Advocacy Corner

APSA advocates answer your questions about the AD 10 policies that govern your employment. From parental leave to working overtime to discipline meetings, we answer your workplace questions. Asking questions can be scary. That's why all questions are submitted anonymously

 

Advocacy Panelists

Wanda Dekleva
Wanda Dekleva

Chair of the Advocacy Committee

Mike Peragine
Mike Peragine

Former director on the Board and member of the Advocacy Committee.

Andrew Boden
Andrew Boden

APSA Executive Director

Rob McTavish
Rob McTavish

Advocacy Committee Member

APSA Representation

My supervisor requested that I attend a meeting with HR regarding my performance. She said that I could bring along my APSA representative. Is it okay to bring along my friend, Dave? Dave is a member of APSA, and I've worked with him for years.

Typically such meetings are also known as an investigation meeting.  Either your supervisor, a Human Resources advisor or a Labour Relations advisor will ask you a series of questions regarding issues of concern, which you're required to answer. There may also be more than one meeting as the issues involved may be very complex. Regardless, the outcome of your meeting could be disciplinary.


It's very important to have representation that is both skilled and informed in labour relations issues and experienced at investigation meetings. While I am sure that you're friend, Dave is a great guy, he likely isn't familiar with APSA advocacy work and couldn't adequately represent you. An advocate with APSA would coach you prior to the meeting on how to comport yourself, support you through the process and ensure that your rights are defended throughout the investigation. Just as you would no more have Dave represent you in a legal matter, it's best to have a trained APSA advocate on your side in your workplace investigation.


Should the meeting go poorly for you (you receive an unpaid suspension, for example) and you wished to grieve the outcome, not having skilled APSA representation at the meeting could make your challenge of the discipline imposed more difficult. You and Dave may not have thought to take notes during the meeting, which both record the questions and your responses.  Without these, a challenge to the outcomes of the investigation is far less likely to succeed. You may also say things that could be deleterious to your SFU career.  A skilled APSA advocate ensures that these items and others are addressed in your favour.

Overtime

Different departments seem to regard time off in lieu differently. How do we interpret this policy when departments expect members to work at least five hours of overtime each week?

We have heard that some departments consider 20 hours a month of overtime work "reasonable". Others require members to work a set amount of overtime before they can have time off in lieu. There are even others where staff are working 11 or 12 hours a day and are asked to make up the time for an appointment over and above the additional hours that have already been worked.

In all the above instances, the interpretation of the policy is incorrect. 

AD10.13 Work Schedules outlines overtime. Section 3.03 states,

A member of [APSA] at the University is primarily self-directing and self-disciplinary concerning the functions of his/her position. He/she will exercise discretion about the time and location of work performed in support of the established job objectives. From time to time the Employee may find that for a variety of reasons it is necessary to work considerably more than a standard work week to carry out his/her responsibilities satisfactory.

While there is no monetary compensation for these extra hours, the Employee is entitled to a reasonable compensating time away from the workplace at a time mutually acceptable to the Employee and the supervisor. The Employee's right in this respect should be accommodated.

Please note the phrase, “from time to time”, which means overtime should not be a consistently set amount of time, but rather on occasion, when needed.

Section 3.3 also uses the word “reasonable”. It is not reasonable to ask members to work 20 hours of overtime each month.

Departments who practice this type of overtime are in violation of the policy. We strongly advise managers who oversee this practice to modify it to ensure it is in compliance with the policy.

Additionally, members who are subjected to this practice may have grounds to file a grievance. Please contact myself or an APSA advocate so we can investigate and file a grievance on your behalf.

My supervisor is in the office 1-2 days a week. The remaining time is taken in lieu. Is this possible?

While unconventional, this situation is possible. The supervisor and their managing supervisor will have worked out the time in lieu details to ensure they were compensated, while being able to complete the work required.

Can I get time off in lieu? My boss is never in the office, what can I do?

Have a proactive conversation with your supervising manager about working significant additional hours. This may require booking a formal meeting, if your supervising manager is out of the office often. The discussion should clarify what the expectations are, how the additional hours of work will be tracked/monitored, what office coverage will look like and how the contribution will be recognized. If a reasonable compromise is not reached, the APSA office is available for support and advice.

Position Elimination

Is it enough if your boss doesn't like you or do they have to fully eliminate the position?

Your boss cannot fire you simply because they don’t like you. However, if you are under probation, “lack of suitability” is a valid reason to end employment before the end of probation (AD10.22). 

Outside of probation, to eliminate a position, managers or supervisors must follow proper procedure and justify the need to eliminate the position. APSA advocates attend all elimination meetings, to ensure the procedures, described in AD10.18 Elimination of Positions and Employment Continuity, are followed.

If my position is eliminated, would severance be based on my current part-time salary, even though I previously worked full-time?

In the event your position is eliminated, severance would be based on your years of service; one month’s salary for each full year of service to a maximum of 18 months’ salary, at your current salary (see AD 10.18 Elimination of Positions and Employment Continuity).

If you are working part-time when your position is eliminated, severance would be based on your part-time salary. 

For example:
Jim worked at SFU for ten years. The first nine years at full-time and the last year at part-time. His position is eliminated. He would receive 10 months of severance (one month for every year of service) based on his part-time salary, as he was working part-time when his position was eliminated. 

Position Evaluation

If my position has been upgraded, will I receive retro pay?

Yes. AD10.06 Position Evaluation and Salary Administration 7.02 b. states that if a position is re-evaluated, the effective date of the salary change will be the date of the request (when it is received by HR), or the date the member assumed the increased responsibility, whichever is later. 

For example, a job description is submitted for re-evaluation and received by Human Resources on Sept. 1. The evaluation is returned with an approved salary change on Dec. 1. The member would be retroactively paid from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1. 
 

Probation

My temporary position became continuing, yet I still have to do probation, why?

I did a job for almost a year at a very high level of efficiency and competency. I was the successful candidate for the continuing position, yet I still had to do a 6-month probation period, which I find unfair and unnecessary. 

APSA was heavily involved with creating AD 10.22 Probation Period, as it gives members the opportunity to adjust to a new position. We ensured the policy included section 4.06, which states that the Probationary Period may be reduced or waived, in writing, at the discretion of the hiring supervisor. This applies if you moved from a temporary position to a continuing one, or if you moved from another employee group and were appointed to a continuing position. 

We recommend asking your supervisor to have the probation waived.

Resignation

Is it mandatory to serve the one month notice period or can the notice period be negotiated to be reduced in lieu of compensation?

Unfortunately, the notice period cannot be negotiated in lieu of compensation. Policy AD 10.20 Resignation, section 3.03, states written notice of resignation is required four weeks before date of resignation. 

That said, we know instances where members gave less than four weeks’ notice. A note is made on the member’s file in Human Resources, stating less than required notice was given.

Can the university force us to resign without due process?

I know a senior APSA member who was offered a buy out to resign. He had to sign a contract silencing him. 

No. There are ONLY four ways a members’ employment can be terminated outside of position eliminations. They are listed under AD 10.19 Discipline and Termination of Employment. Acting outside of these is acting outside of the AD10 Policies that APSA and the University negotiate and agree upon.

If you are contacted or offered incentives to resign, contact the APSA office, specifically the Executive Director, immediately before responding verbally or in writing.  

Does the four weeks notice apply if I'm taking another position at SFU?

As you are not resigning from the the University, the written four weeks notice timeframe does not apply. However, it is at the discretion of your supervisors. The hiring supervisor and your previous supervisor may discuss what the required notice or new start date would be.

Policy AD 10.03 Posting and Filling of Positions section 5.06 states, "[r]easonable notice is expected when an Employee transfers from one department to another department within the University. The supervisors in the two departments should consult with each other and arrive at a mutually acceptable transfer date."

 

 

Termination

Can I be fired? What reasons would lead to instant termination?

There are four instances where the University could terminate a member's employment, outlined in AD10.19 Discipline and Termination of Employment. Note that all these cases are based on members’ activities and are within the control of a member to either work to correct the issue or avoid conduct that is unacceptable.

  1. Gross Misconduct
    May include, but is not limited to: absences without leave, assault, insubordination, negligence, unauthorized possession or use of University property, facilities or services.
     
  2. Unacceptable Conduct
    Action or inaction by an Employee that is incompatible with, or prejudicial to, the business of the University.
     
  3. Unsatisfactory Performance 
    The failure to satisfy expected standards of performance in the position. The disciplinary measures for this, along with unacceptable conduct, may include:
    1. oral warnings,
    2. written warnings,
    3. informal or formal Trial Periods,
    4. suspension,
    5. demotion,
    6. termination of employment.

  4. Non-Culpable Circumstances
    Situations where an Employee is unable to fulfill the requirements of the employment relationship because of circumstances or events over which he/she has no control. It should be mentioned that these cases are rare. In the ten years I’ve been with APSA, we haven’t had one case.  

Tuition Waiver

Am I able to use a tuition waiver to take an SFU evening course while I am away on parental leave?

Yes, AD.10.12 Tuition Waiver policy states that members are eligible for Tuition Waiver if they are on an “approved leave of absence”. Under AD10.08 Leaves With and Without Pay, Parental Leave is considered an approved leave of absence.

Vacation Time

Are there any restrictions to when I can use my vacation time?

While supervisors will make every effort to accommodate everyone’s vacation requests, there can be things which prevent you from taking your ideal time such as department vacation blackout times or too many employees requesting time off for the same period.

I am a new SFU APSA employee in a full-time continuing appointment that started in December of 2018. Now that it’s January 2019, how long until I can use my vacation time?

Welcome to SFU and to APSA! The good news is that your full allotment of vacation time is available for you to use at the beginning of each year. As a new full-time continuing employee, you have 4 weeks (or 144 hours at fulltime hours) per year of vacation time.

 

If you are a part-time continuing employee, your vacation time will be prorated based on your FTE.

Are there any restrictions regarding when I can use my vacation time?

Supervisors will make a reasonable effort to facilitate vacation schedules that allow the maximum number of employees to take vacations on the dates of each employee’s choice.

What happens if I use up all my vacation time at the beginning of the year, but I leave the university halfway through the year?

If, for example, you use all 4 weeks of your vacation time in January and then choose to leave the University in July, you will be asked to repay half of your used vacation time.

Am I allowed to save up my vacation time?

Yes! You are allowed to save, or “roll over”, 1 years’ worth of vacation time. This means, if you only used 2 weeks of vacation in 2018, you would start 2019 with 6 weeks of vacation. However, you must use your rolled over vacation by the end of 2019, or the University will pay out the unused time.

APSA, however, discourages rolling over of vacation. It’s important for everyone to be able to get time away from work to refresh and recharge.

It’s also important that if you wish to roll over your vacation time, that you talk to your supervisor and let them know what your plans are. This allows your department to better plan for your longer than anticipated absence.

My department told me I was only allowed to roll over 5 vacation days each year, are there different rules for different departments?

No. Every APSA member is allowed to roll over up to 1 years’ worth of vacation time to the next year.

I’m about to give my notice to resign and I have unused vacation time. Can my department force me to use my vacation time instead of paying it out?

The policies (AD 10.08 – Section 5.05) state that vacation cannot be taken immediately before termination of employment, and that any earned vacation will be paid out on your final pay cheque.

My vacation time balance on myinfo.sfu.ca is different than my own accounting of my vacation time. Who should I talk to?

It’s always important to keep track of your vacation time separately from myinfo just in case! If you find a discrepancy, talk to your supervisor.

Do I still earn vacation time when I’m away on maternity or parental leave?

Yes! And because you can roll over a full year’s worth of vacation time to the next year, this can allow you to have some extra vacation available to you as you transition back to work.

I used up all of my vacation time, but I’ve found I still need time off this year. Can I request a Leave without Pay?

Yes. Though be aware that departments are not required to grant leave without pay requests. You can read more about how to request a leave without pay in AD 10.08, section 11 Personal Leave without Pay.

I am a temporary employee, do I get vacation time?

Under most circumstances, temporary employees are paid 8% in lieu of vacation time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take time off. You can request time off the same way as you would for vacation, but it would just be classified as leave without pay. Your 8% in lieu should cover you for your time off.

Work Schedule

What's a Variable Scheduled Work Week?

The Variable Scheduled Work Week is when an employee works 72 hours in nine days, over two weeks. A common example is working an extra 48 minutes each day in order to be off work every other Friday. 

To apply, a proposal with supporting documentation should include:

  1. details and terms in writing such as work schedule, service levels, coverage, vacation and supervision of staff during absence (if applicable), and,
  2. how the proposed Variable Scheduled Work Week shall improve operation service and efficiency or, at the very least, maintain the same level of operational service and efficiency to the university community and members of the public.

Submit the proposal the department head or the appropriate vice president. They have 25 working days to reply. Details on the Variable Scheduled Work Week are contained in a Memorandum of Agreement, which is renewed on a regular basis.