Do B.C. teachers really need 15 days of sick leave per year that accumulate without a maximum?

The B.C. Teachers' Federation has many legitimate gripes with the B.C. Liberal government.

That's pretty clear when a B.C. Supreme Court judge weighs the evidence and concludes that the Christy Clark–led government wanted to provoke a strike.

It was also inexcusable for the former Gordon Campbell government—with Clark as education minister—to rip up an existing contract giving the union the right to negotiate class size and composition. That violated teachers' charter right to freedom of association.

As Protect Public Education Now has pointed out, shredding the contract led to a sharp increase in the number of children with special needs in classrooms.

The BCTF also scores a bull's-eye when it condemns the province for having the second worst per student funding in Canada.

But there's one aspect of teachers' contracts that taxpayers have good reason to question. And that's the sick-leave provisions.

As things stand now, teachers in the Vancouver school system are eligible for 1.5 days of sick leave per month.

In a 10-month school year, this means 15 sick days, which accumulate year after year without any maximum if the teacher doesn't use them.

It's a ridiculous provision that only reinforces inaccurate perceptions that teachers have it easy at work.

Good, committed teachers don't call in sick 150 days per decade unless they're suffering from a very serious chronic disease.

If the BCTF wants to generate some public goodwill, it should offer to give up some of the sick days or, at the very least, agree to a maximum accumulated sick days.

This way, boards of education won't have to spend as much money hiring substitutes for any malingerers who take more days off than they need.

I have a hunch that the best teachers in the public-school system wouldn't have a problem with that.

It might also free up a bit of money for boards of education to provide more services to students.

Comments (69) Add New Comment
They probably need all those sick days considering these large class sizes and the amount of people who don't think twice before sending their children to school when they're sick.
Rating: +25
Are you aware that teachers DO NOT get anything at the end of their career for the sick days they have accumulated? I currently have 345 sick days but will receive nothing for them, not even a dollar a day. I would suggest you spend a week with 30 nine year olds during cold and flu season and see if 1.5 sick days per month is truly unreasonable!!
Rating: +15
Teachers on Call
Something worth considering is that Teachers on Call make their living by these sick days. Limiting the sick days would have a huge effect on subs, who are already struggling for work in this overcrowded city. I know people who have been subbing for years, and can barely make rent some months.
Rating: +3
Charlie Smith
The Teachers on Call issue could be ameliorated if boards hired more younger teachers and fewer retirees as substitutes. The retirees are often already collecting a pension and are just topping up their incomes. They also entered the housing market when it was more affordable to buy. But the BCTF's contract language in its proposal states: "The employer shall first offer on-call assignments to teachers teaching on call...who have the greatest seniority" Furthermore, on-call seniority is determined from the length of service from the date of hire to the district. This would ensure younger teachers on call won't receive as much work.
Rating: +50
Don't ask people about someone else's working conditions, they'll all think the work is easy, the teachers overpaid, that they make more than the respondent.... What does the public care what Isfe in my profession. People want subsidies, from everybody, and having cheap labour and cheap benefits suits tax payers fine. But it's not money, it's that they are in the community and an easy target. 38 billion, yes billion, was the total governments subsidies to big oil., but you won't find anyone bitching about teachers complaint about that. It's all manipulated by the government to make teachers looks greedy.
Rating: +30

The claim that "Good, committed teachers don't call in sick 150 days per decade unless they're suffering from a very serious chronic disease." twists the 1.5 sick days per month quoted in this article into a number that is easier to accuse of being inappropriately large and ripe for abuse by teachers.

150 days sounds like a lot. A decade sounds like a little. 10 years is a long time. 1.5 sick days per month is nothing. It's ONE DAY. One day per month where a teacher can wake up sick and not feel forced to teach your children while sick. So your children can come home and make you sick. So you can blame that teacher for not calling in sick, making your kid sick, and impacting your income having to take YOUR sick day. If you have one.

15 sick days per 10-month school year (using this article's numbers) is a fair. One day per month is fair. Two days in a month after a teacher has stockpiled last month's sick day is fair. Hell, if a teacher has worked for 9 years without taking a sick day, and then requires the use of one hundred and fifty sick days, that's not a vacation, that's needed time for a presumed serious illness. That time off to recover from an illness would be deserved.

Any implication that sick days "left unchecked" are there to be abused by teachers is generalizing, fear-mongering, and disrespectful.
Rating: +21
Charlie Smith

How many people seriously take 15 days of sick leave over 10 months?

I suspected that with all of the caveats I mentioned at the outset of the article, several commenters would still say no: teachers need their 15 days of sick leave over 10 months. It's one of many reasons why we're in the midst of this mess.

I've been lucky with my health, which is why I haven't taken 15 days sick leave in my 20 years at the Georgia Straight. I can't fathom the notion of me taking 300 sick days off over that period and the cost that would have imposed on my employer.

Charlie Smith
Rating: +11


Hyperbole. We both cannot claim to verify the number of people who utilize 15 days of sick leave over a 10-month period, although an actual study of the usage among BC teachers would probably shut down this conversation right quick one way or the other.

Using your given example working at the Georgia Straight, firstly, thank heavens for your health. No sarcasm whatsoever, I genuinely would never wish ill health on anyone.

I can only guess that if you did have a stockpile of 300 sick days via the Georgia Straight, should you theoretically fall so ill that you would require such a long recovery, that your employer would rather you were recovering well instead of leaving you stressed and in need.

Again, only guesswork here, but I would give pause to the notion that people become teachers on the promise of accumulating 300 sick days over the course of 20 years.

If a teacher gets hit with a communicable disease, I want them home resting, not teaching children, and I want them to feel secure knowing that they don't have to weigh my child's health vs. their income when choosing to stay home.
Rating: +26
cranky mom
15 days sick leave is the equivalent of 3 weeks. It is over 9 months because there are 2 - two week breaks within the school year. Christmas and March break.

It is not a sustainable business model.
Rating: +8
Sick Leave
Sick leave doesn't 'belong' to the teacher. It belongs to the employer to give to the employee if they need it, up to a certain number of days per hear. So quit your whining that you don't get credit for unused time when you retire. The days don't belong to you! To prevent colds and flu, put down your doughnuts and chocolate, get on a treadmill, quit smoking, and quit whining. Optimistic people live longer. And if someone is genuinely ill, then they should get all the time they need, and all the best to them. Not the greedy entitled ones.
Rating: +14
I'm a former teacher. I have many friends who are former teachers. Teachers of MY acquaintance never took days off unless they were REALLY sick. It is really HARD to plan for someone else. So much of what we are looking for every day is in our heads and someone who doesn't know the children as well cannot be expected to pick up the subtle nuances that we watch for all day long. It could take a couple of hours to write down a simplified plan or a completely altered plan, prepare and collect all the materials, and leave detailed information for the routines that would make the day easier for someone coming in at the last minute. Teachers I know had sometimes hundreds of unused sick days at the end of their careers. We do not PLAN to be sick. It is truly inconvenient to be sick. We certainly don't think, 'Gee, I still have x number of sick days left this year. I think I'll just take a week off or maybe just take long weekends until the end of the year.' This is not why we are teachers. Perhaps YOU know someone like this. I have NEVER known anyone like this in 34 years of teaching.

Sometimes things are brought up in contract negotiations that the government or the media multiplies the dollars out as if every teacher in the province were to use whatever it is to the absolute maximum. This is just silly. People fall for it, though, every time, so I guess it's in the government's and the media owners' best interest to continue.
Rating: +37
I almost never agree with anything Charlie has to say, but he is right on with this point. As for the teachers giving up anything - good luck with that. All they know is want, want, want. For the children of course - NOT!!!!!
Rating: -10
The first job I had out of university paid 4% sick pay in lieu of providing paid leave. That's the equivalent of roughly a day a month. My current employer provides 1.25 days/month to hourly employees. 1.5 days/month in a position that involves interacting with large groups of school-aged kids isn't at all unreasonable.
Rating: +34
Composition is very important, just remember that aides assist the teachers, there are not enough of these
people in the classrooms. They belong to C.U.P.E. Which has settled!! Strange, no one seems to
mention this.
The big elephant in the room. Unreasonabe benefits. The way teachers go on about their issues ,
I believe they are not aware of what is being requested on their behalf.
Teachers! I dare you to tell us why you should get the benefit package, you think you so richly deserve.
For all concerned, use your smart parts.
Rating: -16
Cranky Teacher
Well Cranky Mom..if you kept your coughing, sneezing and snot smearing kid at home when they are sick this might not be a problem. And Charlie, what exactly is your point ? Is it about alleged abuse of sick days (nice proof btw...) or just a rant against experienced teachers (10 plus years teaching). Like most anti teacher writers, you have absolutely no experience to back up what you are talking about. Oh wait...I am attended school for 12 years as a student...therefore you are an authority.
Rating: +6
Pat J
As a teacher, I only use the sick days I absolutely have too. Last year I used 2.5 of them. Most of my colleagues used less. No one used all 15. That being said, I teach at a school in a well-off neighbourhood, so parents can afford to (and do) take a day off to look after their sick child(ren). At my school there is a good amount of stay at home mums who seem to not mind at all if their child stays home for a day due to a cough. Also, my parents can afford to feed their children well and buy medications. Not all schools are like this. Upwards of 30 children in a small space is a recipe for getting ill. Teachers won't be their best if they don't have the time to fully recover, which is necessary for a job that requires so much enthusiasm, movement and speaking. Current sick days are appropriate and from what I've seen not abused.
Rating: +21
When Does Food Bank Reopen?
People think we have it so easy.
Rating: -1
Gale Tyler
I taught for 35 years in BC public school classrooms. During that time, I knew almost no teacher who abused the sick days accumulated. These days were negotiated as insurance against illness. The majority of teachers retire with hundreds of unused sick days. Just like fire insurance, you hopefully won't need to claim. However, the teachers that used the most sick days were young teachers teaching the youngest children who are more prone to communicable diseases. Teachers teaching in large classes with multiple class composition challenges and little support, are wearing down.. The Christy Clarke government is making many teachers exhausted and this leads to illness. Let us not focus on the accumulated sick days. Instead, show support for public education so teachers won't need to take sick days.
Rating: +23
Most teachers do not use all their sick days every year. Last year I had two colleagues retire, both with more than 300 days of accumulated sick leave in their careers. When they retired, they didn't get anything for those sick days. They just disappeared, the sick days, not the teachers.
But if they did need them due to serious illness, then they had them. Some teachers use a little more, many use very little. Many times teachers come in to work when they are sick because it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare for a substitute. I have heard of colleagues going into school at 2 or 3 in the morning to get things ready for a substitute the next day. So yeah, teachers get 1.5 days a month but many times they come in to teach even when they know they should stay at home and get better.
Rating: +25
The sick days issue is small potatoes. There are lots of villains to hiss at.

The Campbell Liberals are villains because they negotiated a pay increase for teachers without increasing budgets to school districts. The districts are villains because they squawked a bit and then, in North Van anyway, laid off everyone with less than 5 years experience. The BCTF doesn't promote job sharing or anything that would help these new(ish) teachers. And the universities keep graduated hundreds of people every year when there are NO JOBS. There are lots of villains here folks.
Rating: +39


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