:
· Did you report unsafe work to your supervisor? What was the response?
· Did the site or school division’s health and safety committee review the unhealthy or unsafe condition? What was the response?
Please note: According to section 5 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a teacher (worker) who believes that an unsafe or harmful work site condition or act exists or has occurred must report it to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor).
Second, have you reviewed the hazard assessment for your school?
· Does the hazard assessment address the unhealthy or unsafe condition for which you are filing a complaint?
· If not, why not? Suggest that the supervisor discuss the issue with the health and safety committee.
Then, consider whether the hazard can be eliminated:
· What controls are in place to limit the hazards associated with the unhealthy or unsafe condition to the lowest level possible?
· How were the teachers and other worker groups at the school involved in the creation and review of the hazard assessments?
· How were the teachers and other worker groups informed of what they need to do in order to work in a healthy and safe manner?
· How is healthy and safe work monitored by the employer?
· Is the focus of the complaint in the hazard assessment? Why or why not?
The internal responsibility system is the foundation of OHS legislation in Alberta. It includes the responsibility of the school division (employer), the principal (supervisor) and the teacher (and other workers in the building) to work in a safe manner and ensure their safety and the safety of others in the school. Is there evidence of the internal responsibility system in use at the school?
· If a teacher or other worker in the school makes a suggestion or requests that a health and safety issue be considered or discussed by the health and safety committee, what happens?
· Where is this suggestion logged?
· What is the discussion?
· What is the reply to the suggestion?
· Is there an assessment of what is needed or not needed?
· How is this information shared with all workers at the school?
A suggestion from a teacher or other worker in the school can make a practice or condition healthier or safer. If a suggestion is not considered or is rejected by the health and safety committee, the teacher or worker can still file a complaint with OHS. However, if the work site is compliant with OHS legislation, an order will not be issued even if the suggestion has not been considered.
Finally, if you determine that it is appropriate to file an OHS complaint, this can be done by calling the OHS Contact Centre or through an online form. If you are filing online and the nature of the complaint has to do with harassment or immediate danger, you will be directed to phone the OHS Contact Centre. The online form is for non-urgent situations only.
You will be asked if you want to make an anonymous complaint. If you answer yes, you will go to the form for submitting an anonymous complaint. If you are not making an anonymous complaint, you will need to sign into MyAlberta Digital ID or create an account. If you choose to be anonymous, the information you will be required to provide will be the same, with the exception of your personal information. Once the complaint has been filed, the response time is typically 10 business days, or two hours if the danger is immediate.
Resources—Government of Alberta
ATA OHS Information
File an OHS Complaint
OHS Act, Regulation and Code
OHS Work Site Inspections: What to Expect
Report Unsafe Work
Hazard Assessment and Control: A Handbook for Alberta Employers and Workers
Teachers must report unsafe or harmful work site conditions to the school division (employer) or principal (supervisor). Anyone can report unhealthy or unsafe conditions at a workplace. Teachers may choose to remain anonymous when filing a complaint through OHS. #WEAREATA
Analysis: The Funding Manual
On March 31, 2021, the Province of Alberta released the funding manual for school divisions. That release included the overall funding amounts for each division. Unfortunately, the detailed funding profiles for each division were not publicly released. Almost all divisions will receive the same funding as last year, while 14 will see increases. The school divisions that will benefit from an increase to funding this year are as follows.
Calgary School Division
East Central Alberta Catholic Separate School Division
Fort McMurray Roman Catholic Separate School Division
Fort McMurray School Division
Golden Hills School Division
Northland School Division
Northwest Francophone Education Region
Palliser School Division
Parkland School Division
Pembina Hills School Division
Prairie Land School Division
Rocky View School Division
Southern Francophone Education Region
St Albert School Division
Without the detailed funding profiles, it is difficult to be certain what led to the increases for these boards. It can be surmised that the increase is largely driven by two grant changes. The two main areas where the funding manual has changed are distance education allocations and learning supports for kindergarten.
One of the largest adjustments in the new funding formula, when it was released last year, was how the formula funded distance education for non-primary registrations (non-primary registrations are students from another school division taking a distance course from a different division). For example, a student from Wolf Creek taking an online course through Pembina Hills would count as a non-primary registration for Pembina Hills. Funding was based in blocks as follows.
$1,000 per student
In this year’s funding manual, the above shifted to $1,350 per student. Under last year’s funding method, the maximum amount a board could receive was $3.6 million. Now, funding will increase as the number of students increases.
The other major change was the introduction of a new grant for kindergarten students with severe disabilities and language delays. The funding amounts are as follows.
Half day (children 2 years, 8 months to 3 years, 7 months—minimum of 300 hours; children 3 years, 8 months to 4 years, 7 months—minimum of 400 hours; children 4 years, 8 months and older—minimum of 475 hours)
Full day (minimum of 800 hours)
Along with the new grant for disabilities and language delays, a grant of $4,000 per eligible student for pre-kindergarten students with moderate language delays was also introduced.
Overall, the changes in the funding manual this year appear to be aimed at addressing some of the shortcomings in the funding formula changes that arrived last year. Grant rates across the system are unchanged from last year. While it is good news that funding was not cut, the grant rates still fall short of addressing cost increases experienced across the system.
On March 31, 2021, the Province of Alberta released the funding manual for school divisions. Grant rates across the system are unchanged from last year. While it is good news that funding was not cut, the grant rates still fall short of addressing cost increases experienced across the system. #WEAREATA
Teacher Employment Services—You Are Not Alone
Most, if not all, teachers enter the profession hoping for a long, happy and rewarding career, free from egregious conflicts or challenging predicaments. However, owing to the complex and challenging nature of the practice, teachers may at times require the support of the Teacher Employment Services (TES) program area of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (Association) when faced with professional relations or tenure matters. Considerable support is available to all members no matter if they are engaged entirely as classroom teachers or employed as administrators or in other capacities. Often, the issues facing members can be resolved through a few consultations with a TES executive staff officer. Less regularly, members require the assistance of TES because of highly complex circumstances.
A Teacher’s Right to Representation
Section 148(1)(a) (ii) of the Alberta Labour Relations Code (the code) protects the rights of teachers to be represented by the Association when facing discipline by their employer. The code also stipulates that no employer or their designate can deny or interfere with this representation.
How Teacher Employment Services Can Help
Teachers must understand their right to representation. If you have any concern about a meeting you have been asked to attend, always ask directly if it is a disciplinary meeting before attending. If you are being asked to attend a disciplinary meeting, call 1-800-232-7208 and ask to speak with Teacher Employment Services.
Considerable support is available, and all members have the right to representation by the Association. If you are being asked to attend a disciplinary meeting, call 1-800-232-7208 and speak with Teacher Employment Services. #WEAREATA
The 2007 Pension Settlement Tackled a Massive Shortfall
In 2007, an historic agreement struck between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Government of Alberta resolved a $7 billion problem facing teachers and the government.
Known as an unfunded liability, the pension funding shortfall basically resulted from decades of underfunding of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund. The significance of resolving the longstanding issue cannot be overstated. This problem began in 1956 and was mainly caused by the government stopping contributions in return for guaranteeing the payment of teacher pensions. While this may have made sense in the booming days of the 50s, it became apparent over time that The preferred model for pensions is to have advance contributions made that grow with investment and are sufficient to cover future pension payments.
Over the subsequent 35 years, numerous attempts to solve this problem and to negotiate a new agreement between government and the Association failed. By 1992, an agreement was finally struck that resulted in splitting the plan in two: for post-1992 service, the government starting contributing 50 per cent to the plan and the guarantee was removed; for pre-1992 service, the guarantee remained in place and teachers agreed to fund one-third of the pre-1992 liability. This liability was funded through higher contribution rates. The solution worked, but it was far from ideal, taking too long – almost 60 years - to fix the problem while costing both teachers and government higher contributions than necessary.
In 2007, a new agreement meant Alberta teachers no longer had to fund a liability that was created before many of them were teaching, and Alberta taxpayers stood to save an estimated $47 billion over the next 55 years. As a result of this historic agreement, teachers’ contributions were reduced by 3.1 per cent due to the fact that they no longer made contributions to the pre-1992 unfunded liability.
The Big Questions
What is an unfunded liability?
An unfunded liability, or deficiency of a pension plan, is the amount by which the plan’s liabilities exceed its assets on a given date. The total liability of the plan is the amount of money that, according to the plan’s actuary, the plan will eventually need to pay all the benefits (including pension, death and termination benefits) that participants have earned to date based on their years of pensionable service and their salaries.
In 1956, the Government of Alberta moved to a pay-as-you-go funding model for their portion of the total pension contribution, thereby not having those funds building the plan assets overall. This also significantly impacted the ability of the fund to realize investment gains—growth that covers up to 80 per cent of the cost of a teacher’s pension.
As of August 31, 2006, the Teachers’ Pension Plan (the plan) had a pre-1992 deficiency of $6.3 billion and a post-1992 deficiency of $742 million.
As a result of the pre-1992 unfunded liability, teachers contributed 3.1 per cent more of salary than would otherwise have been necessary to support a pension plan having the same benefits. If the plan did not have an unfunded liability, teachers’ contributions in 2005 would have been 8.73 per cent of salary.
Current Service Cost—50/50 split
Additional 10 per cent COLA* (teachers only)
Post-1992 Deficiency—50/50 split
Post-1992 Deficiency additional 10 per cent COLA (teachers only)
*Cost of Living Allowance
** Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings = $61,600 in 2021
The New Agreement
November 2007 Funding Agreement Between the Association and the Alberta Government
Post- 1992 service funding
1. Active teachers contribute one-half the cost of benefits, including the 60 per cent cost-of-living adjustment for pensions.
2. The Alberta government contributes the other half of the cost of benefits.
3. Active teachers contribute 100 per cent of the cost of an additional 10 per cent cost-of-living adjustment for pensions related to pensionable service after 1992.
4. The funding of any deficiency is shared equally between the Alberta government and teachers. However, teachers alone are required to fund all the added cost with respect to that portion of the deficiency related to the additional 10 per cent cost-of-living benefit for pensionable service earned after August 1992.
Unfunded liability for pre- 1992 service
Effective September 2009, unfunded liability contributions ceased, and the Alberta government moved to pay-as-you-go funding by advancing sufficient funds to the plan to pay for all benefits as they come due. This solution saved taxpayers over $47 billion over the next 55 years.
More information about the plan and the evolution of the 1992 and 2007 agreements can be found here.
The pre-1992 unfunded liability was a direct result of the government failing to contribute to the Teachers’ Pension Plan. #WEAREATA
The 2007 pension agreement provided a better solution that saved taxpayers $47 billion. #WEAREATA
Alberta teachers’ pensions are deferred compensation. #WEAREATA
The Alberta government does not guarantee teacher pensions. The fund is there to provide pension payments. Liabilities are shared by teachers and government. #WEAREATA
Your Pension, Your Money, Your Future
Defined benefit pension plans, like the one paid into by Alberta teachers, are increasingly rare. The Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) has provided the finest quality in both service to plan members and investment portfolios for the past 80 years. While the investment work of ATRF may be changing as a result of Bill 22, ATRF is still the pension administrator and trustee of the plan. This means that they will continue to collect pension contributions, calculate service and administer pension payments.
You may be at a point in your career where retirement seems so far off it hardly feels real. However, it is important to learn about your pension no matter how distant you are from “Freedom 55.” For most Alberta teachers, the largest source of income in their retirement is the pension they receive from the ATRF. This pension is an important and valuable piece of your compensation, which is why Alberta teachers are fighting so hard to protect it. By taking some of their compensation as pension contributions, teachers have agreed to defer part of their earnings until retirement.
Teachers and the Government of Alberta pay for the plan together, govern it together and share the risk.If you retire with 30 years of service, you could receive approximately 50 per cent of your preretirement income. In addition, every January, a cost-of-living adjustment equal to 70 per cent of the annual increase in the Alberta Consumer Price Index is applied to your pension.
Defined benefit pension plans are under attack because they provide a benefit based on salary and service and are mandated by the plan document or legislation even in the case of losses to the assets of the plan. Those losses must be funded by the plan sponsors (in the case of the teachers’ plan, by teachers and the government), who bear the risk that the assets will not cover the pensions promised to retirees. Teachers pay more than half the contributions needed to fund their current service. In short, teachers are paying for their pension.
Teachers also pay for past service deficiencies—all plan deficiencies must be made up within 15 years of their discovery. Teachers and the government share the burden of those payments equally. Teachers pay a percentage of their salaries into the pension plan to make up for deficiencies in the plan. The benefit teachers receive from their pensions every year they earn service is deducted from their RRSP room. Teachers and other taxpayers in defined benefit plans have no advantage over other taxpayers in saving for retirement.
The 11.34 per cent average contribution rate is broken up for teachers at 9.76 per cent of salary up to the YMPE ($61,600*) and 13.94 per cent on salary earned over the YMPE.
* For 2021.This amount changes each January 1.
The defined benefit pension provided by the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund is an important and valuable piece of our compensation, which is why Alberta teachers are fighting so hard to protect it. It is our pension, our money and our future. #WEAREATA
Financial Wellness Sessions Resume
Financial uncertainty is another bi-product of a world-wide pandemic. There is no doubt that many are facing uncertain economic times. A two-hour workshop to support your financial wellness could be the answer to some of your driving questions.
These sessions are free of charge and will be held on Saturday, March 27, 2021 and Saturday, May 8, 2021, both sessions beginning at 10 am.
The two-hour Financial Wellness 101 session presented by Capital Estate Planning and the MNP Debt Group is built to give you tools to take control of your financial situation:
· How to start saving and investing.
· Easy steps on where and when to put your money.
· Tips for budgeting and saving.
· The importance of an emergency fund.
· Tips for maintaining a good credit score.
· How to handle debt and how to address it.
· Tools you can access if things get out of control.
Register for your choice here:
Saturday, March 27, 2021: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/financial-wellness-101-with-capital-estate-planning-and-mnp-debt-tickets-138883583537
Saturday, May 8, 2021: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/financial-wellness-101-with-capital-estate-planning-and-mnp-debt-tickets-140149353489
A Zoom link to your session will be sent out to all registrants closer to the date of the session.
Workshops to support the financial wellness of Teachers will be presented by Capital Estate Planning and MNP. Sign up here:
Employment Insurance Maternity Benefits
Important changes to Employment Insurance maternity benefits: Service Canada introduces a temporary waiver program for the one-week waiting period
When you make a claim for Employment Insurance (EI) maternity benefits, there is normally a one-week period for which you are not paid. This is called the waiting period. It is like the deductible for other types of insurance.
Temporarily waiving the waiting period is intended to enable individuals to be paid for the first week of unemployment and enhance income support to Canadians during the pandemic.
School divisions, however, provide full pay to teachers during the one-week period so that new mothers who select a standard maternity and parental EI benefit would receive a full week of pay from the employer during the one-week waiting period; they would then receive 15 weeks of maternity benefit and 35 weeks of parental benefit.
With the introduction of this temporary waiver program, every teacher who establishes an initial claim for EI maternity benefits between January 31 and September 25, 2021, will have their one-week waiting period waived automatically when their claim is processed.
While waiving the waiting period will not affect the maximum number of weeks of EI benefits that you may receive, this could affect your employer-provided supplemental benefit plan. School divisions provide a top-up during periods of maternity leave in accordance with your individual collective agreements. Service Canada is supposed to ensure that this is taken into consideration when determining whether you should serve the waiting period.
This automatic consideration will only occur if the Record of Employment (ROE) submitted by the employer records that you are receiving full pay for the week after you start your maternity leave.
If Service Canada does not automatically account for the one week of pay from the employer and waives the waiting period, then you must call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218 and explain that the waiver does not benefit you. You must ask that Service Canada apply consideration to determine that you should serve the waiting period and not be subject to the waiver. Remember that this only applies if you establish an initial claim for EI maternity benefits between January 31 and September 25, 2021.
Why is this change being implemented now? In recent weeks, Canada has experienced an increase in COVID-19 infections. The resulting imposition of public health measures is increasing financial pressure on workers. Waiving the waiting period will enable individuals to be paid for the first week of unemployment.
Service Canada has introduced changes to the waiting period of Employment Insurance benefits. If teachers are not exempted from the waiver, they could lose one week of income support as the number of weeks of EI benefits will not change as a result of the temporary waiver program. To speak about your individual claim, call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218.
Teachers’ Conventions in a Virtual Format
Virtual teachers’ conventions for 2021 are part of the Association’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the venue for convention sessions has changed from crowded convention rooms to living rooms and spare bedrooms, teachers’ professional and contractual obligations to attend convention remain the same.
For more than a century, teachers have attended teachers’ conventions in Alberta. Teachers’ conventions are recognized in statute as being authorized by and under the control of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, not the Government of Alberta or school divisions. This means that the employer cannot require teachers to attend the virtual convention from their school or any other school division site. Teachers may choose to attend convention from the comfort and safety of their own home. However, some teachers, especially those lacking a reliable Internet connection at home, may prefer to attend from the school, using school infrastructure, if the employer permits. The decision ultimately rests with the individual teacher.
Virtual conventions have changed the convention experience for teachers, but teachers are still required to attend, unless they have received prior approval for alternative professional development or are exercising leave provisions under the collective agreement. Failure to attend may constitute unprofessional conduct and be subject to sanction. Attending convention virtually from a holiday destination could also cause challenges for teachers, who may not be able to return to Alberta for work following convention. Teachers are strongly encouraged to adhere to all travel advisories, both provincial and federally, currently in effect.
Even in these difficult times, Alberta teachers are continuing their professional learning, including through convention attendance, so that their best practices can enrich the learning experience of their students. #WEAREATA
Home Office Expenses
2020 was filled with unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When learning at home for Alberta students began on March 16, 2020, the majority of educators began teaching online from their homes, setting up their work spaces in their kitchens, spare bedrooms, living rooms and home offices.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation lobbied diligently on behalf of their teacher members. This, along with significant public pressure, prompted Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to change the home office expenses deduction to broaden access to these deductions. Alberta teachers may benefit from this. The changes have simplified the way teachers can claim these expenses on their personal income tax return for the 2020 tax year. Teachers with larger claims for home office expenses can still choose to use the existing detailed method to calculate their home office expenses deduction.
Alberta teachers who worked from home more than 50 per cent of the time over a period of at least four consecutive weeks in 2020 due to COVID-19 will now be eligible to claim the home office expenses deduction for 2020. The use of a shorter qualifying period will ensure that more teachers can claim the deduction than would otherwise have been possible under longstanding practice.
A new temporary flat rate method will allow eligible teachers to claim a deduction of $2 for each day they worked at home in that period, plus any other days they worked from home in 2020 due to COVID-19 up to a maximum of $400. “Days worked at home” refers to the days that are work days, not vacation days or other leave days. To claim the full $400 deduction, a teacher would have had to work 200 operational days from their home in 2020.
Under this new method, employees are not required to have Form T2200 or Form T2200S completed and signed by their employer. Under the existing rules, those working from home had to have their employers complete a special form, T2200, attesting to the fact that working from home was a condition of their employment. Now, the CRA has launched two new simplified forms (T2200S and T777S) and a calculator to help those who want to claim home office expenses. The CRA also has expanded the list of expenses eligible for the detailed working-from-home deduction and will now recognize home internet access fees as a deduction.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has made the home office expenses deduction available to more Canadians and Alberta teachers may benefit from this. For more information, please visit www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/line-229-other-employment-expenses/work-space-home-expenses/how-claim.html
New Travel Considerations
International travel during the pandemic has recently come under increased scrutiny, due to winter holiday trips taken by some members of government and their staff. While COVID-19 has cancelled or postponed travel plans for most Alberta teachers, it is important to understand the risks, requirements and responsibilities if you decide to travel internationally.
New Conditions for Air Travel
Starting January 7, 2021, all air travellers five years of age or older, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a negative laboratory test result for COVID-19 to the airline before boarding international flights to Canada. Airlines will refuse boarding to travellers who are unable to provide a negative COVID-19 test.
Travellers must take the test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure time. Travellers departing from the Caribbean or South America can use tests conducted within 96 hours of departure (instead of 72 hours) until January 14, 2021. Travellers must also retain evidence of the test results for the 14-day period that begins on the day they enter Canada.
Mandatory 14-Day Quarantine or Isolation
Everyone entering Canada must follow mandatory isolation or quarantine requirements. Not respecting the mandatory requirements is a serious offence and the traveller could face consequences and penalties. The federal government indicates that it is “actively looking” at options to address a loophole in the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit that could see returning travellers receive up to $1,000 for missing work due to quarantine requirements, because the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to not follow public health or international travel guidelines.
Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) Coverage
If Travelling to Areas with Active Travel Health Notices
If a traveller chooses to travel to a country, region or city under a Government of Canada-issued “Avoid Non-Essential Travel or Avoid All Travel” advisory (also known as active travel health notices or formal travel advisories), there are certain limitations to ASEBP travel emergencies benefits. The advisory must be issued prior to departure date for the limitations to be enforced.
If expenses related to a travel advisory are incurred in a country, region or city for which the Government of Canada has issued a formal travel advisory, those expenses will not be covered by the ASEBP travel emergencies benefits.
However, if the incident is unrelated to the travel advisory, then expenses would be covered. For example, if you are in an area with a formal travel advisory regarding COVID-19 and experience a heart attack, your expenses related only to the heart attack would be covered.
If Travelling to Areas with No Active Travel Health Notices
If a traveller is heading to an area not under an active health notice and becomes ill due to COVID-19, eligible expenses will be covered. If, while on vacation, a formal travel advisory is issued for the current area, eligible expenses will continue to be covered for the duration of the traveller’s stay.
* If the traveller is in an area not under an active health notice and is required to be quarantined due to COVID-19, ASEBP will not be responsible for additional accommodation or travel expenses incurred due to the quarantine, whether the traveller is ill or not.
Teachers covered under other insurance providers should check with their providers for updated terms and conditions concerning international travel.
It is important to be aware that regulations and advisories on international travel are subject to rapid change without notice and could result in unexpected issues for travellers. These issues may cause challenges that could result in unintended delays and further exacerbate potential issues with employers.
Teachers considering international travel should know their risks, requirements and responsibilities. For advice on potential travel issues, teachers should call 1-800-232-7208. #WEAREATA
Increases to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Premiums
Effective January 1, 2021, Canada Pension Plan contributions are going up again. The planned increase is part of a multi-year plan approved by the federal government and all provinces four years ago to boost retirement benefits through the public plan by increasing contributions over time.
The CPP was intended to help Canadians and their employers contribute toward retirement planning. By collecting higher CPP contributions, Service Canada intends to pay retirees 33 per cent of their average work earnings up to maximum limits each year. (Prior to 2019, CPP was designed to replace one quarter of retiree average work earnings, up to a limit). The enhanced CPP requires this increase in contributions alongside the increase in upper limit on earnings subject to those premiums. When the plan is fully implemented by 2023, the contribution rate will have risen to 5.95 per cent from its 2019 level of 5.10 per cent. The new rates are shown below:
Each year, the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) are set based on a formula in the CPP Regulations, which accounts for growth in average weekly wages and salaries in Canada and compares the annual increase in earnings to the previous year. For 2021, the YMPE is $61,600 with a basic exemption of $3,500. (The exemption is unchanged since 1996).
In 2025, a second limit, called the upper earnings limit, will be implemented. It is set at 14 per cent above the YMPE. Earnings between the YMPE and the upper earning limit will face a contribution rate of 4 per cent.
So how will this affect you? It is not possible to calculate precise amounts since future YMPE levels are not known. However, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has some projected amounts that we can work with. Assuming that you earn the average 4-max salary in Alberta and have one dependent (so that your combined federal and provincial income tax rate in your tax bracket is 30.5 per cent), we can generate some estimates of the effects. The changes in the table below are relative to the base case of 2019.
Change Relative to 2019
What’s your CPP payout?
The Canada Pension Plan calculates your CPP payout based on
• your average earnings in your working life,
• your CPP contributions and
• the age you start your CPP payout.
CPP contributions are going up this year along with the maximum earnings limit. This will boost retirement benefits through the public plan. More information can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/publicpensions/cpp.html
New Year’s Resolutions
As 2020 draws to a close, many of us will be making resolutions for the new year. Alberta teachers covered under the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) and other insurers can access coverage for a variety of medical services and supplies that complement their provincial health care insurance plan and support their self-care goals.
Self-care is a perfect New Year’s resolution because it is achievable for everyone. Self-care is a holistic approach to overall wellness; it focuses on what is best for you and where you are right now in your life. Fortunately, focusing on your self-care is made easier through accessing the wide range of benefits available through heath/wellness spending accounts and your regular group benefits.
Here are some ideas for planning self-care strategies to incorporate in the new year while maximizing the utility of your benefits coverage. Every calendar year (January to December), you and your dependants can access up to
• $700 for acupuncture services,
• $250 toward the purchase of medically necessary compression garments and support hosiery,
• $200 toward the purchase of foot orthotics and/or arch supports,
• $700 for massage therapy services,
• $200 for naturopathy services, including telephone and video call sessions,
• $700 for physiotherapy services, including telephone and video call sessions,
• $700 for podiatric services, including X-rays related to treatment and
Please note that teachers covered under insurers other than ASEBP should refer to their own providers’ plan documents.
Other services and supplies are accessible but may be based on a rolling three-year period or lifetime maximum. Visit https://www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/other-medical-services-supplies for all the details.
Health and wellness spending accounts are entitlements in your collective agreement and can act as a flexible complement to your regular group benefits. Your health spending account (HSA) can be used to pay for eligible health-related expenses that are not fully covered under your benefits or provincial health care insurance plan. Your HSA also provides you with a tax advantage by using tax-free dollars to pay for eligible expenses.
If you have a wellness spending account (WSA), your employer will allocate credits (dollars) to your account, which you can use to pay for eligible wellness-related expenses. However, unlike your HSA, your reimbursed WSA expenses are taxable.
Although COVID-19 safety protocols include altered supervision assignments, staggered break times for students and changes to the school bell schedule, the provision for a rest period under the 2018–20 central collective agreement (clause 8.3, Duty-Free Lunch) remains.
The school division must schedule a 30-minute rest period for each teacher during each five hours the teacher works. When reasonable, the break should be scheduled in the middle of the teacher’s assignment. If, for some reason, an unbroken rest period of 30 minutes cannot be scheduled, a teacher must agree to two rest periods of no less than 15 minutes each. This is an individual agreement between the school division and the teacher. This does not mean that rest periods can be shortened without written individual agreement or that breaks must be requested by teachers. Further, under no circumstances can there be less than two 15-minute breaks.
Alberta’s Labour Relations Code states that a collective agreement is binding on the parties named in the agreement. A school division cannot alter the provisions of the collective agreement, nor can teachers accept conditions outside of the collective agreement. A school authority must schedule each teacher’s timetable to ensure that the teacher has rest periods that adhere to the collective agreement. Supervision and rest periods must be scheduled by the school authority, not created through sign-up sheets completed by teachers. Further, teachers cannot opt out of time caps or waive their right to a 30-minute rest period.
Although COVID-19 has changed many aspects of public education in Alberta, the provisions in your collective agreement remain in effect. You have a right to a 30-minute rest period. #WEAREATA
New Mandatory Provincewide Restrictions
Managing the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring new challenges to Alberta teachers. As of November 30, 2020, new mandatory provincewide restrictions are in effect.
Grades 7–12 students
• Move to at-home learning from November 30, 2020, to January 8, 2021, except during winter break.*
• Resume in-person classes on January 11, 2021.
• Diploma exams are optional for the rest of the school year. Students and their families can choose whether to write an exam or receive an exemption for the January, April, June and August exams.
K–6 students (including Early Childhood Services)
• Continue in-person learning until the scheduled winter break (generally December 18*).
• Move to at-home learning after the winter break until January 8.
• Resume in-person classes on January 11.
*Schools have different winter break schedules; check with your school for details.
Supporting students with disabilities and students in outreach programs
All students with disabilities who require supports and services in any grade, as well as students in outreach programs, can continue to receive supports and services in person at school, regardless of the shifts to at-home learning before and after the winter break.
• This exemption for in-person learning was based on the advice of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
• In consultation with parents, schools are expected to continue to provide students with disabilities with the services and supports they need.
• Parents have been advised to work with the teacher and the school principal on appropriate arrangements.
With the new restrictions in place, can teachers work from home?
It is up to individual school boards to decide whether teachers can work from home or whether they need to come into the school. Although instruction for students in Grades 7–12 has moved online, the schools remain open. There is no change for teachers in K–6 schools.
While there is no provincial expectation for teachers to report to school, boards may direct teachers to work from their regular workplace. The Association is advocating that teachers who are not physically required to be at school be allowed to work from home. This is in keeping with the government’s message that people should work from home if possible.
It is important that teachers follow the directives of the employer. They cannot simply choose to work from home if they are expected to report to work.
Managing the coronavirus pandemic continues to bring new challenges to Alberta teachers. As of November 30, 2020, new mandatory provincewide restrictions are in effect. #WEAREATA
Travelling During a Pandemic (Information as of 2020 11 24)
The Association has received a number of calls about travel and issues related to travel during the pandemic. With the holiday season fast approaching, information to assist teachers with their decision making is required. As always, the Association advises teachers to call for assistance with personal situations, as every situation may be slightly different.
All Alberta Health Services (AHS) guidelines and restrictions remain in effect.
An employer cannot direct what teachers do on their personal time. The decisions made to travel or not to travel may hold consequences, but the decision remains with the teacher.
Regarding travel, we advise that teachers make themselves aware of the current restrictions, with respect not only to Alberta but also to their destination. Different restrictions are in place in different provinces and even in different locations within provinces. Be aware of all travel restrictions before you go! For example, some provinces in eastern Canada have just closed their borders to travellers from within Canada. It is also important to be aware that factors may change without much advance notice which may require visitors to leave a location or residents to return home on an expeditated timeline. These issues may cause challenges that could result in unintended delays and further exacerbate potential issues with their employer.
Alberta-related information is located on the AHS website, www.albertahealthservices.ca.
At the time of writing, there are no restrictions to travel within the province of Alberta. Travel is allowed to and from all locations in the province of Alberta without participating in isolation time at the destination or after arriving home.
However, there are restrictions in place in certain destinations/provinces for travel within Canada. Persons travelling will experience isolation time at destinations with these restrictions. This might affect travel plans. Upon return from destinations within Canada, there are currently no restrictions and isolation requirements in place.
Currently, there is an advisory from AHS regarding travel outside of Canada (international travel). There are border restrictions in place. Visit the AHS website to find more information. Travel is a personal choice.
If sick, teachers are entitled to sick leave provisions in the collective agreement, for whatever reason. If a teacher is in quarantine because he or she is exhibiting symptoms and is sick, the teacher is entitled to sick leave as per the collective agreement. (Some teachers have 90 days, and some teachers have the statutory sick leave of 20 days per year.) Sick leave is not dependent on travel in any way.
Currently, there is no quarantine period required in Alberta for people returning from travel from anywhere in Alberta or Canada, so travel from these destinations would not directly result in a quarantine period.
International travel requires quarantine upon return. Those quarantine periods would be without pay because the travel was a personal choice against AHS advisories. Applicable leaves in the collective agreement, such as personal days, can be used for those quarantine periods, as can request for unpaid leave.
If AHS continues to provide a travel pilot project, and should a teacher’s travel plans fit within that pilot project, and should a teacher’s division agree to being a part of that pilot project, a teacher could make a choice to travel and adhere to the pilot project stipulations. Project stipulations require two negative tests, one on the day of return directly to a specific port and a second negative test six or seven days later. Two negative tests are required to return to school. All quarantine periods required for those days between the two tests would be unpaid leave or with the use of leaves available in the collective agreement.
Benefits and travel—some aspects of medical coverage may not be in effect if a teacher travels internationally when advised not to do so. Teachers are encouraged to check with their medical benefits insurer to obtain specific details pertaining to the teacher’s individual plan.
With the holiday season fast approaching, teachers may be considering travel during the winter break. For advice on potential travel issues, teachers should call 1-800-232-7208. #WEAREATA
Instructional Time During the Pandemic
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Alberta, the practice of every teacher in the province is being affected by sick, isolation and quarantine absences in the school community. These absences have required that teachers adapt their instructional practices to meet the ongoing and ever-changing needs of their school and classrooms. This does not, however, mean that the cap on instructional time has changed.
Which teachers are subject to the instructional time limits?
a) Any teacher whose primary function is to provide instruction to students is subject to the applicable teacher instructional and assignable time limits as noted in provision 11, Conditions of Practice, in the Central Table Memorandum of Agreement.
b) This includes lead teachers and teachers in receipt of an allowance but who do not have administrative designations.
c) This also includes teachers who are supervising the instruction provided by another certificated teacher or nonteacher (eg, preservice teacher or instructor of students in the Registered Apprentice Program).
As a reminder, teacher instructional time is not defined by the Memorandum of Agreement; however, student instructional time is defined in the Guide to Education.
The Guide to Education details the specifics of the definition of instruction for students from Early Childhood Services (ESC) to Grade 12. However, instructional time universally includes time scheduled for the purposes of instruction and other activities for children where direct child–teacher interaction and supervision are maintained.
Instructional time does not include
Tracking instructional time is important, especially if teachers are required to cover teaching assignments of absent colleagues. Instructional time caps are enshrined in collective agreements and are enforceable.
If you believe you are over the instructional or assigned time cap, or you calculate a different amount than the school or jurisdiction, the first step should be to discuss the discrepancy with school-based administration. Before meeting with administration, contact Teacher Employment Services to review your calculations. If the conversation with school administration does not solve the issue and you believe you are over the maximum assigned or instructional time cap, a grievance may be filed. As a professional courtesy, and to ensure compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct, you will want to inform school administration of your intent.
The 2020/21 assignable time calculators feature two types of reports, Brief (new) and Detailed. The brief report requires members to calculate their minutes of instruction and assigned time on their own and does not require the completion of the timetable sheets or the month sheets. The brief report will calculate the totals but needs your numbers to start the process. Regardless of which report you choose to use, you will be required to fill in the “day occurrences” in the brief report as it populates the detailed report for you.
The purpose of the brief report is to help you decide more quickly if your assignable time is going to be more than the 1,200 hours specified in the collective agreement. If you have a sufficient cushion in your time, completing the detailed report may not be required. Members with assignable time calculations that approach the maximum should strongly consider completing the detailed report (including the timetable and month sheets). Doing so will ensure an accurate accounting of your time.
Teachers can calculate their own assignable and instruction hours by using the two calculators in the link below.
Tracking instructional time is important, especially if required to cover classes of absent colleagues. Time caps are enforceable provisions of collective agreements. Calculate your own assignable and instruction hours using these calculators:
Assignable time during COVID
Many things have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Caps on assignable time have not.
Safely responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has often meant more supervision of students. Additionally, teachers are regularly being directed to do cleaning and sanitizing work, which is outside of the scope of professional teaching practice, but has become required by many employers. These all contribute to the maximum time assignable to teachers.
Supervision of students, including transition time between the warning bell and the start of classes and in between classes, is assignable time if the teacher is on call and expected to be in a position to intervene in student behaviour. Jurisdictions may assign time before and after the school day to manage cohort and social distancing. If teachers are required to be in the school, this counts toward the assignable time cap.
Preparation time is considered assigned time if the teacher is assigned to duties in their preparation time. If preparation time is not assigned, teachers may leave the school. This also may be considered as a 30-minute duty-free break as long as this break does not occur at the beginning or end of day. Lunch breaks and duty-free breaks are not considered assignable time, unless a teacher is assigned duties, such as supervision, during the lunch break.
Cleaning and sanitizing are considered assignable time if assigned to the teacher. Staff and other meetings such as business meetings are assigned time if the teacher is required to attend. Staff meetings that do not include all teachers are assigned time only for the teachers that are required to attend (for example, OH&S committee members or Grade 5 cohort teachers).
Which teachers have assignable time limits?
Any teacher whose primary function is to provide instruction to students is subject to the applicable teacher instructional and assignable time limits as noted in Provision 2—Conditions of Practice in the Central Table Memorandum of Agreement. This includes lead teachers, and teachers who are in receipt of an allowance but who do not have administrative designations.
Which teachers are not subject to assignable time limits?
Teachers with administrative designations whose primary function is not instruction, including those teachers who have principal in their titles (ie, principals, vice-principals, assistant principals) are not subject to the instructional and assignable time limits. Central office staff (eg, psychologist, director of special education, interschool coordinator) may not be subject to the time limits, provided that their primary function is not instruction of students.
Many things have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Caps on assignable time have not. Contact the Association at 1-800-232-7208 for assistance. #WEAREATA
Cleaning and COVID-19—More Than Just Tidying Up
Sanitizing surfaces is a necessary component of controlling the hazards associated with COVID-19 in schools. Increasing the frequency of cleaning and identifying surfaces that must be sanitized should be included as controls in the school hazard assessment.
When teachers take on cleaning and sanitization tasks in the school, they first need to consider if the work is safe for any worker in the school to complete. Safely using cleaning products and chemicals at work requires that the following conditions be met:
• Training. There is a requirement for the employer to provide training to workers on the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) for the use of most chemical products. This training includes safe use, handling, storage and labelling of chemicals used at the school. Sanitizing workspaces and classrooms for COVID-19 requires additional knowledge of appropriate cleaning products and how long the products must have contact with each high-touch surface to ensure that it is sanitized.
• Personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is required when handling the product and cleaning with it. Common PPE includes gloves, safety goggles and face masks (different from nonmedical cloth face masks).
• Access to safety data sheets (SDSs). SDSs inform workers about the chemical composition and hazards of the product, as well as how to safely use, handle and store the product. First aid and other requirements are also found on the SDS. This should be accessible to all workers in the building.
• Designated first aiders at the school. Work sites require workers trained in Standard First Aid and Emergency First Aid. It is especially important to know who these people are when chemicals are being handled in the school.
If training and PPE are required but not provided, use of the cleaning product or chemical is unsafe, and a worker can refuse to do the work assigned. Refusing unsafe work does not mean not showing up to work. A teacher may be required to complete other duties while another worker is assigned to the task or until the unsafe condition is resolved.
If training and PPE are available, the work may be safe for any worker in the school. However, cleaning is outside of the scope of teachers’ practice. If a teacher is directed to clean, this directive should be in writing. Teachers have the professional obligation to protest a teaching assignment that is not appropriate to their knowledge and training. Teachers need to be aware that they can protest being assigned to clean. A teacher who protests an assignment may still have to complete the assignment as directed but must provide a letter of protest to the school. This serves as a written record documenting that the teacher protested an assignment outside of the teacher’s scope and practice.
When being directed to clean, teachers need to be aware of the safety implications, as well as the professional considerations. By taking on cleaning tasks, teachers could be engaging in unsafe work. Cleaning in schools is more than just a bit of tidying up. #WEAREATA
Alberta OHS Act, Regulation, and Code
Alberta K–12 School Re-entry
Alberta Teachers’ Association Code of Professional Conduct
Substitute teachers must not be forgotten in the COVID-19 crisis
Teaching in a pandemic requires more teachers. With many contracted teachers becoming ill or quarantining, substitute teachers are assuming significant risk as they parachute into classrooms in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Substitute teachers working in Alberta are required to sign off on a COVID-19 hazard assessment and perform daily screening before entering a school. If they exhibit symptoms, they need to declare themselves unavailable until they are cleared to return to work. Without contracts, these teachers do not have sick leave or benefits. Therefore, if they become ill or display symptoms of COVID-19, they often cannot work for ten days.
Substitute teachers are indispensable to their learning communities, but just like contracted teachers, they are vulnerable to being intensely affected and possibly damaged by their work.
More than ever, the mental health of all teachers is profoundly impacted by the work they do. The COVID-19 crisis has intensified this impact on some of our colleagues more than others, most notably substitute teachers. Recognizing early warning signs and seeking early intervention is essential. Regrettably, many substitute teachers are without group insurance benefits; therefore, access to support might seem out of reach.
If you are a substitute teacher, there is mental health support for you.
The Mental Health Help Line is available Alberta wide.
If you are a substitute teacher, you may be eligible for new federal support programs, including the following:
Click on each link to apply for the benefit or learn more about the program.
Alberta Teachers are in this together, and substitute teachers are indispensable in our learning communities. #WEAREATA
Caring for others means caring for yourself!
Many teachers struggle with the idea of putting themselves first. However, taking care of yourself is the opposite of being selfish, because it enables you to better support those who count on you every day.
As the COVID pandemic continues to create unprecedented challenges in education, teachers are being pushed to their limits to meet their students’ needs. Before long, Alberta teachers could be stretched to the breaking point. Now is the time to look for ways to head off this crisis.
Self-care is essential for all teachers, but it looks different from person to person. Teachers are all individuals with different preferences. For some, making time to slip on a pair of runners and take a walk during a break may provide a much-needed recharge during the work day. For others, stress management programs can help to lessen their burden.
Most Alberta teachers now have, as part of their 2020/21 collective agreement, a combined health spending account (HSA) and wellness spending account (WSA), which provides many options—from athletic shoes to alternative healing therapies—to meet individual self-care needs.
However, many teachers still have questions as to how they can use their WSA credits to support their wellness and practise self-care. Some of the obvious options for using a wellness spending account include health support, fitness and sports activities, and equipment expenses. These choices are a good opportunity to promote the overall well-being and physical health of the teacher and their dependants.
Less frequently considered options for using WSA credits are expenses that support the teacher’s dependants, such as child and elder care programs and activities.
A more comprehensive list of options can be accessed at
Even if your WSA is not with the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan, the listing at the previous link (WSA 2) still applies to you.
Self-care is critical to caring for others and should be regarded as an essential practice. Wellness spending accounts (WSA) provide many options to meet individual needs. #WEAREATA
The Cost of Caring
More than ever, teachers’ mental health is being profoundly impacted by the work they do. The COVID-19 crisis has amplified the need for teaching professionals to open their hearts and minds to their students. Compassion and empathy are critical to the work of teachers. Unfortunately, what makes teachers indispensable to their learning communities also makes them vulnerable to being intensely affected and possibly damaged by their work. Recognizing early warning signs and seeking early intervention are essential. Teachers need to meet their own mental health needs when they help others.
What is compassion fatigue?
Compassion fatigue refers to a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others. This can be regarded as the negative cost of caring.
The task of teachers is to meet the intellectual, emotional and physical needs of their students. Doing so can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but compassion fatigue attacks the very foundation of what drew most teachers to the profession—their empathy and compassion for students.
Alberta teachers must also confront the stigma attached to expressing emotional or mental health distress in school settings and seek the supports and resources available to help them.
Support is available for teachers struggling with compassion fatigue. This support can assist you in learning resilience pathways to help reduce risks and focus on recovery.
· Teachers with ASEBP group health benefits (including teachers in Calgary Public), contact Homewood Health:
Homewood Health e-Ap (search “e-Ap” in your phone’s app store).
English contact numbers
International (call collect): 604-689-1717
French contact numbers
Appels internationaux (frais virés
acceptés) : 514-875-0720
Mental Health Supports
Albertans are facing challenging times. Teachers in Alberta have access to a variety of supports and resources to help them. One of these supports is access to the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).
The EFAP is available to members and their dependents as a part of their group health benefits plan in their collective agreements. Teachers who are in need of assistance with managing the many facets of life’s stresses, including career related, financial, and family related stress, can access confidential support through the EFAP. Support for teachers and family members struggling with the emotional toll brought by the pandemic are also readily available.
Teachers with ASEBP group health benefits (including teachers in Calgary Public) can contact Homewood Health:
· Homewood Health e-Ap (search “e-Ap” in your phone’s app store)
ATS : 1-866-433-3305
Appels internationaux (frais virés acceptés) : 514-875-0720
Mental health is as important as physical health. Please take of yourself so you can take care of others. #WEAREATA
A majority of teachers have a combined Health Spending Account (HSA) and Wellness Spending Account (WSA) as part of their 2020/21 collective agreement. Teachers are responsible for allocating the credits for the health and wellness accounts; however, understanding Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules about HSAs and WSAs will assist in this process.
Every year in August, allocate your credits to either or both accounts. If you fail to do so by the deadline, all of your credits will be allocated to your HSA.
NOTE: Once your credits have been allocated and submitted to ASEBP, you cannot change that allocation until the following year.
Once ASEBP receives your credits from your employer, they are deposited into the HSA or WSA as you allocated. Credits cannot be transferred between accounts once they have been deposited.
1. Should I use HSA or WSA first?
It is always advantageous to use HSA credits first as HSA credits are tax-free. There are many ways to use HSA credits, and you should familiarize yourself with the complete list (see FAQ 2). If you use your WSA credits, ASEBP will provide you with a T4A slip that you must declare as income in your tax return. For that reason, it is always better to use HSA credits first.
2. How can I spend my HSA?
You can use your HSA to cover any expenses that you could deduct as medical expenses on your tax return with the CRA. See the examples below:
· Dental services not covered by your plan.
· Massage therapy sessions that cost over and above what the benefit plan pays.
· Glasses or contact lens that are more expensive than what the benefit plan pays.
· Travel expenses for medical services.
For a complete list of medical expenses, see the following link to CRA’s website:
Teachers are encouraged to review the list regularly. Be a wise consumer of your HSA dollars and use them for everything that is available.
3. How can I spend my WSA?
Use your WSA to purchase items according to the list agreed to at central table bargaining:
· Health support, fitness and sports activities, and equipment expenses that support the overall well-being and physical health of the member and dependents.
· Family expenses that support the member’s dependents (such as child and elder care programs and activities).
For a complete list of WSA items, see the following link to ASEBP’s website: www.asebp.ca/my-benefits/spending-accounts. Note that WSA 2 (For teachers) describes WSA expenditures in detail. This list applies whether or not your WSA is with ASEBP.
4. How do I know how much I have left in my HSA?
This information is available on the ASEBP website by logging in to MyASEBP or on the app.
My ASEBP website: Once you log in, choose Benefits, Spending Account Activity. You should see a summary of the credits added, what has been paid to you and what you have as credits available. To the right of that summary you will see “Unused credits at risk of forfeiture.” That number indicates how many dollars may be returned to the employer if you do not use all of your HSA credits from the previous year by August 31.
ASEBP App: Click on Usage then HSA Account details. You should see your opening balance as well as how much has been added, paid to you and how much is currently available.
If your HSA is not with ASEBP, contact payroll administrator to determine your HSA credits available.
5. Am I currently forfeiting dollars back to my employer?
Most school boards receive significant HSA forfeitures each year. Any HSA credits provided by your employer in 2018/19 not spent by August 31, 2020, are forfeited back to the school board. See FAQ 4 to find what HSA credits may be at risk of forfeiture.
6. I currently only have an HSA. When do my credits appear in my HSA account?
Depending on how it was set up, your employer will deposit your HSA moneys either once in September or every month.
7. What do I do if I want to keep all my credits in an HSA?
Nothing. By default, the employer contributions are deposited into your HSA.
8. How do I put money into my WSA?
You will be required to notify your WSA administrator in August of each year. If you are with ASEBP, you will receive an e-mail in August requesting you to allocate your credits between the HSA and the WSA. Log in to the My ASEBP website and allocate the percentage you want in each. Remember that once you make this decision, it is locked in for one year.
9. If I am taxed on WSA spending, why bother?
Suppose you allocate $100 to your WSA and use that to purchase a $100 gym membership. ASEBP will reimburse you the full $100 when you submit your WSA claim. You will receive a T4A slip for $100 income in that taxation year. Because the typical teacher has a marginal tax rate of 30 per cent, you will have to pay $30 more tax because of the T4A income slip. That means you received a $100 gym membership, but only paid $30, a $70 savings.
10. How much money should I allocate to my WSA?
That depends on your current use of HSA credits. If you have an HSA of $725, but you only use an average of $200 per year on HSA related expenses, you are forfeiting $525. Instead, allocate that amount to your WSA:
$525 = X X = 72.4
This example allocates 70–75 per cent to the WSA. The remaining 25–30 per cent goes to the HSA.
Note that if your HSA/WSA is not with ASEBP, the same rules apply, but the process may be different. Contact your Benefits Officer in your school division.
Be sure to allocate funds to your WSA before the August 31 deadline. #WEAREATA
Just how does summer pay work?
A teacher’s annual salary (found in the collective agreement) is based on years of education (as determined by the Teacher Qualifications Service) and years of experience (also in the collective agreement).
Teachers are paid according to the Education Act, which states that teachers are paid 1/200 for each day they work (with a few variations). Since funds are allocated to school boards over 12 months, paying teachers 1/12 of the annual salary each month from September to August is easier for everyone, including school boards, to budget.
This means that each month some of your earnings are “saved” to be paid in July and August. However, this is just accounting—no money is sitting somewhere earning interest until summer.
But that’s not the full story. This doesn’t work for teachers who work less than a full year or who are not on a continuous contract. Why not?
Teachers aren’t paid for holidays! Teachers are paid only for the days worked (instructional days, PD days, organizational days, teachers’ convention, faith days and so on). Teachers are not paid for Christmas, spring break, Thanksgiving or any other holiday period. Your school division calendar determines what days you are expected to work (and for which you are paid).
If your contract is temporary or probationary, or if you resign June 30, your summer payout must be paid within seven days of the termination date of the contract (Education Act, SA 2012, c E-0.3, s 220(6b)).
What if you don’t work the full year?
Regardless of the type of contract, teachers who work less than a full school year will have a reduced amount of pay for July and August. At the end of June or the end of the teacher’s contract, the board will do a final salary reconciliation to determine the summer payout. A rough guide is that one semester of work equals one month of summer pay. This includes paid leave, such as sick days, personal leave days and paid maternity leave.
The calculation for teachers on temporary contracts of any length and for teachers on probationary and continuous contracts who work or are paid for fewer than 100 days is as follows:
Annual Salary × 1/200 × number of days worked = Earned Income
For example, Chris was hired to work from February 5 to June 26. During that time, there were 94 days worked. Chris used three days of sick leave but had enough paid sick leave to be paid for the 94 days:
$75,000 × 1/200 × 94 = $35,250
From February to June, Chris was paid 1/12 per month:
($75,000/12) × 5 months = $31,250 (Paid to Date)
Chris’s summer payout will then be calculated as follows:
Earned Income − Paid to Date
Therefore, Chris will receive $35,250 − $31,250 = $4,000 for the reconciliation payout for the summer.
The calculation is different for teachers on continuous or probationary contracts who work more than 100 days in the year but not for the whole year. For these teachers, the calculation is as follows:
Annual Salary – (Annual Salary × 1/200 × Number of Days Not Worked)
This is so that teachers are not disadvantaged if the school year is less than 200 days.
For example, say the school year is 197 days, and a teacher takes an unpaid leave for four days. If the teacher were paid 1/200 for each day worked, the calculation would be as follows:
Annual Salary × 1/200 × Number of Days Worked = Earned Income
$75,000 × 1/200 × 193 = $72,375
When the teacher’s pay is deducted by 1/200 for each day not worked, the calculation is as follows:
$75,000 − ($75,000 × 1/200 × 4 days) = $73,500
The difference in subtracting the number of days not worked instead of paying for the days actually worked in this example is over $1,000 for the teacher.
How does this calculation impact summer pay?
Pat went on maternity leave in January. Her paid maternity leave ran out on March 17. Because she is on a continuous contract and has been paid for more than 100 days, the following formula applies:
Annual Salary − (Annual Salary × 1/200 × Number of Days Not Worked) = Earned Income
$75,000 − ($75,000 × 1/200 × 64 days) = $51,000
From September to February, Pat was paid 1/12 per month:
($75,000/12) × 6 months = $37,500 = Paid to Date
Pat’s summer payout will be calculated as follows:
Therefore, Pat will receive $51,000 − $37,500 = $13,500 for the reconciliation payout for the summer.
Check your pay advice every month. At the beginning of each school year, ensure that your education and experience are accurate, especially as you are climbing the grid, and that your annual salary is correct (check your collective agreement). Review the deductions and make sure they are correct.
Every subsequent month, review any changes to your net pay. Don’t forget that you will see an increase in net pay in the latter half of the calendar year as you reach the maximum deductions for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI). This means that you will see a reduction in pay in January as those deductions are taken off your salary again.
Check your pay advice every month to ensure your salary is correct. Review the deductions and make sure they are correct. Remember you may reach maximum deductions for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) partway through the year. #WEAREATA
Is a Legal Challenge Possible?
One of the first steps the Alberta Teachers’ Association (Association) takes when legislation appears to have an impact on teachers is to contact our legal firm, Field LLP, to identify any possible avenues for a legal response. They provide the Association with their legal opinion of the options that are available. For example, with Bill 22, the omnibus legislation enabling the transfer of control of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) assets to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), the Field legal team reviewed the legislation and, unfortunately, did not identify any credible legal challenges that would enable the Association to overturn or block the amendments to the bill.
Individuals may assume that there must be some way to challenge in court when a government undertakes action that seems to be inherently unfair and objectionable. The reality is that the judicial branch generally defers to the legislative branch, allowing the legislature to pass laws concerning matters within its jurisdiction as it sees fit. The exception is when a law violates the Constitution of Canada, which sets out the powers of the various levels of government and the rights of citizens.
A piece of legislation or amendment to an existing piece of legislation that seems offensive to an individual may still be constitutional. As a result, there would be no ability for action. While there exists in common law an expectation that a government act justly and this expectation includes some hope of consultation, the Supreme Court of Canada has established that legislative decision making is not subject to this duty of fairness.
Ultimately, the wisdom and value of legislative decisions are subject to review only by the electorate. Further, while the expectation that the government will behave fairly is an unwritten constitutional principle, it cannot be used as a basis for invalidating legislation based on the content of that legislation.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association, with the support of Field LLP, reviews all legislation that has an impact on teachers. Legal avenues are considered and actioned when there is a solid footing on which to launch a challenge. #WEAREATA
COVID-19 and Your Pension
Teachers need to fight this crisis together, not alone.
In the fall of 2019, teachers learned that Bill 22 would require the transfer of all assets of the Alberta Teachers’ Pension Plan to Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). For over 75 years, the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) managed the assets of Alberta teachers. Alberta teachers continue to oppose the transfer of the fund assets to AIMCo and have made many efforts to protest this unilateral decision.
Now, in the same school year, another crisis has hit our pension—a health crisis. COVID-19 has caused a great deal of uncertainty in the markets similar to what occurred during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008–09 or the dot-com crash of 2001-02. This may alarm some teachers to the point where they consider pulling their contributions (commuted value) from the fund to invest on their own.
There are many risks you accept if you withdraw your commuted value from the pension fund:
1. You must first resign your teaching position with no guarantee of being reemployed.
2. You will take on all the risk of the investment performance of your fund. This includes the risk of being too conservative and not realizing enough growth to provide for your retirement.
3. Your pension pays you and your spouse until you both die. If you invest on your own, you could outlive your money.
4. Your assets are at the mercy of the markets. While a large pension can ride out a crisis over the long haul, as an individual, you may have a more difficult time absorbing market shock. In addition, the risks of the pension plan are shared by over 40,000 teachers, so it is not just your risk.
5. Investment costs can be many times higher with an individual portfolio compared to what it costs ATRF to invest your pension. In 2019, ATRF paid only 18¢ per $100 of assets. In comparison, most mutual fund management fees exceed 2 per cent.
This is a time to remain with the security of your pension rather than risk the uncharted waters of investing on your own. By September 2020, your pension contributions will have decreased three times in the last six years, yet your pension will still provide the same benefit upon retirement. Time has shown that good days and upswings far outweigh bad days and downswings. The question is, do you want to risk investing on your own?
What can you do?
Teachers concerned about the impacts of Bill 22 can e-mail their member of the legislative assembly (MLA) using the websitewww.handsoffmypension.ca.
You can also write or call your MLA directly and request that they reverse their decision on Bill 22. If your MLA is a member of the opposition, write to the minister of finance and the premier with a copy to your MLA. If your MLA is a member of government, copy the leader of the opposition so they are aware of how many complaints are being sent.
Ask for a meeting with your MLA to voice your concern and request that they reverse their decision on Bill 22. The government has reversed some decisions, and now is the time to make your voice heard and increase the pressure to leave your pension with the ATRF. #WEAREATA
Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) and Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) Supports
With everything that is going on with the COVID-19 situation, there is no doubt that this is a challenging time for everyone. The EFAP, administered through Homewood Health, provides completely confidential support services to eligible ASEBP covered members and their dependents, free of charge. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or could use someone to talk to, we encourage you to reach out. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Homewood Health is offering online and over-the-phone assistance, 24 hours per day 7 days per week. The EFAP includes supports like:
• personal counselling
• stress management
• family support services
• dealing with workplace change
• financial counselling
• relationship solutions
You can access EFAP services several ways:
• By App - Homewood Health e-Ap (search “e-Ap” in your phone’s app store)
• By telephone:
Accessing Homewood Health Services
However, ASEBP’s EFAP provider, Homewood Health, is currently experiencing high call volumes and you may have difficulty getting through to them the first time. Additionally, some people are reporting difficulties reaching Homewood Health because of connection issues related to general cellular network instability.
If you are having trouble getting through, try:
• to connect more than once—keep trying
• calling during “off-peak” times, such as mid-day, or outside regular business hours
• connecting using your landline, if you have one
• calling using a cellular phone on a different network than yours (some networks are experiencing connectivity issues)
• connecting using the local number for Homewood (604-689-1717), instead of the toll-free number. Please note that long distance charges may apply, depending on your plan
As call volumes are increasing, Homewood Health has been making active efforts to ensure their centers are being adequately staffed so call volumes can be managed and wait times mitigated as much as possible. As Homewood Health is limited in how treatments can be delivered (there are no in-person supports currently available), please understand that they are making every effort to secure everyone who calls the earliest possible appointment.
Thank you for your patience, and if you are trying to get through, please keep trying—their intake consultants are ready to help.
For further up-to-date information on COVID 19 from ASEBP, visit:
Alberta Blue Cross, COVID 19 Scams. Protect yourself.
These are challenging times for everyone . The Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), administered through Homewood Health, provides completely confidential support services to eligible ASEBP covered members and their dependents, free of charge. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or could use someone to talk to, we encourage you to reach out. English 1-800-663-1142 French 1-866-398-9505. #WEAREATA
Central Table Bargaining and COVID‑19
The timelines for the first phase of Central Table bargaining, List of All Matters bargaining, have been extended to June 30 as a result of Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency caused by COVID-19. The Association is monitoring the situation and will be reviewing best practices to allow the process to continue while ensuring members of the Central Table Bargaining Committee are safe. #WEAREATA
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
The federal government will be automatically moving everyone who has applied for employment insurance (EI) benefits since March 15 to CERB.
• This means that an individual who applied for and started receiving an EI benefit after March 15 will start receiving the CERB at $500 a week, which could result in a greater benefit amount.
• However, this also means that those receiving the maximum EI benefit of $573 a week will get a pay cut, down to the CERB level of $500 a week.
While EI beneficiaries are receiving CERB payments, they will not be using up any EI-eligible weeks for payments. Those “EI weeks” are suspended.
• This means that if an individual comes to the end of the CERB benefit period of four months, the individual could resume receiving EI benefits for however many remaining weeks that person was eligible to receive benefits prior to receiving a CERB cheque.
• In most cases, the maximum number of weeks an individual can receive EI benefits varies from 14 to 45 weeks and is based on regional labour force characteristics.
Those who had applied for and were receiving an EI benefit prior to March 15 will stay in the EI stream and continue to receive the benefits they’ve been receiving as per EI rules that were in place at the time they were approved.
***Some of the pre-March 15 EI beneficiaries could have been financially better off with the CERB (for example). There is some acknowledgement among government officials that there will be an attempt to correct those inequities once the programs are up and running.
The federal government will be automatically moving everyone who has applied for employment insurance benefits since March 15 to CERB. Those who had applied for and were receiving an EI benefit prior to March 15 will stay in the EI stream and continue to receive the benefits they’ve been receiving as per EI rules that were in place at the time they were approved. #WEAREATA
Occupational Health and Safety and COVID‑19
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is the set of workplace rules employers have to follow to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their workers. COVID‑19 brings additional OHS concerns to workplaces that teachers need to be aware of and that need to be addressed by employers.
Section 3 of the OHS Act obliges employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of teachers and other workers in the school, as well as others who may be affected by hazards from the school. Assessing and controlling hazards is part of providing and maintaining a healthy and safe work environment. Hazard assessments should be updated to include extra controls put in place to manage the risks associated with COVID‑19.
The cleanliness and hygiene of the school is important for a healthy and safe work environment. Section 5 of the OHS Act states that teachers and other workers in the school also have a responsibility in protected the health and safety in their schools and to report unsafe or harmful conditions to their employer. As such, if a teacher is not satisfied with the health and safety of the work environment, they need to communicate this concern to their principal promptly so action can be taken to remedy any hazardous condition in a timely manner.
The Government of Alberta has released a document for non-healthcare workplaces on COVID‑19 specific concerns. The document lists guidelines to address the specific hazards related to COVID‑19 and how employers can control these hazards to the lowest level possible or eliminate them altogether. The guidelines are based on the recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer and can be found online at https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/covid-19-non-healthcare-workplace-guidance.pdf
Teachers have the right to know about workplace hazards and have access to basic health and safety information. OHS rules ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of teachers and other workers in schools. #WEAREATA
Income Supports for Substitute Teachers
According to the Government of Canada, the portal for accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) should be available in early April. Members who are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits.
Regular Benefits are Available
To find out if you are eligible to receive EI regular benefits, you must submit an application online. It will take about 60 minutes to complete the online application. The website takes you through the application process step-by-step and provides detailed instructions on how to complete the form. When you apply for EI benefits, you will be asked for your e-mail address. If Service Canada needs more information about your claim and cannot reach you by phone, a Service Canada agent will send you a toll-free number by e-mail, asking you to call an agent.
Employment Insurance Benefit (EI)
Here’s how to apply:
Step 1: Ask your employer for a Record of Employment (ROE). They will either provide you a paper copy or send an electronic copy directly to Service Canada.
Step 2: Apply as soon as possible (even if you do not have your ROE yet). You can apply online using your computer or mobile phone.
If you cannot apply online, call 1-833-381-2725. Please note that this line is currently overloaded given the millions of people in Canada that have been laid off. Be patient.
***You will not be issued a 16-digit reference code. Please complete your application without using a reference code.
Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB)
Step 1: Get ready to apply
If you can apply online (computer or mobile phone) go to and make sure you have a MyAccount with the Canada Revenue Agency. Register here. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number.
Important to Know
There is a LARGE backlog of EI claims. You may consider applying for the CERB instead.
If you have already submitted your EI application, you will automatically be assessed for the CERB. You do not need to send in a new application.
You do not require a doctor’s note for COVID-19.
On March 27, we encountered the following: SERVICE CANADA OFFICES ARE NOW CLOSED. The Canadian Government will be providing information to help people without a computer and internet.
You can prove your identity to the government faster online if you use online banking through your bank or credit union.
According to the Government of Canada, the portal for accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit should be available in early April. Members eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) who have lost their job can continue to apply for EI here, as can Canadians applying for other EI benefits. #WEAREATA
Teacher Trustees at Alberta School Employee Benefits Plan (ASEBP)
The ASEBP provides health, dental and vision benefit coverage for over 44,000 teachers and other education workers. In addition, they provide life insurance and extended disability insurance provisions to over 55,000 covered members.
ASEBP provides quality benefits and other services, such as Health Spending Accounts, Wellness Spending Accounts and Wellness Consultants to school boards, teachers and other education workers. Teachers can also access their Employee and Family Assistance Plan through Homewood Health 24 hours per day.
Overseeing ASEBP is a board of trustees composed of five members appointed by the Alberta Teachers’ Association and five members appointed by the Alberta School Boards Association. The Association’s Provincial Executive Council typically appoints teacher representatives for a four-year term and trustees usually serve two terms. Below are your current trustees:
· Chad Bowie – Fort McMurray Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2012
· Doug Lerke – Prairieland Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2013
· Shirene Napier – Greater Peace Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2014
· Fred Kreiner – Executive Staff Officer, Teacher Welfare – ASEBP Vice-Chair since 2017
· Evelyn Chan – Red Deer City Local – ASEBP Trustee since 2019
Teachers serving on the ASEBP board will typically be out of the classroom between 10 and 20 days per year to attend monthly board meetings, committee meetings, strategic planning events, orientation and professional development. They also spend many hours reading meeting packages or traveling to meetings.
Teacher trustees at ASEBP continue to look out for the interests of plan members, ensuring teachers and other education workers have quality benefits. #WEAREATA
Over the past year, teachers and school boards have ridden the funding roller coaster. October’s budget saw school boards grappling with significant funding reductions. The cuts ranged from $122,000 for Lakeland Catholic School Division to $30.235 million for Calgary School District. Five boards enjoyed modest increases.
The budget released on 2020 02 27 partially restored funding to school boards. All boards will have more money next year than in this current year, however, many boards will still have less than last year while a few will have more than last year.
The big picture view is that funding levels still have not kept up with enrolment growth and inflation. Data from the 2005/06 Alberta Education annual report, enrolment estimates from Alberta Education along with historical enrolment data, and price level data from Statistics Canada illustrates this. From 2005/06 to 2019/20, total funding to school boards grew by 67 per cent; that works out to 3.85 per cent per year. During that same time, enrolments grew by 44 per cent (2.64 per cent on an annual basis) and the price level grew by 44.3 per cent (2.76 per cent on an annual basis). When we combine the effects of enrolment growth and inflation, real funding per student actually fell by 7.4 per cent between 2005/06 and 2019/20. This works out to a decrease of 0.5 per cent per year.
Based on government projections of school board funding for 2020/21 and assuming 2 per cent enrolment growth province-wide, the decrease in real funding per student between 2005/06 and 2020/21 will be about 9.2 per cent (-0.6 per cent annually).
Education funding has not kept up with inflation and enrolment growth and will have fallen by 9.2 per cent between 2005/06 and 2020/21. #WEAREATA
Good Pension Facts—Service to Plan Members
Defined benefit pension plans, like the one paid into by Alberta teachers, are increasingly rare. The Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund (ATRF) has provided the finest quality in both service to plan members and in investment portfolios for the past 80 years. While the investment work of ATRF is changing, ATRF is still the pension administrator and trustee of the plan. This means that they will continue to collect pension contributions, calculate service and administer pension payments.
Whether a member has a one-on-one conversation with an ATRF representative, is looking for information on the ATRF website or accesses their MyPension account for a pension calculation, they can expect an exceptional experience when accessing these services.
In 2018/19, ATRF:
• met with 1,722 plan members for personal interviews with our pension counsellors in various locations across Alberta and in the office in Edmonton,
• greeted more than 400 plan members who stopped by their office in Edmonton and met with pension specialists,
• responded to more than 26,000 phone calls,
• presented 47 seminars to 1,913 teachers in various locations around the province,
• provided more than 4,800 responses to member emails,
• completed 3,042 pension estimates, in addition to more than 61,300 pension estimates that were completed in MyPension,
• processed more than 500 service purchase applications, a 37 per cent increase over 2017/18 and
• helped 1,180 members to start their pensions, which represents an increase of 8 per cent from 2017/18.
Only half of all plan members are registered for MyPension! This secure portal allows plan members to obtain a pension estimate or service purchase estimate, view their member statement, update personal information and subscribe to the newsletter, Pension Points.#WEAREATA
List of All Matters (LAM) Input
List bargaining is the process of negotiating with the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) on which items or “matters” the parties will be able to bargain centrally and which will only be available for local bargaining between the Association and school divisions.
Each of our 61 bargaining units has a Teacher Welfare Committee (TWC) made up of teachers from the bargaining unit who are leaders for both central and local bargaining. In order to obtain input on bargaining, the Association’s Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) meets with the chairs of each TWC. For central table bargaining 2020, one of the first requests of TWCs was for the committee to give their opinion on which matters should be placed on the list for central bargaining and which matters should be local. In making this determination, TWCs must judge the priorities of their bargaining unit but must also consider the likelihood of achieving gains in these matters at the local level. CTBC will be collecting all this information from TWCs this month in order to be ready for list bargaining later this spring.
Your CTBC is comprised of teachers who have been elected to Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and supported by the staff in the bargaining program area (Teacher Welfare).
Carmen Glossop began her career in 2004 and continues to love it. Her first 10 years were spent in rural Alberta teaching in St Paul and Two Hills. For the last six years, Carmen has taught with Edmonton School Division.
She has had the privilege of teaching in all four divisions including Head Start Kindergarten and upgrading adults. Most of Carmen’s career has been focused on teaching children with special needs. She has had some interesting assignments over the years, including teaching junior high/high school at a Mennonite school, Muslim girls in the basement of an Edmonton Mosque, and currently a specialized program for Medically Fragile and Special Needs.
Carmen’s Association involvement began in 2007 as a school rep, where she quickly became Vice-President of the Greater St Paul Local. By 2011, she was Local President of the Greater St Paul Local. After two terms as president, she moved to Edmonton. Carmen soon began to miss her Association involvement and started the process all over again. In 2017, she was elected Vice-President of the Edmonton Public Teachers’ Local (as Finance Chair) and then, in July 2019, she became one of the District Representatives for Edmonton/McMurray.
Carmen was very excited to join the Central Table Bargaining Committee.
List bargaining is an important step in negotiations between the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) and the Association. The Association Central Table Bargaining Committee is in the process of collecting input from our local bargainers in preparation for this first stage of central bargaining 2020. #WEAREATA
Alberta Government Revenues
Sometimes it seems like Alberta is perpetually in a fiscal crisis, and we do have one of the most volatile revenue streams amongst Canadian provinces. This results in unpredictable spending cycles.
The MacKinnon Report repeatedly compared Alberta to British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. The comparisons focused entirely on expenditures and ignored revenues. Any sound fiscal analysis needs to consider revenues and the volatility of provincial revenues. The graph below shows revenue per capita across Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Alberta’s revenue is much more volatile than revenue in the other provinces.
Alberta’s resource revenue as a share of total revenue is also the highest among these four provinces. In the table below, you can see the share of resource revenue in total revenue of the four provinces. It should be pointed out that in 2015 and 2016, when Alberta’s resource revenue as a share of total revenue fell below 10 per cent, it was not that other revenue sources increased but rather that resource revenue declined so drastically.
Drawing such a large share of our provincial revenue from a volatile source such as resources, means that our provincial revenues will be highly volatile. The graph below shows the variance in revenue growth for each province from 2008 to 2018. Alberta’s revenue growth is 8.5 times more volatile than British Columbia’s, 15 times more volatile than Quebec’s, and 21.8 times more volatile than Ontario’s.
Alberta’s fiscal crisis is due to our reliance on an erratic and unreliable revenue source. Alberta has one of the most volatile revenue streams amongst Canadian provinces. This results in unpredictable spending cycles. However, responsible and predictable spending is essential to maintaining Alberta’s world class public education system. #WEAREATA
List of All Matters (LAM)
The first step in all rounds of central table bargaining is for the parties to the central process (the Association and the Teachers Employer Bargaining Association or TEBA) to negotiate which issues or matters are to be bargained at the central table, and which issues are local. The definition of central matters is stipulated in the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA).
Criteria for determining central and local matters
9(1) For the purposes of determining whether a matter is a central matter or a local matter, a matter is a central matter if either of the following applies:
(a) the matter could result in a reasonably significant impact on expenditures for one or more employers;
(b) the matter involves issues common to most of the parties to the collective agreements that can be addressed in central bargaining more appropriately than in local bargaining.
(2) If neither subsection (1)(a) nor (b) applies, the matter is a local matter.
This definition drives most “big ticket” items towards the central table. However, the Association endeavours to strategically position issues on the lists to provide our greatest chance of success on those issues. We also maintain local bargaining on issues where local solutions are in the best interest of members.
Your Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) is comprised of teachers who have been elected to Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and supported by the staff in the bargaining program area (Teacher Welfare).
Heather McCaig is in her second term on CTBC and is in her third term as District Representative for Southeast Alberta. Heather started her career in 1996 at Irvine School in the Prairie Rose School Division teaching English and Drama. She then spent five years as a substitute teacher prior to landing at Crescent Heights High School in Medicine Hat School Division in 1999, where she has been ever since.
Heather has taught Social Studies and started Career and Technology Studies Leadership courses at the school. Currently, Heather teaches Leadership and English Language Learners.
With over 20 years of leadership within the Association, Heather has served in a variety of capacities including; Local President, Economic Consultant, Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund Board member, as well as serving on a variety of different committees.
Issues which could result in significant costs for employers are typically placed on the Central side of the List of All Matters (LAM). Maintaining local bargaining on issues where local solutions are in the best interests of members is a priority. #WEAREATA
Who calls Teacher Welfare (TW)?
With 61 bargaining units across Alberta, teachers have different entitlements in their collective agreements. Teacher Welfare Staff Officers help members understand these entitlements, as well as offer support to ensure that the collective agreement is applied correctly. Teachers can contact Teacher Welfare year-round with questions or concerns. Every call is confidential and no action is taken unless the teacher authorizes it.
During the 2019 calendar year, TW responded to 5,305 inquiries from members.
During 2019, 62 per cent of all calls to TW were questions regarding leaves. Teachers may need to take a leave from work for a variety of reasons. Some leave provisions are common to all 61 agreements, like maternity and parental leave. Other leave entitlements are specific to the school jurisdiction for which a teacher works, such as sick leave, family medical, or personal/private business leave. Sick leave and maternity leave often require individual consultation with the Association due to the specific circumstances of the teacher.
As you can see from the graph above, most calls to TW are concerning sick leave or extended disability benefits (EDB). However, teachers experiencing any issues accessing leaves should report the situation to their TW Committee chair or TW directly. TW Staff Officers help teachers to understand the leave provisions available to them, so be sure to call prior to requesting the leave.
The terms and conditions of practice and the compensation of teachers employed by school jurisdictions are established in collective agreements. Twenty-seven per cent of calls to TW were questions or concerns regarding specific areas of the collective agreement. TW Staff Officers help members understand the provisions that are available to them, as well as address maladministration of the collective agreement. In the case of a grievance, timelines must be adhered to. Teachers should call TW if they have any concerns with respect to collective agreement entitlements.
Teacher Welfare staff responded to 2,434 teachers last year with questions and concerns related to their working conditions. Staff are available to help teachers year-round. Call 1-800-232-7208 to speak with a staff officer. #WEAREATA
Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) - Preparing for List Bargaining
Under the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA), central table bargaining is conducted by the Association on behalfof all active members. The Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) is made up of representatives from school divisions and government.
The first step in central bargaining is to agree on what matters will be bargained at the central table and which are exclusively for local negotiations. This is called List Bargaining. In this round, the parties (TEBA and the Association) must open for list bargaining by the end of February.
Once List Bargaining is complete, negotiations begin on the actual issues of the central matters list. This is called Matters Bargaining.
Darrin Bauer, Association Vice President, is in his third round of bargaining on CTBC.
Darrin was elected vice-president in 2019 following four years of service as district representative for Edmonton McMurray. As district representative, he has served as a member of CTBC, Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Committee, Pension Committee, Resolutions Committee and Teacher Welfare Services Committee.
Now in his 25th year of teaching, Darrin is currently at St Francis Xavier High School in Edmonton. He has taught grade five and high school social studies and is currently assigned as the off-campus Education Coordinator. Darrin also spent eight years teaching at Edmonton Catholic Schools’ Fresh Start Outreach High School, which provides students with an alternative to a high school classroom setting.
Darrin’s assignments as vice-president of the Association include chairing the Resolutions Committee, serving as a member of the CTBC and the CTF Committee. He also acts as Provincial Executive Council liaison to the Religious and Moral Education Council and the Educational Technology Council.
Your Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) is made up of Alberta teachers who have been elected to Provincial Executive Council (PEC) and is supported by your staff bargainers, communications staff and economist. #WEAREATA
Your CTBC is actively planning for the upcoming round of negotiations and how best to represent your issues at the bargaining table.#WEAREATA
On 2020 01 11, the Teacher Welfare Services Committee received a presentation from Alberta School Employee Benefits Plan (ASEBP) on upcoming improvements to plans and programs. ASEBP has developed a communication campaign to connect Alberta teachers with ASEBP coverage to a host of financial wellness supports offered through the Employee Assistance Program (EFAP) in partnership with Homewood Health. This initiative will augment the Financial Wellness presentations available through your local.
Do you have ASEBP coverage and want to connect with confidential services to support financial wellness?
Assistance is just one confidential call away. Homewood Health has numerous, highly-trained staff available 24-7 to help you find the resources and tools you need to get your finances in tip-top shape. When you call, you’ll be asked a few questions to ensure you are directed to the best person for your situation.
Appels internationaux (frais virés acceptés) : 514 875-0720
Do you have ASEBP coverage but prefer to work it out online? Register for a Homeweb.ca account to access handy online tools and resources like these:
Teachers have access to a lot of support for their financial wellness. ASEBP through Homewood Health is one avenue for this assistance. #WEAREATA
The First 20 Memoranda of Agreement (MoAs)
For each round of local bargaining, each bargaining unit creates an initial proposal based on the list of matters available for local bargaining and the needs of their members. Not all bargaining units seek the same improvements to their collective agreements and not all improvements are possible in each bargaining unit. Some bargaining units have issues that are specific to that school division. Here are some of the achievements of the first 20 MoAs in the 2018–2020 round of local bargaining.
Half of the first 20 agreements have improvements in personal leave clauses. In these agreements, teachers have gained additional accumulation for personal leave days not used in a school year, and/or have been able to remove restrictions on accessing personal leave.
Professional Development (PD)
Many of the first 20 agreements include either establishing a teacher-controlled PD fund, increasing school division contributions to an existing fund or extending school division funding for PD into the future.
Teacher wellness is a topic of importance for many local tables. All bargaining units in the first 20 who were advancing the addition of a Wellness Spending Account to the Health Spending Account (HSA) now have the ability to allocate money from their HSAs to wellness. While wellness spending is a taxable benefit, it provides teachers with flexibility in using their accounts to best meet their health and wellness needs.
Part Time Teachers
Clauses are being added to collective agreements to protect part time teachers including language to ensure contiguous assignments as well as to limit how much FTE can be changed in a school year.
In many of the settled bargaining units, substitute teachers will see increases in the half-day teaching assignment rate, typically from 50 to 60 per cent of the daily rate. Professional development for substitute teachers is also improving. Some of the agreements are adding access to paid days for substitute teachers attending professional development days. Language is also being added for cancellation of assignment, guaranteeing that, if the substitute job isn’t cancelled within a certain window of time, the substitute teacher will still receive pay to attend work that day.
Several of the first 20 agreements include an addition of lieu days for school leaders, including principals and vice/assistant principals. There is also improvement in compensation for travel, as well as red circling clauses to protect an administrator’s allowance for a specified period of time in the case of an involuntary transfer.
Despite the tough fiscal environment for many school divisions, local bargaining is making gains for teachers. This local round of bargaining started in June 2019. #WEAREATA
What Does Two More Years of Zero Per Cent Increase Mean to our Purchasing Power?
The salary arbitration decision released 2019 01 10 means that teacher salary grids have gone up on average a total of 2.16 per cent in eight years.
Since 2011, the annual compound growth (assuming we received the same increase each of those years) in teachers’ salary has been 0.27 per cent, while inflation in Alberta has averaged 1.6 per cent.
Since 2001, the annual compound growth in teachers’ salaries has been 2.05 per cent per year while inflation in Alberta has averaged 2.08 per cent per year during that time.
Teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation in the 2000s. Teachers have done their share. #WEAREATA
Salary Arbitration Update
· If the number of people who count as unemployed increases by the same rate as the number of employed people, then even though more people are working, the unemployment rate remains unchanged.
· There is an increase in the number of people who count as being unemployed if people who had previously stopped looking for work start looking again or there is in-migration.
· In Alberta we have seen some pretty high unemployment rates since 2014 and it is easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom mood. However, when we look at employment, measured in persons employed, the picture gets a bit brighter. The graph below shows us the number of jobs in Alberta since 2012.
Source: Statistics Canada Table #14-10-0019
· Yes, there is seasonal variation in the data. However, overall we are seeing a significant upward trend in the number of jobs.
· There are 44,200 more jobs in Alberta in November 2019 than there were in 2014 before oil prices collapsed.
Financial Wellness Session for Teachers!
There is no doubt teachers, like many others, are facing uncertain economic times. That uncertainty may stem from the potential of job losses for themselves or family members, government’s position on salary reductions in the public sector or rumors of potential labour action in upcoming school years. The workshops to support financial wellness will be two-hour sessions presented by Capital Estate Planning and MNP. The sessions to be offered are as follows:
Financial Wellness 101—Presented by Capital Estate Planning and MNP Debt Group
Part 1 Introduction to Financial Wellness
• Saving 101
• How to get starting on a Savings Plan
• Best Practices in Investing
• Saving for an Emergency Fund
Part 2 Debt Solutions
• Introduction to Debt Management
• Debt Reduction Strategies
Interested Teachers should contact their Teacher Welfare Committee.
Alberta’s Fiscal Cliff
· According to some politicians, news and social media articles, Alberta has an unmanageable and unheard of debt burden and we are about to go over a fiscal cliff. Really??
· Alberta’s net debt is measured by the value of debt owed by the province minus the financial assets it owns. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures the value of stuff being produced in Alberta in a given year.
· Measuring debt as a percentage of GDP (Net Debt/GDP) indicates how much the province owes in relation to the province’s output.
· Alberta’s debt to GDP ratio in 2018 was 5.6 per cent and will be about 7.7 per cent for 2019.
Fiscal Reference Tables
CANSIM table # 17-10-0060-01
CANSIM table # 36-10-0221-01
GDP Growth Rates for 2019:
RBC Economics, Scotia Bank, TD Economics, CIBC Economics, Conference Board of Canada
· The average of the other nine provinces was 31.7 per cent in 2018 and will be about 31.4 per cent in 2019.
From the beginning of the school year until the time schools break for Christmas, the 61 Association bargaining units (groups of teachers all employed by the same school board and covered by a collective agreement) have held a total of 57 general meetings open to all teachers in the bargaining unit. These meetings are called Bargaining Unit General Meetings (BUGMs) and are held to conduct the business of the bargaining unit such as approving initial proposals for local bargaining or ratifying memoranda of agreement. Due to the great number of recent events affecting teachers and the teaching profession, Teacher Welfare staff have also been providing Association Updates presentations at these meetings. We have noticed growing numbers of teachers at these meetings since the spring. Teachers are becoming more concerned about issues ranging from their pension contributions to curriculum reform without the involvement of the profession, to accusations of teachers’ politics entering classrooms. Teachers meeting together to share information and debate issues makes the teaching profession stronger.
Teachers’ pensions are safe and no pension rules are changing due to Bill 22 Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act. Retired teachers will not notice an effect from the passage of this legislation which amends theTeachers’ Pension Plan Act to mandate that the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund (ATRF) use the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) as its sole investment manager. While ATRF now must use AIMCo instead of managing investments in house (approximately half the assets) and using number of external managers, ATRF will still dictate how the funds are to be invested by AIMCo. This will be done through an Investment Management Agreement. Questions that remain for teachers and the Association are
· Will AIMCo be able to achieve the expected investment results as ATRF traditionally has? If not contributions for current and future contributing teachers may increase.
· Will AIMCo, in order to achieve those investment returns, take higher investment risks than ATRF traditionally has? If so, and there are losses, contributions for current and future contributing teachers may increase.
· How “arm’s length is AIMCo from government and will there be political interference in how money managed by AIMCo is invested?
· How can AIMCo, a legislated monopoly be more responsive to the pension plans they invest assets for?
· How open is government to listening to the voices of teachers considering the speed this legislation was passed despite much opposition?
Teachers need answers to these questions.
Last week TW staff presented 20 grievances on central table collective agreement provisions to a meeting of the Teacher Employers’ Bargaining Association (TEBA) and Association grievance committee. This is an unprecedented number of grievances. We represented a teacher who was not getting paid for all her teaching experience and a teacher who was not properly accommodated when she returned from a medical leave. Teacher Welfare Committees (TWCs) are doing a great job of monitoring how the employers are interpreting the collective agreements. Enforcing collective agreements and ensuring teachers have the conditions that were negotiated strengthens the teaching profession.
From 2008/09 to 2011/12, through the collective agreements, teachers received salary increases equal to the increase in the Alberta Average Weekly Wage (AAWE). For those four years teachers received the average increase of all Albertans. Imagine! Teachers receiving average increases of all Albertans. We have been paying for it ever since.
In the 6 years from 2012/13 to 2017/18 teacher salary grids have increase by 2.16 per cent. If teachers had received that 2.16 per cent in equal annual amounts including the effects of compounding (the compounded average growth rate or CAGR) it would have been .43 per cent per year. By the way, inflation (measured by the Consumer Price Index or CPI) over that time was 1.4 per cent per year.
ATA Member Discounts