Category

COVID-19

Departments permitted to resume return to workplace plans

By COVID-19

Earlier this week, Health Canada updated its guide to workplace re-entry for the public service so that departments can now resume their return to workplace plans with their employees.

At the end of last year, departments were asked to pause their return to workplace plans following growing concern for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In Monday’s statement, the President of the Treasury Board said:

“Departments and agencies may now resume their planning to gradually increase building occupancy, while continuing to respect the appropriate use of workplace preventive practices. It is my expectation that organizations will continue to be agile and demonstrate flexibility as necessary, in their planning to align to the evolving public health context.”

– Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board

February 2022 update: guide to workplace re-entry

In the latest update in its guide to workplace re-entry for the public service, Health Canada outlined that while building occupancy can gradually be eased:

  • masks should still be worn indoors;
  • physical distancing is to be maintained;
  • departments should follow domestic and international travel advisories; and,
  • there are an updated list of screening questions for returning employees who have been exposed or infected by COVID-19.

The February 2022 update:

To support a gradual return to the workplace, departments and agencies can resume gradually increasing building occupancy with appropriate use of workplace preventive practices as laid out in this guidance. Organizations should maintain the flexibility to adjust to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Masks:

Medical masks or respirators should be worn in all indoor shared spaces, even when physical distancing is maintained.

Medical masks or respirators should be worn outdoors when working in crowded settings or when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Travel:

Departments and agencies should follow domestic and international travel advisories.

Screening:

Screening questions have been updated to reflect updated guidance for when an employee returns to the workplace following infection or exposure to COVID-19.

The President of the Treasury Board also said there will be no, “one-size-fits-all approach” for returning to the workplace and that Treasury Board will continue to support departments, “in their transition to hybrid work models, where applicable and operationally feasible.”

The statement also said that, “officials are providing guidance and best practices to promote a coherent approach while respecting the different operational realities of federal organizations. [Departments] will continue to develop their plans, informed by their experiences of the past two years and public health guidance.”

President of the Treasury Board statement regarding the evolving public health situation

Health Canada’s guide to workplace re-entry for the public service

Departments asked to pause return to workplace plans

By COVID-19

Late yesterday, Treasury Board issued a statement saying departments were being asked to pause their return to the workplace plans for public servants out of growing concern for the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In addition, Health Canada revised their workplace re-entry guide for the public service, “in light of emerging evidence on the Omicron variant of concern, and the potential for increased transmissibility, decreased vaccine protection against infection, and higher risk of reinfection.”

Updates to the guide included recommendations that:

  • Departments should review current occupancy levels;
  • Departments should consider increasing remote work, as required;
  • All public servants receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine when it is their turn;
  • Public servants wear masks indoors in all shared spaces;
  • Public servants avoid non-essential international travel; and,
  • Public servants avoid participating in any discretionary large gatherings, such as conferences and training events.

The statement went on to say:

“I thank the many public servants, in various roles, who are working onsite and remotely to serve Canadians. As has been the case from the outset of the pandemic, federal public servants can be confident that every measure continues to be taken to protect their health and safety in the workplace. We know that having a vaccinated workforce means that not only are workplaces safer, so are the communities where public servants live and work.

It is my expectation that organizations continue to align their plans with the current public health context, taking into consideration their respective operational needs and obligations such as ensuring Canadians’ access to information and providing government services in both official languages.

As the heads of their organizations, deputy heads are responsible for the safety and well-being of their employees. The Government of Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to support public servants and their mental health. I would like to remind employees and managers of the wide range of services and supports available to them, including the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program.

As the country’s largest employer, the Government of Canada will continue to engage with partners, stakeholders, and local communities as we continue to operate in a rapidly changing environment.”

– Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board

Other links:

Treasury Board statement further to the evolving public health situation and the COVID-19 Omicron variant

Health Canada’s guide to workplace re-entry for the public service

Latest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service (November 9)

By COVID-19

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service since reporting began now stands at 6,183 as of November 9. That’s 81 new cases since the previous report on October 27. The number of total reported cases has been:

  • 6,102 on October 27
  • 5,961 on October 13;
  • 5,829 on September 29;
  • 5,597 on September 9;
  • 5,470 on August 26;
  • 5,311 on July 29;
  • 5,297 on July 15;
  • 5,256 on June 16;
  • 5,194 on June 2;
  • 5,151 on May 26;
  • 5,091 on May 19;
  • 4,967 on May 12;
  • 4,785 on May 5;
  • 4,581 on April 28;
  • 4,314 on April 21;
  • 4,011 on April 14; and,
  • 3,751 on April 7.

The breakdown is by province and the top five areas with the highest reported cases continues to be:

National Capital Region: 1,647
Quebec (minus the NCR): 1,027
Alberta: 986
British Columbia: 900
Ontario (minus the NCR): 891

The amount of reported cases in the public service outside of Canada remains at 80.

Province, region or territoryReported cases
Alberta986
British Columbia900
Manitoba250
National Capital Region (NCR)1,647
New Brunswick25
Newfoundland and Labrador23
Northwest Territories8
Nova Scotia56
Nunavut3
Ontario (Minus NCR)891
Prince Edward Island2
Quebec (Minus NCR)1,027
Saskatchewan282
Yukon3
Outside of Canada80

Other links:

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service

Latest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service (October 27)

By COVID-19

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service since reporting began now stands at 6,102 as of October 27. That’s 141 new cases since the previous report on October 13. The number of total reported cases has been:

  • 5,961 on October 13;
  • 5,829 on September 29;
  • 5,597 on September 9;
  • 5,470 on August 26;
  • 5,311 on July 29;
  • 5,297 on July 15;
  • 5,256 on June 16;
  • 5,194 on June 2;
  • 5,151 on May 26;
  • 5,091 on May 19;
  • 4,967 on May 12;
  • 4,785 on May 5;
  • 4,581 on April 28;
  • 4,314 on April 21;
  • 4,011 on April 14; and,
  • 3,751 on April 7.

The breakdown is by province and the top five areas with the highest reported cases is below. British Columbia has now surpassed Ontario:

National Capital Region: 1,630
Quebec (minus the NCR): 1,011
Alberta: 972
British Columbia: 884
Ontario (minus the NCR): 882

The amount of reported cases in the public service outside of Canada went up to 80.

Province, region or territoryReported cases
Alberta972
British Columbia884
Manitoba248
National Capital Region (NCR)1,630
New Brunswick25
Newfoundland and Labrador23
Northwest Territories8
Nova Scotia52
Nunavut3
Ontario (Minus NCR)882
Prince Edward Island2
Quebec (Minus NCR)1,011
Saskatchewan279
Yukon3
Outside of Canada80

Other links:

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service

Latest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service (October 13)

By COVID-19

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service since reporting began now stands at 5,961 as of October 13. That’s 132 new cases since the previous report on September 29. The number of total reported cases has been:

  • 5,829 on September 29;
  • 5,597 on September 9;
  • 5,470 on August 26;
  • 5,311 on July 29;
  • 5,297 on July 15;
  • 5,256 on June 16;
  • 5,194 on June 2;
  • 5,151 on May 26;
  • 5,091 on May 19;
  • 4,967 on May 12;
  • 4,785 on May 5;
  • 4,581 on April 28;
  • 4,314 on April 21;
  • 4,011 on April 14; and,
  • 3,751 on April 7.

The breakdown is by province and the top five areas with the highest reported cases continues to be:

National Capital Region: 1,614
Quebec (minus the NCR): 996
Alberta: 926
Ontario (minus the NCR): 865
British Columbia: 856

The amount of reported cases in the public service outside of Canada went up to 79.

Province, region or territoryReported cases
Alberta926
British Columbia856
Manitoba243
National Capital Region (NCR)1,614
New Brunswick23
Newfoundland and Labrador23
Northwest Territories8
Nova Scotia51
Nunavut2
Ontario (Minus NCR)865
Prince Edward Island2
Quebec (Minus NCR)996
Saskatchewan270
Yukon3
Outside of Canada79

Other links:

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service

Privacy Commissioner confirms complaints about required vaccinations for public servants

By COVID-19

On Friday, the federal Privacy Commissioner issued a statement in response to the government’s recent announcement of a standardized vaccine passport for COVID-19.

In their statement, the Privacy Commissioner highlighted that the government had consulted them and that, “vaccine passports may offer significant public health benefits and in order to be justified, vaccine passports must be necessary to achieve their intended public health purposes.”

The statement also referenced that the Privacy Commissioner had received “a number” of complaints about required vaccinations for public servants and would be “investigating the application of privacy principles in this context.”

The Privacy Commissioner continued, “the principles applicable to vaccine passports for travel and to the vaccination requirement for federal public servants are the same.”

The statement concluded by saying that no further details can be provided until the Office has completed their investigation into the complaints.

Public servants have until this Friday, October 29 to confirm their vaccination status using the online system GC-VATS.

Then as of November 15, public servants could be placed on leave without pay if they won’t disclose their status, are only partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all.

Some public servants have organized a campaign, “Feds for Freedom” against required COVID-19 vaccinations for the federal public service and held a “peaceful protest” yesterday at one of the public service union headquarters in downtown Ottawa.

Other links:

Privacy Commissioner statement on the Government of Canada’s vaccine passport for travel initiative

Public servants launch campaign against required vaccinations

By COVID-19

A public servant from the Department of National Defence has launched a campaign against required COVID-19 vaccinations for the federal public service titled, “Feds for Freedom.”

The graphic designer started the campaign in August, shortly after Treasury Board announced its intent to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all federal public servants but the campaign has been gaining traction recently, as public servants have until October 29 to confirm their vaccination status online.

The campaign’s Facebook group has reached over 3,500 members with over 700 new additions in the last week alone.

The group is moderated by five administrators who work at departments ranging from the Department of National Defence to Transport Canada.

The campaign is described as not an anti-vaccination campaign but rather an anti-mandatory and pro-choice campaign.

A quote from former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appears consistently throughout the campaign’s web and social media platforms, “I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong…”

Feds for Freedom on Facebook

On the social media platform Telegram, the campaign organizer posted, “I am a graphic designer whom has been with the Department of National Defence since 2013. I sincerely believe that these mandates are fundamental wrong. FedsForFreedom was developed to help Canadian Federal Public Service employees & federally regulated employees connect, share information & enact initiatives that will push back to the unions and our employers against this. The path everyone chooses is their own path, we are not here to council you. Only give you all of your options and let you make your own informed choice for you and your families future. STAY STRONG, STAND TALL & HOLD THE LINE!”

Feds for Freedom on Instagram

In addition, 50/50 raffles are being held with funds raised going to, “cover the immense cost of taking on the system, the narrative, and tyranny itself.”

Over $3,600 was raised from the first raffle.

The campaign has also sent a letter to the Prime Minister which cites the Canadian Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Criminal Code, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The end of the letter touches on mental health, “Well, we are here to tell you that the Federal Government of Canada employees are not okay.”

On November 15, public servants unwilling to be vaccinated or disclose their vaccination status could be placed on leave without pay.

The campaign’s website includes a decision tree about next steps and lists possibly pursuing legal action against public service unions if grievances aren’t effective.

The campaign also highlights they accept no responsibility or liability for harms or losses that any public servant may face as a result of following their direction.

Other links:

Feds for Freedom website

Feds for Freedom on Telegram

Highlights: GC vaccination policy & GC-VATS

By COVID-19

Last week, the COVID-19 vaccination policy for the federal public service was rolled out, which included a new online system called GC-VATS where public servants must login to confirm their vaccination status.

Over the past week, many public servants have been active on social media, posting about how the online attestation has been an effortless, smooth process.

Others have also been posting in some circles online that this runs contrary to the public service’s own policies, as well as early discussion around crowdsourced fundraising campaigns online (such as GoFundMe) for those who may be put on leave without pay, should they be unwilling to disclose their vaccination status or unwilling to be vaccinated.

Attestation through online system (GC-VATS)

Before October 29, 2021:

Public servants must login to the new online system called “GC-VATS” (Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System) and then follow a series of steps:

Not everyone will be able to do so at once, as Treasury Board indicated that as of October 6, departments will be onboarded in phases.

Then as of November 15, 2021:

Public servants will be placed on administrative leave without pay if:

  • their manager has determined that the duty to accommodate does not apply, and they remain unvaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to be vaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to attest to their vaccination status.

The official policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service

The official policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service, including the RCMP can be found here.

General highlights:

  • The policy states that public servants must comply with this policy regardless of whether they work onsite, remotely, or telework, “given that operational requirements may include ad hoc onsite presence.”
  • Leave code 699 (Other Leave With Pay), is not available for employees unwilling to be fully vaccinated or unwilling to disclose their vaccination status.
  • The policy also touches on a range of topics including: roles and responsibilities for employees and managers, the duty to accommodate those who can’t be vaccinated, ensuring a respectful workplace free from harassing anyone based on their vaccination status, privacy, and consequences of non-compliance.

Employees are responsible for:

  • Disclosing their vaccination and testing status accurately as required by this policy;
  • Providing truthful information. Failure to do so could constitute a breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may result in disciplinary action;
  • Informing their manager of their need for accommodation based on a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act at the earliest opportunity or by the attestation deadline, if possible;
  • Providing their manager with complete and accurate information necessary to identify appropriate accommodation,
  • Refraining from directing harassment or any other prohibited conduct toward an individual for any reason, including their vaccination status or accommodation measures.

Read the full list here.

Managers are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that employees who report to them know how to enter their vaccine attestations and any associated data or information in any system (GC-VATS);
  • Reviewing vaccine attestations and any associated data or information entered by employees who report to them, for the purpose of validating that the information complies with the requirements;
  • Responding to employees’ requests for accommodation under the Duty to Accommodate, as outlined above, including:
    • Informing the employee of their obligations;
    • Gathering the relevant information;
    • Making decisions as to whether the duty to accommodate applies;
    • Implementing the decision by identifying the appropriate accommodation measures, which may include mandatory testing; and,
    • Documenting the process.
  • Maintaining a respectful, productive, inclusive, and equitable environment.

Read the full list here.

How to request an accomodation:

Treasury Board indicated that for those who are unable to be vaccinated, accommodation may be determined on a case-by-case basis.  

Employees unable to be fully vaccinated should: 

  • At the earliest opportunity, inform their manager of their need for accommodation based on prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act;
  • Provide their manager with the accurate information necessary to identify appropriate accommodation, including information on relevant limitations and restrictions; 
  • Cooperate and collaborate in good faith with their organization’s representative(s) to find one or more means to accommodate such needs; and,
  • Notify their manager if their accommodation needs change. 

Consequences of non-compliance:

Within 2 weeks of the attestation deadline:

  • For those unwilling to be fully vaccinated or to disclose their vaccination status:
    • Public servants will be required to attend an online training session on COVID-19 vaccination.

At 2 weeks after the attestation deadline:

  • For those unwilling to be fully vaccinated or to disclose their vaccination status:
    • Leave without pay and restricted access to the workplace, off-site visits, business travel and conferences.

Read the full list here.

Privacy:

The policy states that, “personal information will be collected and managed in accordance with the Privacy Act.”

Ensuring a respectful workplace:

The policy also states that, “harassment or other prohibited conduct directed toward an individual for any reason, including based on their vaccination status, will not be tolerated.”

Other links:

GC-VATS (the Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System)

Policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service

Fact sheet: I am unable to be vaccinated

Fact sheet: I am unwilling to be vaccinated

Fact sheet: Information for managers

News release: Prime Minister announces mandatory vaccination for the federal workforce and federally regulated transportation sectors

Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Update to required COVID-19 vaccinations for public servants (October 6, 2021)

By COVID-19

Earlier today, Treasury Board announced that federal public servants will have to attest they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, how they will need to do it and by when, and what happens if they don’t.

This follows August’s announcement, when the government announced its intent to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all federal public servants.

Attestation through online system (GC-VATS)

Today’s update provided more details, including that all federal public servants, even those working from home will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, must do so by October 29 and attest to it online. This includes all public servants, including members and reservists of the RCMP.

Treasury Board said that, “starting October 6, 2021, employees will be onboarded in phases to provide their vaccine attestation through a secure online system, and they must do so by October 29, 2021.”

Public servants will need to login to the new online system called “GC-VATS” (Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System) and then follow a series of steps:

Values and ethics

Treasury Board emphasized that public servants, “have an obligation to provide true attestations.”

Making a false statement would constitute a breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. Attestations will be audited and managers can ask for proof of vaccination at any time.

– Treasury Board Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Privacy concerns

Unions expressed concern back in August over the privacy of public servants and how their rights would be respected.

Treasury Board reiterated that the collection of private information will be done in accordance with the Privacy Act and Policy on Privacy Protection:

The collection of all personal information from public servants will be done in accordance with the Privacy Act, the Policy on Privacy Protection and its related instruments. Data on vaccination rates within the federal public service is expected to be available in the coming weeks.

– Treasury Board Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Exemptions

Back in August, unions were also vocal about the government needing to provide accommodations for public servants who could not be vaccinated for reasons protected under human rights legislation.

In today’s announcement, Treasury Board said that exemptions will apply as, “Employees who are unable to be vaccinated based on a prohibited ground as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as a medical contraindication, may request accommodation.”

Leave without pay for those unwilling to disclose status / unwilling to get fully vaccinated

Then as of November 15, public servants will be placed on administrative leave without pay if:

  • their manager has determined that the duty to accommodate does not apply, and they remain unvaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to be vaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to attest to their vaccination status.

The official policy

The official policy policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service, including the RCMP can be found here.

Unions react

Despite Treasury Board saying today’s announcement was informed by input from unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), one of the largest federal public service unions said that it wasn’t. They said, while they support a policy to vaccinate federal public servants, there was no meaningful consultation with unions and the policy falls short.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) said that, “our primary concern is ensuring that all PIPSC members are in compliance.” PIPSC also linked to a form on their website to request help from the union in the event a public servant’s request for accommodation to be unvaccinated is denied.

Other links:

GC-VATS (the Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System)

News release: Prime Minister announces mandatory vaccination for the federal workforce and federally regulated transportation sectors

Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

PIPSC: Mandatory vaccination help form

PSAC: Federal government releases vaccination policy without proper consultation

Treasury Board announces intent to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for public servants

Latest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service (September 29)

By COVID-19

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service since reporting began now stands at 5,829 as of September 29. That’s 232 new cases since the previous report on September 9. The number of total reported cases has been:

  • 5,597 on September 9;
  • 5,470 on August 26;
  • 5,311 on July 29;
  • 5,297 on July 15;
  • 5,256 on June 16;
  • 5,194 on June 2;
  • 5,151 on May 26;
  • 5,091 on May 19;
  • 4,967 on May 12;
  • 4,785 on May 5;
  • 4,581 on April 28;
  • 4,314 on April 21;
  • 4,011 on April 14; and,
  • 3,751 on April 7.

The breakdown is by province and the top five areas with the highest reported cases continues to be:

National Capital Region: 1,585
Quebec (minus the NCR): 979
Alberta: 906
Ontario (minus the NCR): 854
British Columbia: 820

The amount of reported cases in the public service outside of Canada went up to 76.

Province, region or territoryReported cases
Alberta906
British Columbia820
Manitoba238
National Capital Region (NCR)1,585
New Brunswick21
Newfoundland and Labrador23
Northwest Territories7
Nova Scotia51
Nunavut2
Ontario (Minus NCR)854
Prince Edward Island2
Quebec (Minus NCR)979
Saskatchewan263
Yukon2
Outside of Canada76

Other links:

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service