Teacher hired full-time while on mat leave entitled to full benefits

Teacher deserved full-time benefits from date of hiring, not date of return: Arbitrator

An Ontario school board violated its collective agreement by not paying the proper level of parental leave benefits for a teacher who was promoted while on parental leave, an arbitrator has ruled.

The teacher worked for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and began her pregnancy leave on Feb. 3, 2009. At the time she went on leave, she held a part-time teaching position equal to 0.6 of a full-time position (FTE). Under the collective agreement between the school board and the teachers’ union, the school board paid 85 per cent of the premium costs for parental and maternity leave benefits for full-time teachers. For part-time teachers, the school board paid a prorated portion of 85 per cent, with the teacher covering the remaining portion of the premium.

On Sept. 23, 2009, the teacher applied for and was successful in landing a full time position (1.0 FTE) with the school board. However, she was still on leave. Though her leave officially ended on Feb. 3, 2010, she made an arrangement with the school board to wait until the new school year in September to start work. As a result, she took unpaid leave until the end of the current school year on June 30, 2010. When she returned to work in September 2010, she assumed the full-time position.

However, the teacher had a dispute over her benefits premium during her leave. The school board paid the prorated portion of the premium for the entire length of her leave, based on her 0.6 FTE position at the beginning of her leave. The teacher argued the school board should have paid the maximum 85 per cent of the premium once she was hired to a full-time position in September 2009 for the remainder of her leave. Because she was on leave, she wasn’t treated as a full-timer until a year after she was hired full-time, which discriminated against her based on her family status, said the teacher.

The school board disagreed, saying its consistent practice over the years was to determine the teacher’s status at the beginning of her leave and set its benefits contribution for the full period of her leave. It pointed to situations where teachers decided during their leave to become part-time when they returned, but the school board paid their full-time benefits for the balance of the leave. As a result, all comparable teachers were treated equally.

The arbitrator found the teacher obtained full-time status in September 2009 and should have been treated as a full-time teacher at that point. This included being entitled to the full employer contribution outlined in the collective agreement, said the arbitrator. The arbitrator upheld the grievance and found the school board breached the collective agreement’s provision on employer-paid benefit premiums. See Ottawa-Carleton District School Board v. Ottawa Carleton Elementary Teachers’ Federation, 2011 CarswellOnt 1368 (Ont. Arb. Bd.

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