2021 Summer Guidance for Defence Public Service Employees & Managers


The Assistant Deputy Minister (Human Resources-Civilian) (ADM [HR-Civ]) has issued an updated Directive to Managers on Managing a modern, flexible and varied civilian workforce to support the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with the eventual transition to a post-pandemic posture. The 2021 Summer GuidanceFootnote 1  complements the updated Directive and provides public service employees and managers with accessible information to support workplace and workforce decisions through COVID-19 and beyond.

What Informs Our Guidance?

  1. The physical and psychological health and safety of the entire Defence Team;
  2. The Defence Team’s continued pursuit of operational excellence; and
  3. The knowledge that asymmetrical change in pandemic conditions will mean that working conditions are likely to change at different speeds and in different ways across DND/CAF locations as the Defence Team responds to local and regional health, safety and operational considerations.

Physical and Psychological Health & Safety

Our HR agenda puts people first and, in the pandemic environment, your health and safety is our first priority. Ensuring Defence Team workplaces are safe and employee physical and psychological health is protected is critical. DND/CAF will continue to adhere to guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) as well as regional public health measures to ensure your safety is supported as we move into the Summer posture. This guidance aims to be flexible enough to adapt to changing health and safety conditions as they arise, however, whether these changes occur within the workplace or at the local, regional or national level. At all times, the health and safety of employees will drive decisions regarding the eventual transition back to the workplace.

Operational Excellence

Canadians expect and rely on the Defence Team to meet its strategic and operational objectives, regardless of the circumstances, to defend Canada and Canadians. Maintaining operational excellence requires the support of an agile, diverse, and optimized Defence public service community. Within a healthy and safe context, therefore, our goal continues to be focused on sustaining Defence Team operations and CAF support both during and as we transition beyond the pandemic.

Asymmetrical Change

The COVID-19 situation and vaccination rates will continue to vary by region. This asymmetry impacts pandemic responses in different ways across DND/CAF locations. However, as vaccination rates increase for the CAF and restrictions begin to be lifted across DND/CAF locations eventually, there will be opportunities to scale up the resumption of critical operational activities. Defence public service employees must be prepared to safely provide support to the CAF and continue key operational requirements as the pandemic situation evolves at different rates across different locations. 

Who Are We?

With over 27,000 public service employees (non-military), DND is the second largest department within the federal public service and employs a broad range of occupations to support Canada’s defence capability.

DND’s public service workforce currently includes over 70 different occupational groups and sub-groups with roles as varied as engineers, cooks, analysts, journeypersons, scientists and administration all of whom help enable the CAF and support Canada’s defence capability in today’s complex, unpredictable security environment. 


Did You Know?

Over half (58 per cent) of the public service workforce is located outside of the National Capital Region (NCR), working at Bases, Wings and support units in over 40 locations across the country and abroad. Additionally, employees in skilled trades make up nearly 50 per cent of our public service (non-military) workforce.

Whether working in the dockyards of Halifax or Victoria, maintaining CAF aircraft in Winnipeg or repairing tanks in Petawawa our Defence Team public service employees work across DND/CAF locations and are critical to ensuring the continuity of service and operations on Bases, Wings, and support units. 

Our Current Reality

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how the Defence Team manages its work and workforce. COVID-19 resulted in an involuntary shift to virtual workFootnote 2  for many, while others continued working on-site to maintain operational readiness for the Defence Team. Additionally, some employees have been working in a hybrid model—balancing both on-site and virtual work—to deliver the Defence Team’s mission. At this time, we continue to be in a “Business Resumption” stance, with permanent decisions regarding work arrangements, leave, and additional support for employees under review by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) and being updated as the pandemic environment evolves.

As more people are vaccinated across DND/CAF locations, the Defence Team will be able to safely scale its on-site resumption of activities. For now, however, there is no set date for a global transition back to the workplace for the entire organization. As a result, we will need to continue to make the best of our individual situations for the foreseeable future.

Given that the pandemic environment continues to evolve, guidance to public service employees and managers will be reviewed and updated as new information becomes available. Decisions will be driven by the guidance of PHAC, central agencies, and departmental centres of expertise. Decisions will also take into account and adapt to unique operational and regional considerations.

The increased use of flexible work arrangements during the pandemic and the lessons learned can be used as a roadmap for modernizing our workplace and developing more sustainable models for the future of work as a Defence public service employee. This begins with the understanding that what works for one situation does not necessarily work for another and that the pandemic has had a varied impact on our department. Given the Defence Team mandate and the nature of work we support, there are some jobs that cannot be conducted virtually.

Managers and employees are asked to consider the mosaic of situations and needs of the Defence Team’s public service community as they make future decisions about where and how work can be done:

Our public service workforce is not homogenous and provides a diverse range of support to the Defence Team. To support employees and to position DND/CAF as an employer of choice as we transition to the post-pandemic environment, the Department will need to strike a balance between meeting operational needs and leveraging work models that reinvent how and where the work is done. These efforts will position the Defence Team for a more flexible approach to workplace arrangements in the future.

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Are You Working Virtually?

The Civilian Flexible Work Program (FWP)

The Flexible Work Program (FWP) - previously referred to as telework or alternate work arrangements - allows employees to alter on a temporary or permanent basisFootnote 3 :

The FWP assists employees and managers with navigating the virtual work posture in a persistent COVID-19 environment by outlining responsibilities, available options, impacts and key considerations of the current and potential future work environments. It can also aid the transition back to a modernized workplace as restrictions are lifted. This program will continue to be updated as we transition to the post-pandemic environment and as direction from Treasury Board Secretariat is issued.

The Defence Team will continue supporting employee personal circumstances and requirements by remaining flexible on adapting work arrangements to meet the needs of the individual while maintaining operational excellence.

You can read more about the FWP and the different types of working arrangements here.

Working at a Different Location from the Position Location

During the pandemic, some virtual employees have worked from a location that differs from the formal position location – perhaps due to where an employee lives, regional travel restrictions, or to provide an accommodation. These arrangements should be reviewed by management on a case-by-case basis and should only be approved if they are feasible and support the operational requirements of the work and work unit.

For more information managers can contact their Labour Relations advisor (DWAN Only).

Working in a Hybrid Model

Some Defence Team public service employees may be working in a hybrid model – working both virtually and on-site over the course of the work week. Hybrid work models will likely become more common as restrictions are lifted across DND/CAF locations. In these cases, the employee’s FWA should reflect the current working arrangement and employees and managers will need to review both virtual and on-site work considerations. Guidance to managers and employees will be updated as more information becomes available from central agencies.

Navigating the Current Posture: Examples

If these examples apply to you, or if you are an employee who has been working virtually from home during the pandemic, the Civilian Flexible Work Program and the following information can support you!


Maryam – a working parent from Winnipeg

Hi! My name is Maryam. I am a parent in Winnipeg who has been working hard to sustain the competing demands of work, home schooling and parenting. Balancing these roles for the past year has been stressful and overwhelming. I need flexibility and support from my employer so that I can support my family over the summer while school is out and summer program options are limited.

Have you seen?

Major Nguyen – a military manager of public service employees

Hello! My name is Major Nguyen and I am a military manager of public service employees who are working virtually. I find public service HR management unclear and complicated, with little to no alignment with how I manage military HR. I need clear guidance on how to support my public service employees and information on how to adapt my management style to virtual work.

Have you seen?

Alain – a manager/supervisor of an employee who is relocating for personal reasons

Hi! My name is Alain and I have an employee who has been working virtually in the NCR over the pandemic. My employee’s partner has been relocated to Victoria, BC for work. I want to retain this employee and identify an arrangement that supports both my operations and my employee. What flexible options are available? How do I effectively manage my employee’s performance?

Have you seen?

  • These arrangements should be reviewed by management on a case-by-case basis to ensure they are feasible and support the operational requirements of the work and work unit. Talk to your Labour Relations advisor for more information.
  • The Performance Management resources (DWAN only) to set objective, monitor progress, and evaluate performance

Genevieve – a virtual worker who is being asked to report back to the workplace

Hi! My name is Genevieve and I have been working virtually from home in Victoria, BC since the start of the pandemic. My manager has indicated that, as restrictions lift in our area, I will be required to report to the workplace. I have questions about what this will look like and how my health and safety will be supported.

Have you seen?

Ahmed – a manager/supervisor who is hiring a new employee and student

Hi! My name is Ahmed and I am a manager who will be onboarding a full-time employee and a student over the summer. What resources are available to support this process?

Have you seen?

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Are You Working On-Site?

The Workplace

Through the pandemic and beyond, many DND/CAF public service employees remain essential to enabling critical functions on-site, ranging from strategic and operational command to supporting on-site operations. For these individuals, physically entering the workplace is part of the job as the work cannot be done virtually.

Most DND workplaces will look and feel the same as they did pre-pandemic right now - notwithstanding the various temporary measures put in place at the onset of the pandemic to support health and safety. However, some adjustments to how the workplace is used may be necessary going forward and should be expected. The pandemic has highlighted the need for flexibility and agility in the provision of office space and of a workplace that can adapt to the changing needs of the employees and employers.


Local authorities (base commanders or equivalent) are responsible for reviewing parking policies to ensure fair distribution. It is important that managers inform local authorities of their ratios of employees working on site so that these employees are well supported.

Occupational Health & Safety

General Safety Program

The General Safety Program (GSP) is based on the Canada Labour Code, Part II and its accompanying Regulations. The Program establishes the requirement to, first, identify hazards in the workplace and, then, eliminate or control them. This applies to the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace and Defence Team consideration of how to transition back to the workplace, as restrictions are lifted.

The GSP Governance structure, including Workplace Health and Safety Committees and a well-established “Internal Responsibility System”, supports managers and employees as they consider occupational health and safety issues. Additional information can be found in the General Safety Program website (DWAN only) or by contacting your L1 Safety Officer (DWAN only).

Regional Workplace Considerations

The asymmetry of the pandemic impact and response across the country creates a different reality for each DND/CAF location. Base/Wing Commanders have been empowered to resume and constrain activities asymmetrically, aligned with regional public health direction, as long as health is never compromised. Each Base, Wing, and support unit regularly communicates the COVID-19 response guidelines and COVID-information to public service employees to ensure Defence Team members working in each location understand the local safety policies and regional Public Health Measures (PHMs). Public service flexible work discussions should take the current regional pandemic situation into account.

Healthy Workplace Practices

Healthy workplace practices, including appropriate cleaning and maintenance protocols and adherence to appropriate regional public health measures, including the wearing of masks, frequent washing of hands and physical distancing, will continue to be maintained across the organization for the foreseeable future.

For additional information see DM/CDS Joint Directive on the use of PHMs and PPEs.Footnote 4

Personal Preventive Practices

Occupational health guidance from Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP) indicates that non-medical masks should be worn in shared spaces indoors and outdoors, as part of the preventive practices employees should follow (along with other public health measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing), to help prevent the introduction or spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These personal preventive practices are the most important measures for everyone to adopt at home, at work, and in the community.

PSOHP’s guidance also notes that all employees should follow local public health advice.


There is presently no federal legislation, regulation or policy that requires employees to be vaccinated to enter a workplace nor has any federal, provincial, or local health authority indicated that they will mandate vaccination for the entire population/workforce. Defence Team leadership strongly encourages all public service employees to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, if and when they can. Even though many Defence Team members will have received a vaccination, this is not the case for everyone and it may be the case that not everyone in the workplace will have received both dosesFootnote 5 . As such, PHMs will continue to be enforced for the foreseeable future.

The vast majority of public servants will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines from provincial or territorial health care system along with other members of the general public. Generally, vaccination clinics have convenient hours, and employees who wish to be vaccinated are encouraged to do so outside of work hours.  Managers are encouraged to be as flexible as possible in supporting employees to get vaccinated. In accordance with the Directive on Leave and Special Working Arrangements , employees who require time away from work to get their vaccine may be able to take up to 3.75 hours as paid time off for a periodic medical appointment (Code 698) and paid sick leave for employees experiencing side-effects following the vaccination.

For more information, see the OCHRO COVID-19 Vaccination Framework for the Public Service which will be posted here when available.

Public Service COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Detection Testing (RADT)

DND and the CAF have implemented a series of comprehensive measures to help protect and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.  One preventive measure is a Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RADT), and in combination with other personal public health measures it is an important tool to protect Defence Team members and the community.  The program will include voluntary screening of Defence Team members in high risk or critical on-site areas to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus and minimize potential exposure to others. The testing will start as a pilot program in three different Base/Wing locations and be expanded over time.

For more information, see VCDS Initiating Directive on Rapid Antigen Detection Testing.

Navigating the Current Posture: Examples

If these examples apply to you, or if you are an employee who has been working on-site to complete your work during the pandemic, the following information can support you!

Have you seen?

Mathieu – an operational on-site Halifax employee with questions about vaccinations

Bonjour! My name is Mathieu. I am a ship repair officer who works at the Dockyard on CFB Halifax and cannot do my job virtually. I have been reporting to the workplace over the pandemic but I have questions about vaccinations and the workplace.

Have you seen?

Sergeant Lee – a military manager of on-site public service employees

Hello! My name is Sergeant Lee and I am a military manager of public service employees who are working both on-site and virtually. I need clear guidance on how to support the health and safety of my public service employees who are reporting to the workplace and guidance on the expectations for transitioning back to the workplace.

Have you seen?

Linda – an on-site employee with questions about workplace health and safety

Hi! My name is Linda, I am an analyst working in the NCR and my work must be conducted in a high security environment. Therefore, I cannot work virtually and must report to the workplace. I have questions about how the workplace will change as vaccines roll out and restrictions are lifted.

Have you seen?

Michael – a on-site cook from Gagetown and is a caregiver for a family member

Hi! My name is Michael, I am a cook in Gagetown and I am also a caregiver for a family member who is at a higher risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. I am worried about my health and safety in the workplace and exposing my loved one to the virus. I need information on workplace health and safety and options available to me.

Have you seen?

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Preparing for the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The pandemic has significantly impacted the work environment for the Defence Team and DND/CAF will use lessons learned to reinvent how and where work is done as we make the eventual transition to the post-pandemic environment. These future-focused efforts seek to reduce our carbon footprint, promote sustainable development and ensure we have the workplace and workforce required to meet future Defence requirements.

Modernizing the Workplace

Over the next several years, ADM (Infrastructure and Environment), will work with Level 1 organizations to consolidate and modernize spaces where possible across DND/CAF locations. This approach will move towards unassigned, shared, and flexible work spaces that adopt “GCworkplace” standards. The approach includes new workspace designs and exploring ways to better balance supply and demand while improving long-term space use and reducing the Government of Canada’s carbon footprint.

For more information, please review the GCworkplace page on GCpedia or contact your local Real Property Operations Detachment.

Low occupancy rates in key DND locations present a unique opportunity to maintain momentum. GCworkplace elements may be added to general purpose office spaceFootnote 6  as they are renovated in the coming years, where it makes sense. However, implementing the GCworkplace vision within DND will take time. Where occupancy has remained high throughout the pandemic, similar modernization efforts may be considered as we emerge from the pandemic context to introduce added flexibility as well as new technologies and FWAs, where needed.


In a GCworkplace environment, all furnishings and equipment will accommodate a range of ergonomic needs including height, width and angle adjustability, thereby reducing the need for common ergonomic accommodations of the past. In cases where these options do not address a specific need, accommodations will be developed on a case-by-case basis. Managers are encouraged to work with Labour Relations, the Office of Disability Management (ODM), and your local Base Safety Office to address these cases.


Have More Questions?

Managers are encouraged to contact their local Real Property Operations Detachment to review any space allocation and modernization opportunities or if they have questions.

Local Real Property Operations Detachments, supported by ADM(IE), can help them explore options and quantify the space requirements of the various units and sections.

Clean Desk Practice

The pandemic highlighted the health and safety benefits of clean desk practices as the norm (where employees do not leave personal items on the desk). This practice may be new to some but public service employees are encouraged to adopt it going forward. Doing so supports DND’s healthy workplace goals by facilitating a more sanitized work environment in today’s pandemic context and in tomorrow’s flexible workplace environment (unassigned workspace).


Public service employees may be provided with a locker for their personal items where shared desk policies or unassigned workplace policies are in place, to support seamless workspace re-assignment to others when vacant.

Greening Defence

Workplace modernization efforts and increased use of flexible work within DND/CAF will support ambitious Government of Canada targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from federal operations by 2050 as outlined in the Greening Government Strategy. These efforts will support the achievement of Canada’s broader sustainable development goals.

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Do You Need Help Managing the Uncertainty?

Mental Health and Wellness

As we continue to navigate through this uncertain time, Defence Team members can access a variety of resources and information to help maintain and improve their mental health and overall personal well-being, including:

Office of Disability Management

The Office of Disability Management plays a key role in ensuring that all public service employees have access to a safe and healthy work environment. They provide impartial, collaborative and inclusive services to support employees and their supervisor/manager dealing with disability-related matters due to illness, impairment and injury. This important resource can help Defence Team members navigate through this uncertain time and support their physical and mental health.

Disability Management Advisors (DMAs) provide support during:

To request services for yourself or your employee, call 1-833-893-3388 or email the regional positional mailbox:

Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention

To strengthen the policies that keep our employees safe, the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (WHVPR), under the Canada Labour Code Part II, came into effect on January 1, 2021. The Defence Team has created an Interim Policy to meet regulatory requirements and work is on-going to complete a DAOD and an instructional manual to replace it. To best support the new Regulations, a Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention (WHVP) Centre of Expertise has been created to provide guidance to employees and managers, develop training, receive Notices of Occurrence of harassment and violence and implement preventative measures.

To support the Interim Policy, all Defence Team personnel must complete new mandatory training, offered by the Canada School of Public Service which must be completed no later than 31 December 2021 for current employees and within 3 months of the start date for new hries.

For more information, visit the new workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations involving Defence Team Public Service Employees web page, call HR Connect RH at 1-833-RHR-MDND (1-833-747-6363) or email the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (WHVP) Centre of Expertise.

Union Engagement

DND/CAF will continue to support meaningful union engagement as we navigate the current pandemic environment and eventual post-pandemic posture by establishing early and ongoing communications.

If you want to engage with your union representative, download the HR GO RH App today and use the “Find My Union” tool in the Toolbox!

Additional Questions?

If you have additional questions you can contact HR Connect for all of your HR Related questions: Toll Free: 1-833-RHR-MDND (1-833-747-6363) between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. Or via HR Connect RH (link accessible only on the DWAN) or download the HR Go RH App.

You can also review the Defence Team COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions or submit a question to the Ask Anything: COVID-19 as part of the DND/CAF’s resuming work resources.

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Moving Forward Together

Ensuring a healthy and safe Defence Team meets its strategic and operational objectives remains our top priority. This includes its people-focused goals, such as wellness, equity, diversity and inclusion. Lessons learned from the pandemic have illustrated our ability, when working as a team, to leverage flexibility in how we work and adaptation in the face of change.

A more modern and flexible approach to work not only positions DND/CAF as an employer of choice but ensures we have the workplace, skills, and resilience needed to adapt to future challenges and respond to future defence requirements.

Additional Resources


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Virtual Work: Where Do I Go From Here?

Guide to Virtual Work for Employees

Guide to Virtual Work for Managers

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On-Site Work: Where Do I Go From Here?

Guide to On-Site Work for Employees

Guide to On-Site Work for Managers

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