By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed during an April 13 meeting of the Haliburton County Public Library board.
Part-time employees with the Haliburton County Public Library now have access to 14 hours total sick leave time.
The benefit came into effect March 25, and last week library board members approved a procedural policy to help answer questions staff might have.
In the policy, Chris Stephenson, library CEO/chief librarian, wrote the sick leave was proposed “as a result of the pandemic and the need for protecting employee health and the well-being of our library colleagues.”
“It’s one way that employers can a) show that they care about all of their employees, and b) incentivize people to stay home when they’re sick so it doesn’t lead to an outbreak amongst all of our staff,” he told the board. “If someone has a more precarious situation with respect to part-time hours, they may feel compelled to come in even if they’re not feeling well.”
All part-time library employees will receive 14 hours total sick leave time at the beginning of each calendar year – a total of seven hours can be carried over into the following year, to a maximum of 21 hours max accumulation. The leave can be used for the employee to care for an immediate family member who is sick, with approval, to stay home if sick themselves, or to attend treatment sessions or surgeries. Generally, the longest shift a part-time employee has is six hours long.
“As an employer, we’re not required [under the Employment Standards Act] to offer sick leave benefits for part-time staff,” Stephenson told the Times. “However, as I said in the meeting, we want to ensure that staff are able to make choices to stay home if they are sick, so that our workplace stays healthy.”
The board had questions about how the process worked as sick days are offered upon employment as opposed to being accumulated like vacation days, but were all supportive of the benefit.
“I like the idea,” said Dysart et al Mayor and board vice-chair Andrea Roberts. “We have a very small staff, we want to be a reputable employer who looks after their staff …You can’t wait until someone gets sick to earn sick days … I really believe as an employer that this is the better policy.”
“This is exactly why this is in place and I agree 100 per cent,” said board member David O’Byrne. “We should not change this at all.”
Board member Curry Humphreys, who has an extensive human resources background, said she appreciates that a total of seven hours can be carried over to the following year.
“I think rollovers are really, really good because what they do is allow an employee who only gets two days in sick time to hold it over until they’re really, really sick, with some sort of catastrophic illness or other,” she said. “It will really help those employees when they have something serious come up, I’m not talking about a sniffle or a headache, I’m talking about a significant time, they can build up a bank that makes a big difference in their lives. It’s a good thing.”
“I have to say, I think this is really great,” said board chair Sally Howson. “There are so few organizations that do this for their part-time employees, and I think it’s wonderful.”
“This policy, and the idea for the benefit, was very much borne out of a need, given the pandemic that came along and changed the workplace in so many ways,” said Stephenson.
Gas mileage increase matched to county rate
At the March 16 meeting of the library board, the board supported Stephenson increasing the mileage rate from 45 cents per kilometre to 59 cents, reviewing that rate in a month’s time. The joint council recommended rate is 57.5 cents and the Canada Revenue Agency recommended rate is 61 cents.
After that meeting, the county also increased the mileage rate, to 61 cents per kilometre for the first 5,000 kilometres and 55 cents for distances after, according to CRA reasonable allowance rates.
The library board agreed last week to increase the rate to 61 cents, as per the CRA recommended rate.
“I just think for consistency’s sake we should probably do the same as the county,” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor, County Warden and board member Liz Danielsen.
Presenting on a library vehicle
Stephenson presented, for information only, on his proposal to one day procure a library courier/programming vehicle.
While previously the library’s courier used their own vehicle, Stephenson said for numerous reasons, including access and ownership of the vehicle, it was more appropriate for the library to have their own vehicle as other library systems do.
“Our library system makes the top three list of county library systems that serve the largest geography
in all of Ontario,” said Stephenson. In Simcoe County, librarians said their delivery van is their ”most visible” service, said Stephenson, as it provides advertising while transporting materials and operating as a bookmobile. In Bruce County, more of an RV is used to help offer a library on location when needed.
Stephenson said besides promoting the library by being visible throughout the community, a vehicle could help run pop-up programs, take part in events such as Stanhope Heritage Day, move furniture around and transport items across the system, and deliver materials.
Couriers hired to work with HCPL shouldn’t have to put “wear and tear” on their own vehicles, said Stephenson. He also said through the last hiring process he learned that without a library vehicle, the employee had to provide the right type of vehicle for the role. For the HCPL to maintain presence as an equitable employer and not discriminate against potential employees whose vehicle might limit them to the job, a library vehicle was required.
Stephenson said currently the library is borrowing a county vehicle until Sept. 1.
“The very idea that we’re thinking about buying a vehicle at all is something we need to think about and process, it’s a new idea,” said Danielsen. “To be quite honest when I first heard that we were thinking of buying a vehicle I thought, well, that’s just crazy. But I don’t think it’s so crazy anymore. Having listened to your presentation, the thoughts, what we could possibly do with it in the future, I think it’s worth considering.”
Humphreys thanked Stephenson for the information, and said the vehicle should assist in reaching a strategic objective, which hasn’t yet been settled on by the board.