COVID-19 update for correctional employees: May 8, 2020

This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada (CSC) staff from CSC's Commissioner.

It has been eight weeks since we quickly shifted the way we work to focus our efforts on the Canada-wide fight against COVID-19. Many of us also transitioned to a work-from-home model to reduce the number of employees in our buildings. I know for some of you, March may feel like it was an eternity ago given the rapid pace of change and uncertainty we all had to adapt to, both in our personal lives and in how we perform our work.

We are starting to hear about different provinces and territories making plans to lift certain restrictions that would see certain businesses and services reopen over time. I wanted to provide an update on what this means for CSC. While any decisions on when and how we will phase back in some of our activities will be informed by public health guidance, it is important that we develop a plan for a coordinated, safe and gradual return to work for employees so we are ready when the time comes.

Shaping the new normal

Many of you are probably wondering when you will be back in the office. Of course, the health and safety of our employees is the biggest priority and the timeline of when that will happen will likely vary across the country, based on provincial and local circumstances and public health advice. We do know that it is important not to move too quickly and undo any of the great work we have done so far.

The first step is to work collaboratively to think through factors like which functions need to return first, the safeguards we need to put in place, and exactly how any return to our workplace will roll out. This exercise will force us to rethink how we work and ensure the appropriate safety measures are in place to protect our employees and the families they go home to each day.

While some employees will return to their physical workplace sooner than others, we will adopt a phased approach and you will be given notice and information to plan ahead. To provide a bit of certainty, most employees currently working at home can expect to continue doing so until at least May 31st.

Using our lessons learned to be prepared

A lot of work has already been done in short order to allow the organization to turn on a dime and continue operations during this time. There is definitely no “one-sized fits all” approach to how our different sectors, community resources and regions operate. As we start to think to the future, each sector and work site will need to reflect on the things that we have learned over the past months – lessons on how to prevent spread of COVID-19 through safety measures, the way we work together as teams, what worked well, and what we need to be successful moving forward. The organization worked very hard to mobilize during a difficult and trying time and using that work to update any of our practices, tools and processes will ensure we are even more ready if and when we face a similar situation in the future.

What’s next

To tackle our path forward, I have stood up a transition working group chaired by the Senior Deputy Commissioner, Alain Tousignant. The group, made up of subject matter experts, union representatives and senior managers from different sectors of the organization, including regional representation, will make recommendations to help inform decisions related to how we resume activities and operations. I have asked that they keep in mind that our eventual return to work must be gradual, in-line with provincial and federal guidelines, and be relevant to local circumstances. This group will also provide guidance around the continued use of safety measures. This work will not be done in isolation. Sector heads and RDCs will be asked to engage employees to help inform recommendations. Keep your eye out for opportunities to share your thoughts and ask questions.

The silver lining

Our collective success is defined by continued progress. When restrictions are lifted and life begins returning to a more “normal” state, not all things will go back to the “old way” of doing things. Our way of working in the past few months has led to extensive innovation, as agile and creative new work practices, tools and equipment have been deployed and implemented across the organization. Some of our new processes, flexibility, ways of working, and health and safety practices will stay.

As relentless as this year has been so far, I want to tell you how proud I am of our team. All of your work and efforts are making a huge difference – at all levels of the organization. While there has been a lot out of our control, you have all pulled together to adapt, overcome challenges and deliver results in fulfilling our mandate.

I hope this information and continued updates help provide clarity and certainty in these uncertain times. Please know that you are doing great work and I am thankful for your ongoing support and steadfast commitment.

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