Treasury Board President Tony Clement recently announced the Employers intent to overhaul the current sick leave system.

ACFO welcomes this development. The Association has long been a proponent of modernizing the Public Service disability management system to address a serious flaw in the current framework that leaves FIs and their families vulnerable.

Under the current leave structure, you are awarded 15 sick days each year. Any unused time is carried over to build a reserve of sick days as you get older and more likely to fall ill for an extended period of time. The banked sick days act as insurance against extended illness in place of short-term term disability (STD) protection.

The flaw with this system is that, should you get sick, long-term disability (LTD) does not take effect until 13 weeks after you become ill. Should you become ill for an extended period of time and not have enough sick leave banked to cover your absence, you would not receive income for that period except a fractional amount from Employment Insurance.

A well-crafted STD/LTD plan ensures that plan members and their families are financially covered no matter the length of their illness.

Having negotiated the elimination of sick leave in exchange for a short-term disability plan for our members at NAV CANADA, ACFO can attest to the benefit of such a system. Nearly 10 years into the program, both management and employees view this model as successful.

With a robust disability management program in place, members have often received the support of specialists they need faster; and have often been able to return to work quicker and with less direct involvement of their managers in their recovery.

As a progressive bargaining agent, ACFO has been willing to discuss alternative sick leave management frameworks with the Employer. In fact, during the most recent round of collective bargaining, your Bargaining Committee approved a bargaining proposal to discuss shifting from a sick leave based system to an STD system. The Employer declined our proposal on the basis that they were not ready to negotiate such a change yet.

Any new system would have to be negotiated through collective bargaining. Together we will ensure that any disability management solution offers modern, robust STD provisions to financially support FIs who are ill, and support their recovery and reintegration into the workplace.

That said, modernizing the Public Service sick leave management system will not solve the root cause of absenteeism due to illness. Real action needs to be taken to deal with the considerable stress, workplace toxicity, and mental health issues plaguing the Public Service.

ACFO published a study of our membership in 2011 to better understand this issue, and continues to push to adopt the report’s recommendations. Together, we are striving to establish a more fulfilled, engaged and productive FI Community to administer Canada’s financial management control framework and safeguard taxpayer dollars.

For more information in this matter, please contact Director of Labour Relations Scott Chamberlain by email at, or by phone at 613-728-0695 (toll-free 1-877-728-0695) ext. 225.