President of the Yukon Employees’ Union, Steve Geick, speaks at a press conference for Many Rivers in Whitehorse on Dec. 18. A decision made by the Yukon’s public services commissioner in December could be precedent-setting, according to Geick. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

So long solo shifts: group home workers to no longer work alone

According to the union, the decision was made by the Yukon’s public services commissioner

A decision made by the Yukon’s public services commissioner in December could be precedent-setting, according to Steve Geick, president of the Yukon Employees Union.

Commissioner Pamela Muir released a decision that employees at Whitehorse youth group homes can no longer be made to work alone. There must be at least two staff on duty at any time.

Geick said the practice of having only one employee on is something the union has been actively opposed to since 2015, when there was a rash of workers’ compensation board claims by youth group home workers.

“The kids in these houses are suffering from many different things, and whether traumatic or not, cases have arisen where two kids get into a fight or one gets into a fight with a staff member,” he said.

Often, this happened during night shifts.

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Heath and Safety Board, as well as the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services, have investigated the issue twice in the years since.

Both made recommendations that staff not work alone.

In January 2018, the YEU filed a policy grievance about the continued practice of employees being made to work alone.

Geick said that while there has been much done in recent years to guard against the practice, the one area that hasn’t shown much improvement is in the event of backfilling.

He said if someone calls in sick, or there is an unexpected absence, the gaps in staffing are not always filled.

From February to October 2018, he said, 215 shifts (some of which may have only been partial shifts) were unfilled. Most of these were at night, he said.

With Muir’s decision, the entire list of potential employees must be contacted in the event of a sick day or absence, even if that means accumulating overtime hours.

He doesn’t know if this decision means there will be additional group home hires, but said there are about 40 auxiliary on-call workers right now.

He thinks the decision could be extended to other areas where employees often find themselves alone on a shift, including nursing in the communities and within family and children’s services.

No one from health and social services was available to comment before press time.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read