Over the past 15 months, CUPE locals have negotiated various letters of understanding with employers in response to the necessary public health measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home measures required a significant proportion of workers to work remotely, if possible, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Work from home (also known as telework, telecommuting or remote work) is commonly understood as using technology to perform work outside of the employer’s worksite.

Work from home arrangements continue to be important on the road to recovery as both public and workplace health and safety measures are maintained to prevent further outbreaks or waves of infection. Some CUPE locals may wish to negotiate the continuation of work from home arrangements on a more permanent basis as a collective agreement right, rather than a response. Informed by the experiences brought on by this pandemic, CUPE locals may also wish to strengthen contingency collective agreement provisions in preparation for, or in response to, another emergency that bars employees from their worksite.

Examples of language excerpts from CUPE collective agreements are organized under these headings. The language cited may not represent the clause or LOU in its entirety. CUPE national representatives and researchers can support CUPE locals to negotiate the best language for their particular situation.

Negotiating Work from Home Language

Collective agreement language for work from home arrangements should be comprehensive. CUPE recommends that such language include the following key components:

  • A definition of work from home that acknowledges it as a work option that permits workers to perform duties and responsibilities at a location other than the employer’s worksite.

View sample language

“Working from ” refers to an alternative work arrangement under which Contact Centre and Collections employees primarily perform their duties and responsibilities from their principal residence by electronic or other means, rather than the Corporation’s offices. The period in which employees participate in the Working from program will be referred to as the “Working from period”

CUPE Local 1000 (Power Workers’ Union), London Hydro Inc.
Letter of Understanding #4
1/1/2020 – 12/31/2023

The Parties recognize telecommuting as a viable work option that permits an employee to perform all or a significant portion of their job responsibilities at a location other than the traditional offices of the Employer.

Local 1063, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba
Letter of Understanding re: Telecommuting
03/11/2017 – 03/05/2021

  • The type of work that may be done as work from home, such as specific work functions or tasks, or certain classifications.

View sample language

The participation in this alternative work arrangement shall be limited to functions which, according to the Corporation, can be carried out from home.

CUPE Local 1000 (Power Workers’ Union), London Hydro Inc.
Letter of Understanding #4
1/1/2020 – 12/31/2023

The employee’s position must be such that the majority of their duties may be effectively performed at a site other than the traditional office of the Employer.

Local 1063, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba
Letter of Understanding re: Telecommuting
03/11/2017 – 03/05/2021

  • Acknowledgement that work from home is voluntary.

View sample language

Employee participation in the Working from Home program shall be strictly voluntary, limited to permanent employees in the Contact Centre and Collections departments, and will require the mutual consent of the volunteer employees and the Corporation.

CUPE Local 1000 (Power Workers’ Union), London Hydro Inc.
Letter of Understanding #4
1/1/2020 – 12/31/2023

Telecommuting is limited to requests initiated by the employee.

Local 1063, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba
Letter of Understanding re: Telecommuting
03/11/2017 – 03/05/2021

  • The protection of all collective agreement rights. Working from home should not change a worker’s employment status, hours of works, compensation, benefits or any other term or condition of employment stipulated in the collective agreement.

View sample language

A list with the last and first names of participants in the Working from Home program, their employment status, home address, and home telephone number will be transmitted to the appropriate Union Representative.

It is agreed that no change may be made to the job titles of employees because of their participation in the Working from Home program. Participation in the Working from Home program does not equate to a change in the duties or requirements of the classifications.

There shall be no change in the present level of remuneration or rate of progression for participants.

During the employees’ participation in the Working from Home program, all provisions of the Collective Agreement shall continue to apply.

CUPE Local 1000 (Power Workers’ Union), London Hydro Inc.
Letter of Understanding #4
1/1/2020 – 12/31/2023

  • Fair and reasonable criteria for providing work from home arrangements. Employers may insist on sole discretion over who can work from home. In this situation, locals should bargain language for selection criteria that prevents arbitrary selection, such as a seniority-based system.

View sample language

The hospital has the undisputed right to designate, increase or decrease the number of work-at-home opportunities. However, in the exercise of said right, the Hospital will not act unreasonably or in an arbitrary manner. Work-at-home -opportunities shall be offered in order of seniority.

Local 1065, Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital

Letter of Agreement re: Medical Transcribers (Work-At-Home)

09/29/2021 - 09/28/2021

Factors management will consider in deciding to approve a work at home arrangement include:

  • employees are required to perform 60% or greater of their regular work hours as assigned from their home office location.
  • the work to be performed is operationally feasible.
  • the quality and quantity will be at least as good as that performed at the workplace.
  • the work can be performed in a cost effective manner.
  • all terms of employment including the Collective Agreement and health and safety standards and policies will be upheld.

Management will identify those job classifications for which the Home Office Program (HOP) is an option based on the criteria listed above. Employees in these job classifications will be provided with the option of a work at home arrangement once they have successfully completed their probationary or trial period. Additionally, these employees will be provided with the option of entering the Home Office Program once they are working 60% or greater of their regular work hours as assigned from their home office location.

Local 1750 (Ontario Compensation Employees Union), Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Ontario

Article 25.04 Home Office Program

12/18/2017 – 04/30/2020

  • Scheduling, such as how work hours will be established and any foreseen requirements for reporting to the employer’s worksite.

View sample language

Work hours shall be established in accordance with Article 13 of the Collective Agreement.

Employees participating in the Working from Home program are required to work a minimum of two (2) days per calendar month from the Corporation’s office.

Employees participating in the Working from Home program are required to attend the Corporation’s office for meetings or training as requested by the Corporation with one (1) working days’ notice.

CUPE Local 1000 (Power Workers’ Union), London Hydro Inc.
Letter of Understanding #4
1/1/2020 – 12/31/2023

There will be core hours during which all telecommuting employees must be readily available. These core hours will be set by the Employer and appropriately documented.

Local 1063, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba
Letter of Understanding re: Telecommuting
03/11/2017 – 03/05/2021

  • Protocol in the event of work from home disruptions (e.g. power outage). The worker should not incur loss of wages due to circumstances beyond their control.

View sample language

Should a situation occur that prevents the er from operating normally (technology interfaces are deficient or not working, etc.) the er shall be responsible for contacting their supervisor/manager as quickly as possible. The ers shall not incur any loss of wages due to circumstances beyond their control and the College reserves the right to interrupt temporarily and call the employee back to their usual place of work until the situation is resolved.

Local 4627, Vancouver Community College

B-17.6(4)

10/01/2014 – 09/30/2019

  • Explicit health and safety language. Employers’ obligations to protect the health and safety of their employees and guarantee workplaces free from violence and harassment remain. An accident or injury incurred in the course of working from home should be reported and responded to in the same manner as if it occurred at the employer’s worksite. Joint health and safety committees should have jurisdiction over monitoring safety issues and making recommendations. Specific health and safety standards (e.g. ergonomic standards) may be included.

View sample language

When participating in the Working from Home program, participants shall be considered to be at work in the same way as if they were at the London Hydro office, including for Workplace Safety and Insurance Benefits purposes. Participants shall therefore take all reasonable measures to ensure their safety, in accordance with Corporation policies and practices, and in accordance with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

If an employee suffers an accident or injury in the course of their participation in the Working from Home program in their home, such accident or injury must be reported to their supervisor, and such accident or injury shall be treated in the same manner as if it occurred at the London Hydro office (i.e. as a workplace accident or injury).

CUPE Local 1000 (Power Workers’ Union), London Hydro Inc.
Letter of Understanding #4
1/1/2020 – 12/31/2023

To ensure effective levels of health and safety:

  • The employee will have a home office environment that poses no greater risk of injury or illness that exists in the current WSIB work environment.
  • The Employer and employee will ensure that the home office meets appropriate health & safety standards (noting ergonomic standards).
  • The employee will agree to complete the attached checklist.
  • Commencement of the program is conditional upon the completion of the form and correction of any identified deficiencies as well as the employee’s commitment to maintaining health & safety standards.
  • All existing accident investigation/reporting requirements continue to apply.
  • The employee will participate in yearly health and safety training programs provided by Corporate Health Centre and required of WSIB staff.
  • The employee and Employer will establish and institute suitable responsibility systems for accident prevention.
  • Subject to individual department protocols and needs, and in keeping with existing travel and business expense policies, the employee and the Employer will establish mutually satisfactory methods for transporting work materials. This may include return courier delivery service or reimbursement for the employee’s travel costs where transportation of the work materials may pose a health & safety hazard.
  • The local Joint Health and Safety Committee will also monitor the ongoing safety issues relating to the Home Office Program and make recommendations it considers appropriate to minimize any health and safety risks identified.

Local 1750 (Ontario Compensation Employees Union), Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Ontario

Appendix 5: Home Office Program

12/18/2017 – 04/30/2020

  • Security and privacy standards and expectations.

View sample language

Telecommuters are expected to perform their duties in a safe and healthy environment that conforms to the Employer’s security and confidentiality protocols. Employees may be asked to demonstrate how these needs are being met.

Local 1063, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba
Letter of Understanding re: Telecommuting
03/11/2017 – 03/05/2021

To ensure appropriate confidentiality and file security, upon entry into the Home Office Program, the manager and employee will review all applicable privacy standards and/or protocols to ensure they are in compliance with legislated requirements and/or WSIB practices. These practices will include, but not be limited to:

  • The employee will secure their home office from the rest of their living quarters or secure files within a locked storage area/filing cabinet when not in use.
  • Copies of confidential documents, that are no longer needed, will be returned by the employee to the WSIB office for appropriate disposal or filing.

Local 1750 (Ontario Compensation Employees Union), Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Ontario

Appendix 5: Home Office Program

12/18/2017 – 04/30/2020

  • Cost, ownership and maintenance of work equipment and necessary utilities (e.g. internet, phone, electricity). The cost arrangement for these items should be spelled out, such as reimbursement, compensation through allowance or loaned equipment. It should be clarified that the employer is responsible for the maintenance and/or replacement of equipment and materials.  

View sample language

The Hospital will provide to those employees working thirty-seven and one half (37 1/2) hours per week (or 75h biweekly pay period for full time employees) participating in the work-at-home agreement with the equipment and materials that would normally be provided said employee while working at the Hospital. The equipment will be serviced by the Hospital, remain as the property of the Hospital and be returned to the Hospital when the employee’s work-at-home agreement terminates. All equipment and materials provided by the Hospital, will not be used for any other purpose than in the performance of said employee’s assigned duties.

It is understood that the maintenance and/or replacement of the equipment and/or materials referred to in (a) above, is the responsibility of the Hospital unless the employee has been proven to be negligent.

Local 1065, Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital
Letter of Agreement re: Medical Transcribers (Work-At-Home)

09/29/2021 - 09/28/2021

Home Office Program Expenses

The following equipment will be provided by the Employer and must be returned to the WSIB upon exiting the Home Office Program:

  • a laptop computer with a mouse and a keyboard
  • a telephone headset (if required)
  • a first aid kit
  • a fire extinguisher
  • lock box or securing mechanism to transport files and laptop
  • other equipment as determined by the business

The Employer will be responsible for the repair, maintenance and installation of this equipment.

Participating employees will be provided with a one time home office set-up allowance not to exceed $3000 to purchase, at a minimum, a lockable desk, a chair, a file cabinet with a lock and any other required items. Reimbursement will be made upon provision of receipts.

Employees will be expected to purchase furniture with warranties similar to those adopted by the WSIB Procurement Services. Employees may request replacement furniture once these warranties have lapsed.

The employee will be responsible for regular maintenance of this furniture as well as ensuring that their home office is ergonomically correct. In case of damage caused by or to this furniture, the Employer will arrange for repair or a replacement, unless the damage results from unauthorized use or is caused deliberately.

Employees receiving this allowance must sign an agreement indicating that they will remain in the program for a minimum of 2 years. Should they withdraw from the program before the 2 years expires, employees must pay back the reimbursement according to the following pro-rated schedule:

  • Before 6 months - 100 per cent of Home Office Program setup allowance
  • Between 6 months and 1 year - 50 per cent of Home Office Program setup allowance
  • Between 1 year and 2 years - 25 per cent of Home Office Program setup allowance

Should the work at home arrangement be terminated at the request of the manager, the employee will not be required to reimburse the setup allowance.

Other eligible expenses:
The following additional expenses will be reimbursed to the participating employee upon provision of receipts:

  • Installation and monthly costs of a dedicated telephone line with multiple capabilities, where required.
  • General office supplies, not to exceed six hundred dollars ($600) annually, to cover the cost of items such as print cartridges and a printer.

Technical Support

The following technical support will be provided to the employee:

  • The Employer will pay one hundred percent (100%) of the installation and the actual amount of the monthly charges for home internet service, upon submission of receipt(s), to a maximum of thirty-five dollars ($35) per month. The Employer may also approve related expenses if needed. (examples: 100% for Ethernet cable, modem, router).
  • Systems support for the laptop computer via the reporting office location.
  • The Employer will provide a WSIB mobile phone.

Local 1750 (Ontario Compensation Employees Union), Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Ontario

Appendix 5: Home Office Program

12/18/2017 – 04/30/2020

  • Protocol for terminating the arrangement, such as notice period. This should include the worker’s right to initiate a termination of the work from home arrangement.

View sample language

Telework is voluntary and may be terminated with 30 days written notice by either the employee who is teleworking or the College, with reasons for the termination forwarded to the Union. Upon mutual agreement, the College and the Union retain the right to terminate a teleworking arrangement immediately or with less than 30 days’ notice.

Local 4627, Vancouver Community College

B-17.6(4)

10/01/2014 – 09/30/2019

Subject to a minimum trial period of 6 months, either the employee or manager can terminate or revisit the HOP option:

  • at any time by mutual agreement of the employee and manager OR
  • when the employee:
    • leaves the organization
    • moves to another position (on a permanent or temporary basis)
    • is affected by an employee exercising their bumping rights
    • is required to exercise their bumping rights to obtain another position
  • employee and manager cannot resolve issues related to performance.

The employee may request that the HOP program be suspended to accommodate unique personal circumstances. Such requests will be subject to management approval.

Local 1750 (Ontario Compensation Employees Union), Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Ontario

Appendix 5: Home Office Program

12/18/2017 – 04/30/2020

Work from home arrangements may be requested as an accommodation. Such requests for accommodation should be dealt with under the collective agreement accommodation procedures, as different considerations apply in such circumstances.