FAQ: Manager’s and Supervisor’s Responsibilities

As a manager/supervisor, what are my responsibilities in the context of COVID-19?

Managers are responsible at all times, both by policy and by law, to provide their staff with a healthy and safe work environment. In the context of COVID-19, managers must remain informed of orders, directions and guidance issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and from their own organizations. They also have the duty to inform their staff of these orders, directions and guidance. Given this, managers are encouraged to assess whether or not telework arrangements are feasible within their organization.

Managers can obtain advice from their Departmental Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator regarding health and safety processes and procedures but, at a minimum, must familiarize themselves with their responsibilities in dealing with a staff members' right to refuse dangerous work, and/or health and safety complaint. These processes are set out in the Canada Labour Code and are explained on the Employment and Social Development Canada webpage on occupational health and safety.

It is critical managers are equipped with the tools required for them to support their employees both from a well-being perspective as well as from a performance management perspective. It is equally important managers ensure consistent contact and communication with employees to keep them appraised on the ongoing evolution and changing landscape as business resumption occurs.

Managers can also consult the Manager's Handbook Canada Labour Code Part II, developed to assist them in interpreting and implementing the requirements of Part II of the Canada Labour Code.

How do managers/supervisors address the anxiety that some staff may be experiencing?

Under circumstances such as these, it is natural to experience different levels of anxiety. Staff may wish to speak to their manager/supervisor, who will be able to advise them on what services are available to help them via the Employee Assistance Program (EAP):

  • The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free short-term confidential counselling for personal or work-related problems as well as crisis counselling to employees and their immediate family members 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
  • The Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program (CFMAP) is a partnership between DND and Health Canada's Emergency Preparedness and Occupational Health Directorate Employee Assistance Services (EAS). The CFMAP offers confidential, voluntary, short term counselling to assist with resolving many of today's stresses at home and in the work place.
  • Health Canada’s Psycho-Social Emergency Preparedness and Response Team (PSERT) is a service that tends to the needs of federal employees and responders exposed to increased stress due to a whole-of-government response to emerging issues, or an emergency / disaster situation.

Some of my employees are uncomfortable returning to the workplace. Can they stay at home?

We recognize that there will be stress and anxiety related to returning to the workplace. The return will be gradual and done respecting all Public Health Measures (PHMs). As we move towards re-entering the workplace, there will be a need for all managers to discuss with their employees their preferences for remote work and/or return to the workplace, map employee availability against operational requirements, and determine the feasibility from an infrastructure and occupational health and safety perspective.

While the pandemic has shown that much can be done through remote work, many tasks cannot be accomplished this way. Factors to consider when deliberating about the feasibility of remote work should include local PHMs, operational requirements of in-person presence, infrastructure changes, dependent care responsibilities, vaccination status, and mental health. You are encouraged to have a thorough discussion with your team concerning returning to the workplace to determine the best work arrangements that balance the needs of personnel with operational requirements.

Someone I manage doesn’t want to come to work but they perform a critical service. What can I do?

For employees who are fearful to physically report to work but provide a critical service per the business continuity plan, it is our advice that they be provided with any and all information to demonstrate that we have taken measures to protect their health and safety. Engagement with the Local Occupational Health and Safety committee is recommended. Should they still not want to report, they will need to exercise their right to refuse work under the Canada Labour Code. Contact your General Safety Officer, General Safety (D Safe G, VCDS) or OHSSecretariatSST@forces.gc.ca.

If the employee has a specific vulnerability (i.e. elderly age category based on GC COVID-19 guidelines, compromised immune system, etc.), they could make a written, signed statement to that affect, and commit to providing a medical certificate to substantiate at a future date.

I have a vulnerable employee who wants to come back to the workplace. Do I need to ask for a medical certificate?

This is not necessary. Ensure the employee is making an informed decision by sharing the steps you’ve taken to protect their health (PHM, PPE). Encourage open conversation to ensure the employee does not feel obligated to risk their health or that of a family member. Each employee can make their own personal decision. It is our job to ensure they have the information needed to make an informed one.

What are my employer’s duty to accommodate if one has a medical exemption for the Covid-19 Vaccine?

Pursuant to DAOD 5015-0 Workplace Accommodation, managers are responsible for responding in a timely, confidential, sensitive and effective manner to all employment-related requests for accommodation, and this, in consultation with Civilian Labour Relations. If duty to accommodate for a medical exemption is supported, alternatives may include telework, assignment of other duties, or testing.

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