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Winnipeg School Division staff may need sick note to isolate if positive for COVID-19

Teachers in Winnipeg’s largest school division may need a medical note if they test positive for COVID-19 and wish to self-isolate for the recommended five days.

A memo sent to Winnipeg School Division staff by its human resources division said that employees who call in sick due to COVID-19 should be marked as ill, rather than “in quarantine” as they were previously during the pandemic, and will require a note. from their doctor if they are absent more than three days.

“We are no longer in a pandemic situation and therefore quarantine should not be used,” the memo stated in regards to how absences are recorded.

The Winnipeg School Division told CBC the quarantine absence code is only used when there is a public health directive for a person to quarantine “where you might otherwise be fined for non-compliance.”

“For COVID, this was when public health was mandating self-isolation due to being a close contact or having a positive result,” WSD spokesman Radean Carter said in an email.

Currently, Manitobans who have tested positive for COVID-19 are not required to quarantine but public health is recommending they isolate for at least five days and until symptoms have resolved.

The union representing the province’s teachers says getting a sick note makes it hard for staff to stay home for the recommended five days if they become sick with COVID-19.

The Manitoba Teachers ‘Society said it realizes the teachers’ collective agreement language may require a sick note for illness, but that implementation should be “reasonable.”

James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, says it does not make sense to ask teachers to go to see a doctor to get a sick note if they already have a positive COVID-19 test, especially when Doctors Manitoba has advised people against this since the start of the pandemic.

“It’s not just looking out for themselves and their own safety, but it’s the safety of the students they come into contact with, the safety of their colleagues at a school,” he said.

“I think this is one of those areas that just demands the application of common sense – and quite frankly, following the good advice of public health and Doctors Manitoba.”

Carter said the division is in no way pressuring staff to return to work if they are self isolating after a positive COVID-19 test or if they are sick and continue to have symptoms, whether it is with COVID-19 or another illness.

Carter said the requirement for a sick note after three days is not a new policy and is standard practice in most industries.

“Due to the situation we are in with COVID cases continuing to occur, WSD human resources is treating lengthy absence (more than three days) on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration those instances when a person is responsibly self-isolating. Due to a positive COVID result, “Carter wrote in the email.

“WSD encourages employees to stay home if they are sick and use their allotted sick time as it is meant for this purpose.”

Bedford advises teachers to contact their union if they face issues following the public health recommendation to isolate, in obtaining a sick note or in accessing sick leave.

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