March 23: Update from the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO)

March 23, 2020 - Defence Stories

This message contains updated information from the Government of Canada’s Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) for all Public Service employees.

If you have any questions about how this information pertains to you, please speak to your manager or contact HR Connect RH at 1-833-RHR-MDND (1-833-747-6363) between 08h00 and 16h00 EST.

You are also encouraged to visit the DND/CAF COVID-19 Information Page for the latest information pertinent to both civilian andmilitary Defence Team members.

Guidance - Gatherings in the workplace

In the context of COVID-19, gatherings have been discouraged in order to limit the spread of the virus and guidelines have been developed for event organizers and planners to make decisions. Numbers of people constituting a gathering in this context has been reduced from 250 to 50 by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and even 5 in certain provinces.

As long as employees or visitors to the workplace are not required to be in close contact with each other, such as in a meeting room, a waiting area or a boardroom, the situation is not considered a gathering. Both the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP) have provided specific advice which applies to the workplace. General advice includes:

We reiterate that managers are to consider on-site work only if the work meets the definition of critical service and working remotely to support it is not feasible.

The above interpretation is in line with instructions from national and local health agencies as of March 22, 2020. Evaluations of each workplace, in collaboration with the departmental OHS policy committee, the departmental workplace committee or the health and safety representative, can assist in ensuring that the guidance provided by PHAC and PSOHP (Health Canada) is applied and can support managers in determining how to continue delivering critical services as required.

On-site critical services

Managers are to consider on-site work only if the work meets the definition of critical service and working remotely to support it is not feasible.

A critical service is one that, if disrupted, would result in a high or very high degree of injury to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians, or to the effective functioning of the Government of Canada. All departments are required to identify their respective critical services and related supporting resources. For more information, please refer to the Policy on Government Security.

Given the nature of the crisis, your existing list of critical services may not be up to date. If you have not done so already, I invite you to revise it accordingly and to identify redundancy for the highest demand jobs, to account for possible absences or to prevent burnout of staff should the situation persist. 

By contrast, an essential service is used to determine which positions must continue to provide service during strike activity. Essential service agreements are agreed to with the bargaining agents. No current essential service agreements exist for the vast majority of public service organizations. 

As before, please continue to refer to the Information for Government of Canada Employees (with advisories and messages for employees) and websites.

Thank you for your support as we do our best to protect the health of our workforce.

Network usage for critical and non-critical services

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) guidance and directives to departments do not stipulate how network resources should be used to support employees performing critical and non-critical services.

Appropriate network usage to maximize availability for priority users is a decision at the discretion of each Deputy Head. Any decision should be taken in consultation with the departmental Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Security Officer, who are supported with the latest network capacity updates from Shared Services Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

In all cases, please refer to network usage best practices that were shared in our message from March 13 or consult with your CIO.

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