COVID-19 update for correctional employees: August 21, 2020

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

I wanted to start this week’s message by expressing my thanks to all of you. I know I have said “thank you” in different ways over the past months, but it is important that you know that I am very appreciative of your:

Despite the challenges presented by this pandemic on both the work and home fronts, thousands among you have continued to go into our institutions and community offices in support of Correctional Service Canada's (CSC's) mandate. At a time when many colleagues were working from home, you stepped out the door courageously to work on the front line, in service to Canadians. The health and safety measures implemented on the ground were an extra effort but they are making a huge difference in helping to prevent the spread of the virus and minimize the risk. I am equally proud of the thousands of colleagues who supported our mandate from home and offices (in reduced numbers) all over the country. You did not miss a beat in delivering results and innovating along the way. No role is too small. We work in concert as a team and I am proud of what we have accomplished together.

Details on employees returning to the workplace

I know that for many of you, the end of summer is a period of transition. Several of you have children that are about to start a new school year or have returned to daycare. This situation may look a bit different for each of you, given different provincial guidance and new health measures in place. You may be closely following school plans in your jurisdiction so you can organize your family’s fall schedule. Understandably, some of CSC's employees may be wondering if they may be physically returning to the workplace or may continue working from home.

As I have mentioned in past notes, there is no one size fits all approach to how we shape the way forward. Based on the type of work you do, you may be needed on site while others can more easily continue to work remotely. Decisions related to the workplace are often staggered across the country, as is timing, based on the public health realities in those jurisdictions. CSC must go slowly and gradually, and do proper health and safety planning. This means re-thinking how we perform certain work while taking into consideration the feedback of:

employees, our labour partners and stakeholders

Our priority is to reduce our footprint in our workplaces, where possible, while supporting innovation in how we work so we can keep everyone safe. We know that we cannot have everyone back in the office like we did prior to COVID-19. To allow for physical distancing, we must carefully consider the amount of people permitted in the workplace at any given time.

After consulting with employees and considering their priorities and concerns, and their specific roles, we have determined that where it is safe to do so, some employees are being identified to return to the physical workplace. We are doing this in small, controlled steps. Any changes to the way you are currently working will be based on conversations between you and your manager, and based on the work you do and how you can best do it. There will be no surprises so you can plan ahead, and all employees will be given clear information on new safety measures and requirements.

We are proceeding slowly and adjusting as necessary. Our planning has focused on making sure that our workplaces are safe for the return of employees. At NHQ, for example, elevators, hallways and shared spaces have signage and physical distancing markers, and hand sanitizer readily available.

As we are entering the Fall, we are also mindful that there is the potential for a second wave or resurgence of COVID 19. You can feel confident that we are monitoring the situation closely and will readjust quickly, when necessary, to protect our employees.

I recognize that this situation may create some uncertainty and anxiety. We have been very clear in our direction that every manager is to contact every returning employee in order to personally plan requirements for each person, understand their personal circumstances, be mindful of how they may be feeling and be prepared to adapt as needed. Please speak with your manager if you have any questions. We will keep you updated as more details become available.

Risk Management Framework and Risk Levels

Our many working groups and committees have been working hard since the beginning of May, guiding the organization as we transition toward a ‘new normal’. The Integrated Risk Management Framework (IRMF) identifies the COVID-19 community transmission risk level, determined by the Assistant Commissioner Health Services, based on public health information. For each of the approved activities, the required mitigation strategies to protect staff and offenders to manage that risk are identified. It is an evergreen document that continues to evolve.

The Health Services Sector is monitoring public health data regarding COVID-19 in all communities where there is a federal institution, community correctional centre, or parole office. Every week, Health Services analyzes the data and prepares a community surveillance situation. Check out our section on the Hub for the latest updates.

In-person Volunteer Activities

We are beginning to reintroduce some in-person volunteer activities. We will prioritize in-person volunteer activities that support inmate needs and respond to our legislative mandate. Volunteer activities may look different from site to site given our goal is to keep our footprint lower in terms of numbers of people accessing our institutions and offices. We are also exploring other ways to engage our volunteers moving forward, including more virtual and remote options. The safety and well-being of staff, offenders, and volunteers is paramount and new health and safety measures apply to these activities.

Community Correctional Centres

Reintegration Worker activities have been added to the integrated risk management framework. We have worked with our labour partners to identify mitigation strategies to support their health and safety at work. Our goal is to have workers safely back onsite in order to maintain essential activities.

Virtual Town Hall for Mental Health

Employees have had to deal with a lot of change in past months and I know this can affect our mental health and well-being.

On June 22, CSC proudly co-chaired a bilingual Town Hall webinar: Self-Care During Times of Crisis and Changes. The panel answered employee and management questions on prioritizing themselves and practicing self-care strategies while juggling personal responsibilities with professional duties. If you missed the town hall in June, the recording is now available online: Self-Care During Times of Crisis and Change. I encourage you to take care of yourself and check in with colleagues and friends.

Run for Women

The Run for Women (RFW) is an initiative in support of women’s health. It is a virtual run this year that takes place on September 27, 2020, in 18 cities across Canada. Participants can complete their 5K walk or 10K run at any point between September 17 and 27. Complete the run in one go or over several days, then upload your results to the RFW results page and share them via social media. The full registration fee goes towards supporting women’s mental health programs. I encourage you to join the Correctional Services Canada team.

Thank you Thursdays

Every Thursday, we have a social media campaign called #Thankyou Thursdays. It features different groups of employees for the work they do all over the country. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have featured cooks, health-care workers, parole officers, community staff, correctional workers, office workers, procurement staff, and many others. All roles in our organization are vital to our mission. You will see a different group of employees featured every week. If you would like to highlight a local success story or group of people, please email the communications team – we love to hear from you. 

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