As supervisors, be sure to have an open dialogue and frank conversations with your teams about how they’re feeling and their personal circumstances which may affect their work. Each individual will be dealing with a different reality. The transition to physical workplace will be a welcome change for some and create stress or anxiety for others. Despite the decrease in restrictions across the country, some members may continue to be impacted by personal or family health implications, challenging care giver responsibilities, and (lack of) accessibility to social infrastructure (e.g. the availability of daycare and summer camps, the ability to leverage family care plans, public transportation, among others).
The following key messages can be leveraged during team meetings and in communication products as it includes consistent and relevant language across DND/CAF:
- Situational Overview
- General Business Resumption
- Health & Safety Measures
- COVID-19 Vaccines
- Sustaining Activities through the Summer
- Mental Health & Wellness
- Questions & Concerns
- Globally, case numbers continue to remain high as a result of unequal access to the limited worldwide vaccine supply, the higher transmissibility of variants of concern (VOC), and lapses and/or early relaxation of Public Health Measures (PHMs).
- The emergence of the Omicron VOC has started to change how we view the pandemic. It has spread at a rate not seen thus far and has required us to relook at our reporting and certain aspects of our response.
- The Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) continue to be vital enablers of the COVID-19 response, including the roll-out of vaccines and support to provincial and territorial (P/T) governments.
- Meanwhile, we recognize the incredible impacts of this disease on literally every facet of life to include our wellness, economy, geopolitical tension, and intense demands for social change.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has become a part of our lives and appears as though it will remain so for some time. As such, we have adapted our strategy in order to continue to operate and reconstitute in a persistent COVID-19 environment.
- The documents guiding decisions during this time are as follows, and you are encouraged to read more about them:
General Business Resumption
- Defence Team members continue to show leadership by getting vaccinated and respecting and enforcing PHMs. The majority of Defence Team members have received two doses of the vaccine and as the booster campaign now picks up momentum, we expect that all of these individuals will take the next step and receive their third dose.
- Coupled with a high vaccine uptake rate, DND/CAF will continue to lead by strengthening our Layered Risk Mitigation Strategy (LRMS), further employing new tools to mitigate risk in a persistent COVID-19 environment.
- The most recent CDS/DM directive accepts that we are in a persistent COVID-19 state within our communities and that reverting some processes back to pre-pandemic conditions is required in order to continue delivering on our mandates.
- With the most recent CDS/DM directive, we can expect a shift in planning for aspects such as the level of presence at the workplace, travel, and risk acceptance. There will be no phases as it is expected that this will be an ongoing/steady state effort and we will transition to an endemic COVID-19 posture.
- COVID-19 will continue to affect the country in an asymmetric way, influenced by multiple factors, including, but not limited to, geography, vaccination rates, and travel.
- Managers and supervisors are taking into consideration many factors in planning the transition of their workforce to persistent or post-pandemic realities, including:
- the composition of the workforce;
- local PHMs;
- the requirement for in-person presence;
- the fit of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and appropriate mask or face coverings to account for a variety of sizes;
- infrastructure changes that may impact gender inclusivity and disabled accessibility; and
- mental and physical health challenges.
- The Defence Team will continue to employ a hybrid workforce where it makes sense, leveraging the success that we have experienced thus far, by affording our teammates flexibility. We will continue to consider the ability of Defence Team members to fully resume job responsibilities or return to the office based on factors such as :
- operational requirements;
- dependent care responsibilities;
- mental and physical health conditions;
- public transit limitations; and
- abilities to be fully vaccinated.
- Decisions on changes to day-to-day operations and the reintegration of Defence Team members into the physical workplace will continue to be made at the local-level, based on regional realities and operational requirements.
- Leadership will communicate with Defence Team members should there be any immediate plans to return to the workplace, and members are encouraged to reach out to their supervisors with any questions. In all decisions, leadership will carefully consider the health of Defence Team members, Senior Medical Authority advice, and guidance from regional health authorities.
- The protection of the physical and mental health of the Defence Team and Canadians remains our priority.
Health & Safety Measures
- Although we’ve seen a tremendously successful Canadian vaccination campaign, now to include the booster dose efforts, vaccines alone will not be the panacea to the pandemic.
- Public Health Measures (PHMs) (as outlined in Annex B of the directive) will continue to be enforced for the foreseeable future in DND/CAF facilities, including:
- Non-medical mask use
- Physical distancing
- Testing (asymptomatic)
- Vaccination (boosters)
- If you are conducting business in the workplace, adequate guidance and direction will be provided to you regarding PHMs and Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) if necessary and where appropriate.
- The Rapid Antigen Detection Testing (RADT) program (as outlined in Annex D of the directive) will involve screening in a deliberate manner, prioritizing Defence Team members who have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 or work in positions where exposure/infection could have a significant impact on operations.
- DND/CAF asks that personnel who develop COVID-19 symptoms or are a high-risk contact of a positive case, follow workplace or local public health guidance and seek medical care if required.
- The best mitigation and preventive measures, emphasized by the Surgeon General, Canadian Forces Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) include:
- Getting vaccinated against COVID-19
- Following public health measures
- Wearing a mask when out in public
- Washing hands thoroughly and often with soapy water and/or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Practicing cough and sneeze etiquette
- Staying home when symptomatic
- Respecting physical distancing at work, at home, and in the community
- An updated Mask Framework can be found in Annex C of the directive which outlines mask considerations in example settings.
- For more information on non-medical masks and face coverings, visit the Non-medical masks and face coverings web page.
- To help keep yourself and others safe, the Government of Canada is encouraging all Canadians to download the COVID Alert App.
- Each supervisor will be responsible for ensuring that employees are abiding by physical distancing requirements and PPE and PHM guidance within the workplace.
- Should a CAF member feel ill and be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they should seek a test at a local clinic/hospital or health services centre if on a military base. They are then expected to follow instructions from medical personnel. CAF members are encouraged to use the Public Health Agency of Canada online self-assessment tool and to follow local medical clinics’ advice if they develop symptoms or they think they need to be tested for COVID-19.
All Defence Team members are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. A one-stop-information webpage has been created to provide the latest guidance and updates for all Defence Team members regarding Defence Team vaccination policies, the CAF vaccination rollout, and proof of vaccination for CAF members.
Defence Team (public service employees and CAF members)
- Health Canada approved vaccines are a safe and effective way to help protect Canadians against COVID-19 and from developing related complications associated with the virus.
- All L1s must continue to enable current and future Defence Team members to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. Maximum uptake of the vaccine is one of the most important PHMs available and the surest route to decreased restrictions in the workplace.
- In order to reduce the strain on provincial/territorial health systems and to give immunization programs a chance to work, everyone must continue to follow public health measures including social distancing, physical distancing, washing hands frequently and wearing a mask, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not.
- In light of the Government of Canada’s Vaccination Policy and the CDS Directive on CAF COVID-19 Vaccination, all Defence Team members are required to be vaccinated with any Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine.
- The vast majority of Canadians are eligible to receive the vaccine. In the exceptional case that a Defence Team member is unable to be vaccinated due to a certified medical contraindication, religious ground, or any other prohibited ground of Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), they may request accommodation. Defence Team members unable to be fully vaccinated, (with an approved request for accommodation) and who are required to report to work on-site, may require regular rapid testing.
Specific to public service employees
- Public Service employees who secure an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine during the work day should use leave code 698, medical and dental appointments.
- Regardless of their vaccination status, all current and future Defence Team Public Service employees are required to complete an attestation of their vaccination status within the Government of Canada’s Vaccine Attestation Tracking System (GC-VATS).
- Public Service employees who do not comply with the Government of Canada’s Vaccination Policy will be placed on administrative leave without pay.
Specific to CAF members
- Regardless of their vaccination status, all current and future CAF members are required to confirm their vaccination status through a one-time attestation process using MCS – Monitor MASS.
- CAF members who are non-compliant with the CDS Directive on CAF COVID-19 Vaccination due to being unwilling to disclose their vaccination status and/or who attest to not be fully vaccinated will be directed to attend a virtual educational seminar provided by healthcare workers on the benefits of COVID-19 vaccinations and may also be subject to administrative action.
Sustaining activities moving forward
Workplace Flexibility, Leave, and Working Arrangements
- Decisions on changes to day-to-day operations and the reintegration of Defence Team members into the physical workplace will continue to be made at the local-level, based on regional realities, local health conditions, and operational requirements.
- Resuming in-person business activities across the DND/CAF will be based on a variety of circumstances and will be adapted as required to maintain critical operations and protect personnel.
- The Defence Team will continue to employ a hybrid workforce where it makes sense, leveraging the success that we have experienced thus far by affording our teammates flexibility.
- DND/CAF take the safety of members and their families seriously. Reach out to your supervisor or Chain of Command to have important discussions about your situation and needs.
- DND/CAF will continue to evaluate lessons learned over the pandemic so that the Defence Team can transition to a post-pandemic workplace more resilient than we were before.
- Remote work, virtual work, hybrid models, and other flexible work arrangements will continue to play a larger role than in the pre-pandemic context.
- However, given the mandate of the Defence Team, some tasks must be performed on-site to sustain operational excellence and support for the Defence Team. Additionally, team cohesion and productivity can benefit greatly from in-person collaboration. Therefore, the Defence Team must balance flexibility for employees with the manager’s right to manage and sustain operational excellence in a fair and equitable way.
- We will deliberately and incrementally increase our work capacity by safely resuming activities. Attention to detail in establishing and adhering to health force protection measures is paramount.
- We are taking a flexible approach with our people while balancing the need to ensure operational output. Careful consideration will be given to members who have a greater likelihood of severe illness if COVID-19 is contracted or who will experience unique challenges at home if some form of accommodation is not granted. Individual situations and limitations will be supported where possible.
- We must continue to align ourselves with the enduring principles of CAF leadership: know your people and promote their welfare.
- On a situational basis, compassionate leave may be approved to provide you with sufficient time away from your place of duty when such absence is appropriate as a result of urgent and exceptional personal reasons, including but not limited to:
- If you are subjected to a period of observation, without being symptomatic, compassionate leave can be granted in cases where working remotely from home or the observation location is not possible;
- If you live with/care for a member of the vulnerable population or you are experiencing child care challenges.
- If you have been diagnosed with or have a presumptive case of COVID-19 you will be granted sick leave by your health care provider.
- If any of these apply to you, we can talk about the available options. You can also always contact the Administrative Response Centre (ARC) if you need clarity.
Public Service Employees
- The vast majority of employees are working full-time, either remotely or onsite, making use of flexible or alternate work arrangements or leave options, when needed, and following occupational health measures that have been implemented in accordance with public health guidance.
- All Public Service employees working in a virtual or hybrid work arrangement must have a Flexible Work Agreement (FWA). If an employees’ working arrangement changes, an amended FWA form must be submitted to their manager for approval.
- L1s and managers must determine the optimal public service workforce alignment between on-site, virtual and hybrid work models in a fair and equitable manner that supports the physical and psychological health and safety of public service employees while sustaining operational excellence for the Defence Team.
- Clarified guidance around the use of Code 699 was issued on March 1, 2022. The Guidance on the use of ‘Other leave with Pay (699)’ for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic article emphasizes that requests for ‘Other Leave with Pay (699)’ will continue to be assessed based on whether the employee remains available for work, taking into consideration their vaccination status and in accordance with the Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Policy on COVID-19 vaccination). Managers need to examine individual requests relating to ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with their Labour Relations Advisor.
- We all play a critical role in maintaining the workflow during these times. The Civilian Flexible Work Program continues to help employees and managers work together toward mutually beneficial solutions. It applies to all DND employees and allows managers – including military managers of employees – when feasible, to authorize employees to alter the following:
- work schedule;
- number of hours they work; or
- location in which they work.
- Public Service employees are encouraged to take their leave, in accordance with their annual allotment of leave.
Support for Telework
- To ensure all Defence Team members have an adequate understanding of workplace requirements, you should have/will need to complete onboarding training for Defence 365 (D 365) as well as the Establishing Effective Virtual Teams (X175) course through the Canada School of Public Service GCCampus web site.
- D 365 is a Protected A platform permanently available to all Defence Team members and complements the existing enterprise network’s VPN (T-DVPNI). Available on both the DWAN and personal devices, D 365 enables remote work.
- If you require equipment to support your remote work, you must first use existing processes to acquire what you need from your office space. If you require additional IT equipment, you should then use existing DND inventory.
- To qualify for ergonomic support equipment from DND at home, specific criteria must be met, reviewed and approved by your supervisor. More information can be found here.
- Although many Defence Team members have retrieved office equipment and supplies as recommended, some have had to purchase specific items to ensure that work duties can continue to be performed effectively while working remotely. For more information including eligibility and the reimbursement claim process, consult the Remote Work Reimbursement Support Message.
Mental Health and Wellness
- The mental health strain on the Defence Team and our families caused by living through a global pandemic, cannot be under-estimated. DND/CAF must remain vigilant for signs of mental stress within Defence Team members and be supportive of those who are exhibiting signs of such stresses.
- You are encouraged to leverage the mental and physical wellness resources that are available to you as a CAF/DND member. Please visit the Defence Team COVID-19 – Mental Health and Wellness page for more information on the resources available to you:
- CAF Member Assistance Program (CFMAP) or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 1-800-268-7708
- LifeSpeak – online health and wellness platform
- CAF Medical Clinic nearest you – psychosocial services and mental health program
- Military Family Resource Centres
- Family Information Line 1-800-866-4546
- Wing or Base Chaplain
- In the event of a mental health crisis, or urgent or life-threatening situation – call 911
- Short-term enhancements to the Public Service Health Care Plan have also been made to further support public service employees at this time. The requirement to have a prescription for psychological services is temporarily suspended, and the scope of qualifying mental health professionals expanded, until non-critical business is authorized to resume or as indicated otherwise.
- For more information on the benefits and services that apply to you, please visit the link below. If you have any additional questions, feel free to speak with me or someone within your Chain of Command.
- The Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace offers a dedicated online hub on COVID-19 and mental health for public servants, providing timely, curated resources, services and supports. It includes tips and tools on how to take care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and where to get more help if needed.
- Our Defence Team is agile, resilient and most importantly, we are in this together. We encourage everyone to have an open dialogue and for you to be honest about any fears you may have. Be sure to leverage the mental and physical wellness resources that are available to you as a military member or public service employee.
- Please refer to the CDS/DM Directive on DND/CAF Operating and Reconstituting in a Persistent COVID-19 Environment for a full list of travel restrictions, approval authorities, quarantine leave requirements, considerations, and references.
Specific to public service employees
- Work-related international and domestic travel may be approved through the pre-COVID-19 pandemic process used in DND/CAF provided that the starting, destination and any countries transited do not restrict such travel. Federal or host nation restrictions will be adhered to. The level of authority to authorize such travel is to be determined by the L1.
Specific to CAF members
- Domestic duty-related travel for CAF members may be approved through the pre- COVID-19 pandemic DND/CAF process provided that the starting, destination, and any countries transited do not restrict such travel. Federal or host nation restrictions will be adhered to. However, within Canada, CAF members may be required to do otherwise in the authorized execution of a specific duty, where specific advice has been sought on the activity.
- Domestic Travel for Compassionate Reasons will continue to be applied as per QR&O 16.17. Mandatory quarantine leave can be granted in accordance with the Canadian Forces Leave Policy Manual 5.17 Special Leave ((COVID-19) Mandatory Quarantine) to account for the time in quarantine.
- International and Domestic House Hunting Trips (HHTs) / Destination Inspection Trips (DITs) are permitted only to those destinations where there are no quarantine requirements at destination and, when applicable, quarantine can be completed upon return to origin within the member’s principal residence. However, a member may proceed on an HHT/DIT unaccompanied if there is an exemption for travel in place that permits a military member travelling for the performance of military duties not to quarantine on arrival and, when applicable, quarantine can be completed upon return to origin within the member’s principal residence.
- Non-duty-related domestic and international travel can be approved through the pre-pandemic process used in DND/CAF. Unless stated otherwise at CANFORGENS CANFORGEN 152/20 or CANFORGEN 153/20, all periods of quarantine required by local public health authorities at the travel destination, and at any points in between, must be covered by annual leave or special leave. If required to quarantine upon return to place of residence, chains of command will be responsible for managing whether remote work is feasible for the quarantine period and, if not, annual leave will be required for that period of time (unless the member is granted sick leave).
- International duty-related travel may be approved through the pre-COVID-19 pandemic DND/CAF process provided that the starting, destination and any countries transited do not restrict such travel). Federal or host nation restrictions will be adhered to.
- International Travel for Compassionate Reasons will continue to be applied as per QR&O 16.17.
- HLTAs can be approved in accordance with direction to be promulgated by CJOC, CANSOFCOM and the VCDS in accordance with Military Foreign Service Instruction 10.21.
Questions and Concerns
- Defence Team members have the right to have concerns and ask questions during the Business Resumption Period. If your question has not already been answered on the FAQs page, be sure to reach out to your supervisor who is equipped to guide and support you. If that is not an option, you can submit your question through the Ask Anything: COVID-19 submission box.
- If you are a Public Service employee and have HR related questions, please contact HR Connect HR at 1-833-RHR-MDND (1-833-747-6363) or download the HR Go RH App. They can help answer your questions and or direct you to the right place.
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