This was a policy grievance relating to the Hospital’s “Attendance Support Program” (ASP). The Union had a number of concerns related to the number of employees on the program, the length of time they were spending on the program and the inconsistencies between the program and Article 3.02 of the Collective Agreement (Attendance Management).

The Board of Arbitration, chaired by William Kaplan, made a number of orders that addressed the Union’s concerns.

First, with respect to the number of employees on the ASP and the length of time spent on the program, the Board amended the ASP to include an “annual reconciliation” method for exiting the program. The method allowed employees whose absences fall short of an annual attendance threshold to exit from or move to a lower stage of the program.

Second, with respect to the discrepancies between the ASP and Article 3.02, the Board made it clear that absences for any reason listed in Article 3.02 shall not count for any purpose under the ASP. (Article 3.02 prohibits hospitals from counting certain types of absences for attendance management purposes, including absences arising out of a medically-established serious chronic condition, an ongoing treatment, a catastrophic event, medically necessary surgical interventions, a confirmed communicable disease requiring the employee to be absent under the hospital or public health authority protocol, absences for which WSIB benefits are payable or leaves covered by the Employment Standards Act or Article 12 of the Collective Agreement.)

The Board also ordered the Hospital to provide the Union with information necessary to monitor the Hospital’s compliance with its orders, including data related to the program and to the movement of employees within the program. For its part, the employees were reminded of their obligation to advise management if an absence is related to the listed grounds in Article 3.02 and to provide medical documentation upon request.

This is the first award addressing Article 3.02, a provision first negotiated in the 2014- 2017 central collective agreement. It confirms that absences for the reasons listed in that section cannot be counted for the purposes of attendance management programs. The case has already had a significant impact on the affected bargaining unit. Prior to the award, approximately half the bargaining unit had been placed on the ASP. Since the award, over half of these employees have been taken off the program.