The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) has recently issued recommendations regarding the expansion of the use of other leave with pay (code 699) as of April 10 and additional equipment for public servants who are working remotely. OCHRO’s update has been copied below and you can find the framework for work from home equipment referenced in that message here.

We understand that over the last few weeks, OCHRO’s recommendations have sometimes been applied differently across and even within departments. If you meet the updated criteria for other leave with pay but your leave has not been granted or if you qualify for additional work from home equipment according to the framework provided by OCHRO and your request for equipment has been denied, please contact us at An ACFO-ACAF Labour Relations Advisor can review your issue and discuss it with your manager.

From: Nancy Chahwan, Chief Human Resources Officer

To: Deputy Heads, Heads of Agencies (including separate Employers), Presidents of Regional Federal Councils, Heads of Human Resources

As the public service continues to implement exceptional measures to curb COVID-19 and its impact on Canadians, we are all working to ensure the health and safety of our employees. Thank you for your sustained attention to these matters.

As the pandemic situation continues to evolve and physical distancing measures are expected to continue for several more weeks, I am providing updated guidance today regarding remote work and leave provisions after April 10, 2020. I am also sharing some additional information and resources about positive diagnoses of COVID-19 in the workplace and equipment for working remotely.

Remote work and leave provisions

We have updated our guidance regarding remote work and leave provisions, including the use of ‘Other Leave with Pay (699)’ and it is now available on the Employee illness and leave page on Employees who are able to work are generally fulfilling their duties remotely, or on-site when critical work cannot be carried out remotely. Managers can authorize ‘Other Leave with Pay (699)’ for employees who attest that they cannot work for the following reasons: (a) they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing related symptoms; (b) are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and cannot work remotely; or (c) are living with a dependant that is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and cannot work remotely.

As indicated in a previous bulletin, managers must communicate regularly with their employees to provide clear expectations and show flexibility as may be called for. This update has been informed by the persistent situation, the need to continue to support physical distancing and self-isolation, best practices and fairness to our workforce.

Disclosure and Management of COVID-19 cases

As part of our efforts to ensure that we are addressing cases of COVID-19 across the public service in a consistent manner that safeguards the health and safety of our employees, we have posted more information regarding employer and employee responsibilities to communicate any suspected or confirmed positive diagnoses among our workforce. This information builds on the guidelines that were recently shared with your Labour Relations and Communications communities.

Equipment for working remotely

While most employees have the standard equipment needed to work remotely, the duration of this crisis has led to questions about providing employees with additional equipment. Providing additional equipment to employees depends on the unique context in each department and the situation of the individual employee. Working with the Office of the Comptroller General, we have enclosed a framework to assist in making these decisions, clarifying who should receive what equipment, and how such equipment should be provided.

As always, in making such decisions, we must ensure the need is sufficiently pressing. We must, as well, respect value for money and remain prudent stewards of resources.

Validity period of TBS guidance

This updated guidance, and all other measures announced to assist our workforce throughout the exceptional circumstances caused by the fight against COVID-19, will remain in effect until non-critical business is authorized to resume or as indicated otherwise by the Employer. This may occur at different times across the country, as instructions from public health authorities are issued. We will continue to consult with your teams and bargaining agents as we adjust any guidance as necessary based on how the situation, and the governments’ response to the pandemic, are evolving.

I am grateful for your cooperation during this difficult time. Remember to look after yourselves and your family. Please also remind employees to refer to the helpful content on our COVID-19 site that includes information on safeguarding mental health and working remotely.