Since March of this year, the AUNBT and UNB have been working closely together to identify and respond to issues facing AUNBT members and the UNB community as a result of the restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The parties’ efforts have been, and continue to be, focused on providing a supportive environment responsive to the challenges resulting from COVID-19.
Both parties have recognized that a particular challenge is presented to those whose childcare responsibilities have changed due to, for example, the closure of daycares or schools. Even with the official announcement with respect to schools or daycares being open during the coming academic year, the AUNBT and UNB recognize the possibility of further interruptions in the service provided by such institutions.
The AUNBT and UNB are also cognizant that the health status of some AUNBT members and/or their family members might require the implementation of accommodations in order to facilitate a member’s ability to safely and responsibly perform their work.
With these potential scenarios in mind, the AUNBT and UNB have agreed upon the following principles and processes to assist members who find themselves in a situation like the ones described above and who may want to request an accommodation of their regular work schedule and/or duties.
As with any kind of human rights-based accommodation, accommodation is a multi-party responsibility (employer, employee and union, if applicable). All parties must be flexible and willing to work collaboratively towards a reasonable accommodation. When a member requests accommodation, it is important that they be forthcoming about their particular circumstances and needs. The member should be prepared to answer reasonable requests for information relevant to the requested accommodation. Any accommodation has to be productive and allow the member to meaningfully contribute to the University. Full pay for reduced work is not likely reasonable accommodation, nor is there a requirement to provide “make work” or have two people do the job of one, but a temporary adjustment or re-organization of a member’s responsibilities may be.
Although any specific accommodation will be based on the particular circumstances of each case, the following are examples of how UNB might accommodate an employee on the basis of family status (for childcare responsibilities):
· It is understood that while working from home, interruptions during live calls/chats/classes may occur. Such interruptions will not be considered as part of the evaluation of a member’s work performance;
· For course-work, it may be possible to average workload over a period of time to provide a lighter load during periods when the member may have competing childcare responsibilities;
Changes to class schedules to accommodate any specific requirements (e.g. scheduling classes and/or meetings with students only in the evening);
· Allowing employees to work from home as opposed to coming to campus; or
· Adjusting the responsibilities and/or workload of the member.
A temporary reduction in workload with corresponding temporary reduction in pay or a leave without pay are also options.
For illness-based accommodation requests, such as an immuno-compromised employee or family member, the starting point is to recognize that everyone’s obligations are to follow Public Health directives. An initial response to a request may (depending on the context) be to obtain more information about the concern and to provide information to the employee about what measures have been put in place to ensure employees’ health and safety. Possible examples of accommodation in this context may include the following:
· Allow all courses to be delivered through ADM format; or
· Consider other adjustments to on campus work to address a specific safety concern.
It is important that members seeking an accommodation be forthcoming with information related to such a request. It is also important that members be open to considering alternative arrangements that may deviate from normal practices or from what they may have conceptualized as the most appropriate accommodation. Members who think that they may need accommodation in the fall term are asked to follow the process outlined below:
· Faculty/instructors should reach out to their chair (or dean) at the earliest opportunity, flagging the nature of the challenge they anticipate may require accommodation.
· If requested or required, a meeting will be arranged among UNB, AUNBT, and the individual to discuss the issue and explore options for accommodation.
The goal of this process is to find a way to allow the parties to respond to the current situation in a manner that allows everyone to continue to contribute to the important work of UNB in a supportive environment.