May 22: Update from Deputy Minister Jody Thomas on Business Resumption Planning

May 22, 2020 - Defence Stories

message from the deputy minister

This message is intended for DND civilian employees as an update to the Deputy Minister’s direction provided 1 May 2020.

Please visit the Defence Team Covid-19 website for the latest information pertinent to both civilian and military Defence Team members


You want to know when we will resume business activities and what that will look like. Here is best answer I can give you right now.


In no way making light of this difficult situation, the answer is "it depends". But as Deputy Minister, I have no expectation that all of you will be back in your regular places of work on 1 June. Some of you may be but a great number of factors must be considered, communication will have occurred, and safety measures will have been put in place before that happens.


In broad strokes, the process of business resumption—with some of us working remotely, and others working on a DND site—will roll out like this:

Over the next several weeks, L1s across the Defence Team will explain to their staff in greater detail how—and when—your different areas of operations will resume a more familiar state of business.

As a Defence Team civilian, your personal resumption-of-business timing will be influenced by a variety of factors, including (but not limited to):

These and other challenges have been raised by many of you who have completed our Defence Team COVID-19 Survey, and we will continue to analyze the data and help it inform our actions throughout the Business Resumption Process.


You are all different people, with different challenges, working in different roles in different places. As you can see, a one-size-fits-all approach will not be possible. That’s why your return to work will be guided by the following directives and plans:


Our Defence Team goal over the next several months is to set the conditions and then ensure that the operational capability of the CAF and the important supporting and institutional activities resume. We need to protect the health and safety of our Defence Team members. Those two elements must occur in tandem.

As you can see, business resumption can’t and won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. (It also may mean working remotely, rather than on site.) However, I do have a number of overarching priorities and expectations. I have shared these with all L1s over the past month and continue to do so. The CDS and I will reinforce this message with our General and Flag Officers and Executives at our virtual town hall next week. And I will share them with you today.

  1. As a DND employee, your business resumption direction ultimately comes from within National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Those decisions are guided by Government of Canada actions, with which we are closely tied. However, we are a very large and very complicated organization, and there are numerous factors we must consider. Therefore, please do not automatically assume return dates or processes in other federal departments apply to you unless you have received specific direction from within DND.
  2. Communication between staff and managers is essential. Managers and supervisors must talk to all their staff before finalizing their back to work plan. Every single Defence Team member should be able to have an honest conversation with their supervisor about whether the COVID-19 circumstances are impacting their ability to resume work. Staff must be able to voice their concerns and ask whatever questions they have.
  3. All local back-to-work plans must be built with input from Health and Safety Wellness Committees and Health and Safety Reps. This is non-negotiable.
  4. Managers must conduct a Gender Based Analysis Plus assessment of their back to work plans. Your L1s will have further guidance on this, and it is also non-negotiable. Certain groups of people are disproportionately affected by pandemic conditions, particularly parents or caregivers with young or school-age children, or those caring for ill or elderly relatives.
  5. Managers should test the accuracy of their assumptions with their senior leaders before relaying their plans to employees. We have encountered situations where managers assumed dates and processes, but those assumptions were incorrect. Managers and supervisors should brief-up on their plans before they are implemented, both with your chain of command and with whomever is the ultimate authority for the site on which your employees work (i.e. Base and Wing commanders).


For those on "699 leave" right now, "stand-by and stay safe". The whole Defence Team leadership appreciates the complexity of the tough situation we find ourselves in. Many people are struggling with child care or family obligations and potential medical issues related to COVID-19. Guidance from the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) regarding this special leave provision remains in effect and will be re-evaluated by TBS in late June. We’ll update you on any changes at that time.

Broadly speaking, as child-care once again becomes safe and available, our general expectation is that those on "699 leave" will go back to working regular hours. That said, many situations are complicated. Please share your challenges with your manager. If you are a manager and you have questions, check out the HR Go RH app or contact the Labour Relations and Compensation teams in HR-CIV. They are there to help.

You will hear more about all of this in the coming weeks, and you may have many questions. Your main point of contact for those questions should be your manager, or the person to whom you report if you are a manager yourself. We will also have Frequently Asked Questions available, a business resumption question inbox (coming soon), and many other resources available to you.

If you are a manager, HR-CIV, DND and the Government of Canada have many resources to support you during this time. For instance, HR-CIV has produced a toolkit for managers in the HR GO RH app and the Canadian School of Public Service has created a 30-minute online training module on how to establish effective virtual teams. All managers of civilian employees will complete this course.

We are going through a challenging time. But I am greatly encouraged by the huge degree of flexibility we’ve already seen from members across the Defence Team. I am confident that we can continue to evolve as an organization to overcome the challenges that COVID-19 presents.

Please know that your senior management team is here to support you in this business resumption process, and that—as difficult and uncertain as it feels—you are not alone. As in all things with this Defence Team, we are in this together, and we will get through this together.

Jody Thomas
Deputy Minister of National Defence

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