Single-Site Staffing Q&A

On April 10, 2020, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued the Facility Staff Assignment Order (“Assignment Order”) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. On the same day, the Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth issued the Health Care Labour Adjustment Order (“Labour Adjustment Order”).

These two Orders set out a process for limiting workers who hold jobs in more than one site in long-term care, assisted living, and provincial mental health facilities, to working in just one of those sites for the duration of the Orders. The move to “Single-Site Staffing” is part of the public health strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between these facilities.

Who does the Assignment Order apply to?

The Assignment Order sets out the process for ensuring that health care workers – who work at more than one facility covered by the Order – are limited to working at just one of those sites. The Order also applies to volunteers and students.

The facilities covered by this Order include:

  • long-term care homes (including extended care sites, and at “private hospitals” – a type of long-term care);
  • assisted living residences; and
  • provincial mental health facilities.

The Order applies to all licensed/registered facilities, including those run by health authorities, non-profit agencies, and for-profit operators. The Order applies no matter what collective agreement is in place, and it also covers non-union workplaces. Government-funded and private pay facilities are covered. So are subcontractors and their employees.

The Order applies to all health care workers except for those specifically excluded, for example, lab assistants.

Care aides, activity aides, recreation therapists, housekeepers, cooks and dietary aides, nurses, clerical and maintenance staff are among the many occupations that are included in the Order.

Lab assistants are excluded from the Order.

This Order does not apply to acute care hospitals, community social services, community health or independent living.

How will I be assigned to a single site?

The health authority for your region will establish a Working Group. That Working Group will use staffing information collected in March from facility operators and subcontractors, as well as employee preferences registered through the bchealthstaffing.ca website, to make recommendations to the health authority medical health officer about the assignment of staff to single sites.

HEU and other unions are not part of these working groups. But before the Working Group in each health authority makes recommendations, it will communicate with unions and employers about the timeframe for implementation and also provide them with a preliminary staffing list for feedback.

The Working Group will make sure each facility is assigned the right balance of staff to provide the care necessary to protect the health and safety of residents.

In addition, the Working Group will do its best to assign staff based on the following guidelines:

  • all employees, who work at only one facility, will be assigned to that facility;
  • regular full-time employees, who work as regular part-time employees or as casual employees at another facility, will be assigned to the facility where they are a regular full-time employee;
  • regular part-time employees, who work at more than one facility as a regular part-time employee, will have their ranked preferences considered;
  • regular part-time employees, who work at another facility as a casual, will have their ranked preferences considered, although they will usually be assigned to the facility where they have regular status; and
  • casual employees, who work as casual employees at more than one facility, will have their ranked preferences considered.

Once medical health officers receive the working groups’ recommendations, they will make Orders assigning staff to particular facilities.

Once the medical health officer makes an order assigning staff to work at particular facilities, they will only work at the facility to which they are assigned.    

I was allocated to a single site under a previous Public Health Order. Can I be reassigned?

It’s possible that the working group may recommend to the medical health officer that you are reassigned to a different single site. The medical health officer will also consider whether any exemptions need to be made to Single-Site Staffing because of particular needs of certain facilities.

Once I have been allocated to a single site, can I work anywhere else in health care?

The Order will not prevent staff from working at other jobs in community health (like home support), community social services, or at an acute care hospital. You can also work outside the health sector.

Will my hours be reduced as a result of the Assignment Order?

Under the Labour Adjustment Order, employees – who currently work at multiple sites – will be scheduled to work their total combined hours at the single site, up to a maximum of 1.3 FTE. This means that if you held a full-time job at one site, and a part-time job equivalent to 0.2 FTE at another site, then you will be scheduled to work 1.2 FTE at your single assigned site. However, you may be required to work different shifts than originally scheduled.

What happens if there are not enough staff to allocate to all facilities?

Medical health officers can grant exemptions to Single-Site Allocations if this is necessary to ensure adequate staffing levels.

How will my schedule be determined?

Employers will determine an initial schedule that will be in place for 90 days, by the following process:

  • all employees, who remain at the work site, will maintain their current schedule;
  • the employer will identify all shift gaps in the current schedule by job classification;
  • the employer will offer the shift gaps to employees:
    • first, by seniority, regular employees – who previously worked at multiple work sites – will select from the shift gaps up to their total combined FTE at straight time;
    • second, by seniority, other regular and casual employees will select any remaining regular shifts at straight time.
  • Any unfilled shifts will be offered in accordance with the collective agreement.
How is access to overtime (OT) determined?

If you previously worked at multiple sites, and are now required to work at only one site, you will be scheduled to work your total combined hours up to 1.3 FTE at straight time.

If your total combined FTE is less than 1.0 FTE, you will be paid overtime as you usually are under the collective agreement. If your total combined FTE is more than 1.0 FTE, you will be paid overtime for all hours worked beyond your regular combined FTE.

For example, OT will be paid in accordance with the collective agreement as follows:

  • If your regular combined FTE is 1.0 or less, OT will apply to any and all hours worked over 1.0 FTE.
  • If your regular combined FTE is 1.1, OT will apply to all hours worked over 1.1 FTE.
  • If your regular combined FTE is 1.2, OT will apply to all hours worked over 1.2 FTE.
  • If your regular combined FTE is 1.3, OT will apply to all hours worked over 1.3 FTE.

Daily and weekly overtime under the applicable collective agreement will apply for all hours worked beyond the scheduled hours of their new regular position.

Can I work hours beyond my new combined regular FTE?

Both the Assignment Order and the Labour Adjustment Order state that the goal is to maintain, at least, the maximum hours in the health care system, and that all employees will be encouraged to maximize their hours regardless of status. Both Orders also say that part-time and casual employees will be encouraged to work full-time scheduled hours subject to operational needs at the facility.

How do I protect earned benefits, and my place on the seniority list at sites where I’m restricted from working?

You will retain your employment at work sites where you are currently employed, but will be placed on a COVID-related unpaid leave of absence under the Employment Standards Act for the duration of the Single-Site Limitation. You will also maintain your benefits coverage and eligibility at all work sites where you are currently employed, even if you are restricted from working there.

If you are eligible, you will also be entitled to enroll in the benefit plan at the site where you are assigned to work under the Single-Site Staffing Order.

You will accrue service and seniority, pursuant to the collective agreement at your assigned work site, for all hours worked up to 1.0 FTE. Your service will be recognized for the purposes of any pension plan, and contributions will continue to be paid to your pension.

At the end of the Single-Site Restriction, when you return to your other work sites, you will retain your relative placement on the seniority list. So, if you were 14th on the seniority list at the date of the Single-Site Order, you will be placed in the 14th position on the seniority list upon termination of the Assignment Order.

What wage will I be paid?

The Labour Adjustment Order directs that wage rates for all workers restricted to a single site be increased to the wage rate equivalent to the applicable provincial master agreement with the Health Employers Association of BC for the duration of the Single-Site Restriction period.

If you are a care aide at a long-term care facility – which is non-union or covered by an independent collective agreement – then you will be paid at the rate under the Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA) collective agreement. An LPN or RN will be paid the rate under the Nurses Bargaining Association (NBA) collective agreement. Where applicable, you will be paid at the highest increment step you would receive working at one of your work sites.

There are no changes to the wage rates for members covered by the FBA or NBA agreement currently.

FBA wage rates can be found here. NBA wage rates can be found here.

Where can I get more information?

You may have more questions about the implementation of these Orders.

Permanent Postings and the Single-Site Transition Framework Q&A

What is the Single-Site Transition Framework (SSTF) agreement?

To address the COVID-19 outbreaks in seniors’ care facilities, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a number of public health orders in April 2020.

These orders restricted health care workers – those who had more than one job in long-term care, assisted living and provincial mental health facilities – from working at multiple sites. Limiting work to a single site helped reduce the spread of the virus.

HEU, working with other unions, negotiated the Single-Site Transition Framework (SSTF) agreement with the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC). This agreement sets out the terms and conditions that apply to workers, who are covered by the single-site orders.

Under the provincial government’s Emergency Program Act, the SSTF was extended – by a Ministerial Order – to also cover non-HEABC employers in the independent sector.

As part of the SSTF, there is an agreement on how seniority is calculated and applied to members, who are limited to working at one site.

 

What does the SSTF say about permanent postings?

Amended in July 2020, Section 10 of the SSTF says: “Any posted positions will be temporary.  No permanent positions will be posted for the duration of the Single-Site Order, unless the parties develop and agree to a process to facilitate access to permanent postings.”

HEU, working with other unions, negotiated an agreement that allows employers to post and fill permanent jobs.

Effective October 8, 2020, the restriction on permanent postings ended.

How will permanent postings work?

When a vacancy occurs, an employer can post permanent jobs as long as it follows collective agreement rules and protects workers’ rights.

Who can apply for a permanent posting?

Any eligible and qualified employee, who is working at the site or for the employer where the job is posted, can apply for a permanent posting, and exercise their seniority rights.

This includes workers at the site/employer and also multi-site employees, who are restricted from working at the site because they are on a COVID leave of absence.

How will workers know if there’s a permanent posting at a site they’re restricted from working at due to a COVID leave of absence?

Permanent postings will be posted according to the collective agreement process.

Some collective agreements allow employees to leave an “open application” with their employer, when they’re away from the workplace.

In addition to workplace postings, employers must post all permanent postings on the WorkBC website.

Can workers, who are not permanent employees at a workplace, still apply for permanent jobs on the “job posting bulletin boards”?

Yes. However, anyone applying for a permanent posting – but does not have an existing employment relationship at the site/employer – will be considered an external applicant.

Under the SSTF, some workers have a combined full-time equivalent (FTE) of up to 1.3 FTE.  Can employers post permanent positions that are more than a 1.0 FTE?

No. Employers cannot post a job in excess of 1.0 FTE.

If multi-site employees have a combined FTE of up to 1.3 FTE, can they keep their combined FTE if they are successful on a permanent positing?

When an employer posts a permanent job, they must indicate on the posting if they can accommodate, for the duration of the single-site order, an employee’s combined FTE up to 1.3 (1.1, 1.2, 1.3 FTE).  

If the employer can accommodate the combined FTE of a multi-site employee, the employee can take their combined FTE with them to the permanent job.

If the employer cannot accommodate the combined FTE of a multi-site employee, the worker must be willing to give up their combined FTE, if successful on the job posting, and only work the hours of the posted position.

If an employee gives up their combined FTE to accept a permanent posting, any overtime the employee works in the new job is paid according to the overtime provisions in the collective agreement.

Where a multi-site employee maintains their combined FTE of up to 1.3 FTE in a permanent posting, the combined hours will only be in place until the single-site order end. Once the orders end, multi-site employees will revert to the posted hours of the position.

What happens to multi-site employees who accept a permanent posting at a site where they’ve been restricted from working?

Multi-site employees, who accept a permanent posting at a facility where they’ve been restricted from working, may be asked by the “sending employer” (the employer where they are currently working) to give seven days’ written notice that they:
a) are a multi-site employee and they intend to accept a permanent position with another employer; and they
b) wish to remain on a COVID leave of absence from the “sending employer”; or
c) will voluntarily resign from the “sending employer” and give up their employment rights, in which case they will no longer be considered a multi-site employee.

When will an employee who is successful on a permanent posting start their new job?

An employee, who successfully applies on a permanent posting, will start the new job by the date indicated on the job posting.

Where there’s no start date on the job posting, the employee will start as soon as reasonably possible.

If a multi-site employee accepts a permanent job at a site where they’ve been restricted from working, will they have to self-isolate before starting the new job?

An employee should be able to start the new job on the posted start date, or within a reasonable time frame, unless they’re restricted from doing so by a Provincial Health Officer or Medical Health Officer order.

An employer may consider postponing the start date, if they deem it appropriate in certain circumstances.

Seniority

Single-site seniority is generally governed by the SSTF Seniority Process Agreement, as negotiated in May 2020.

How does seniority work when a multi-site employee applies for a permanent posting at a site/employer where they’ve been restricted from working?
  1. Where a collective agreement at the “receiving employer” provides for seniority to accumulate without restrictions when an employee is on a leave of absence (i.e. Facilities Bargaining Association [FBA]), no seniority adjustment is required, or will be made, at the receiving site.
  2. Where a collective agreement at the “receiving employer” does not provide for the accumulation of seniority, or only provides for partial accumulation (i.e. 20 days when an employee is on a leave of absence), multi-site employees applying for permanent postings at that site will use their relative placement on the seniority list, at the date single-site was implemented, for competitive bidding purposes on the initial appointment to permanent postings.

Relative placement is defined as the average number of hours between the person above them and below them on the seniority list, at the time single-site was implemented.

Only after the employee is successful on a permanent posting will they port their aggregate seniority from the site where they’ve been working, and their seniority at the “receiving site” will be adjusted.
 
Aggregate seniority is calculated according to provisions outlined in the Single-Site Seniority Agreement.

Upon request, multi-site employees who have been appointed to permanent postings, may request confirmation of their adjusted seniority hours/date.

How does seniority work when a multi-site employee applies for a permanent posting at the site/employer where they’re currently working?

Multi-site employees, applying for permanent postings at a site/employer where they’re currently working, use their aggregate seniority at that site, which was calculated at the implementation of single-site.

What happens if multi-site employees apply for a permanent posting at a site/employer where they do not have an existing employment relationship?

Multi-site employees, who apply for permanent postings at a site/employer where they do not have an existing employment relationship, will be considered external applicants and will not port seniority as outlined in the SSTF.

However, employees maintain existing rights, where the receiving employer’s collective agreement provides for porting of seniority (i.e. Article 14.12.03 of the FBA agreement), then the collective agreement will apply.

What happens when Single-Site Orders end and multi-site employees wish to return to a site, where they’ve been restricted from working, and discover their job has been posted permanently?

The Single-Site Permanent Posting Agreement requires both parties establish a framework that provides employment security for multi-site employees.

These questions and answers are confidential and for the use of HEU members only. The interpretation provided is on a without prejudice and precedent basis to any position that HEU/FBA may take in any arbitration process or other forum. Copyright 2020.