Why some Islanders won't be getting the day off for bad weather anymore

·2 min read

Traditional storm days have changed on P.E.I. now that more people have the tools to work remotely.

On Tuesday, federal and municipal offices in Charlottetown and provincial civil service offices all shut their doors because of the weather. But in the face of COVID-19, many employees already work from home.

"I think there will be less people that will not be able to work from home so storm day culture is changing a bit," said Sara Lantz, the assistant deputy minister of corporate services for Veterans Affairs Canada.

"It may be a bit of an adjustment for people."

'Everybody is working from home'

In the past, Lantz said if a storm was approaching employees were expected to bring work home and work remotely if possible. But now, she said more are properly set up to do so.

"People are fully equipped to work from home and that was not the case prior to the pandemic," said Lantz.

"We did ask people to be equipped and to take on as much work as they could from home given their circumstances at the time. "

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

According to Lantz, about 1,800 people work for Veterans Affairs Canada on P.E.I. — the majority of those are not working in the office.

"Pretty well everybody is working from home unless there's some unusual circumstances that wouldn't allow them to do so," said Debi Buell, the local president for the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees.

"If it means working during a storm that's going to be the way it is, with the way COVID has happened we're not able to go into the workplace."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Buell said there are some situations where people would not be expected to work. For example, if the power went out or due to child-care challenges.

"There are people that [have] children home from school so they are not expected to work," said Buell.

"If any manager said they had to then that would be a union issue and we should have to get involved."

Plans for students

Students on the Island are also not strangers to working from home. Back in March public schools closed and made the move to finish the year virtually.

In December, four high schools in the capital region went online again following a positive case of COVID-19.

But for now, if bad weather hits it appears students will still be getting the day off.

The Public Schools Branch told CBC News there is no plan in place to move to remote learning during weather-related cancellations.

As for post-secondary students, UPEI and Holland College said online classes will continue no matter the weather but on-campus activities won't happen on storm days.

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