COVID-19: Balancing the Employer’s Right to Know With Your Right to Privacy

Many of you may have recently returned from travel out of the country and been directed to quarantine or self isolate for a period of 14 days. You may also have elected to do so out of concern that you may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.  In either event, QUFA strongly encourages you to report these events to your Head or Dean, and to complete the COVID – 19 Quarantine or Self-Isolation Form attached below.

Normally, if you were ill for a period of fourteen days, or absent from work for a total of 14 days due to a chronic condition, you would be expected to inform Human Resources to ensure timely access to  access to leave provisions in the Collective Agreement , including sick leave , compassionate leave or personal leave, and Long Term Disability (LTD) benefits if needed.

The purpose of this form is to streamline the reporting process in the current situation.  In addition, it will provide information that allows the University to continue to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all employees.

THE PURPOSE and USE OF THE FORM

The University ‘s Obligation to Ensure a Safe and Healthy Workplace

The arrival and spread of COVID-19 to Kingston and the Queen’s University Campus is a threat to the health and safety of all employees. The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act requires the University to take all necessary steps to provide their employees with a safe and healthy workplace during this extraordinary time. By necessity, this includes collecting and communicating data on the presence of COVID-19 in the workplace, to direct and support the Administration in  taking the necessary steps to mitigate the impact of the disease.

Mitigation measures can include providing employees with the option to work at home, to transition from the classroom to remote learning, imposing restrictions on non – essential travel or access to campus facilities, canceling or limiting attendance at meetings and gatherings, and encouraging and supporting proper hygiene with the provision of soap, tissues, receptables, hand sanitizer and maintaining a clean campus.

QUFA Members Access to Rights in the Collective Agreement

The simplicity of the form is a benefit to our members.  There is no medical note required.  The form is submitted to the Return to Work Office which has an established protocol for handling confidential information.  If you require an extended leave in the future, by completing this form you have established the basis for your absence from work, and triggered the obligation for the Return to Work office  to track your absences in a way that ensures a smooth transition to sick leave and LTD if needed.

Privacy Considerations

The University is required to manage the collection and disclosure of personal information in accordance with the employee’s statutory rights to privacy.   They can only collect personal information that is necessary for the purpose it is being collected, and disclosure of that information must be limited to individuals whose role is to process the information for the following purposes:

  • to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community;
  • to process and administer WSIB claims;
  • to process and administer sick leave claims;
  • to process and administer LTD claims;
  • to process and administer requests for medical accommodation;
  • to process and approve other personal leave requests, including compassionate or personal leave.

QUFA is currently seeking reassurance from the University that there are protocols in place to maintain the confidentiality of the information collected in the COVID-19 form from the time of intake to the transfer of information for future use as needed.  In the interim, please do not hesitate to contact me by email with any questions you have about access to health and sick leave benefits during the next weeks and months.

In Solidarity

Peggy Smith
QUFA Grievance Officer
smithpe@queensu.ca