Business Resumption: the Tough Questions
July 27, 2020 – Defence Stories
When employees and supervisors disagree about returning to the workplace:
When we began the business resumption process, we knew there would be situations without straightforward answers, especially when it comes to how, when and even if employees would return to their workplaces.
Through our Ask Anything: COVID-19 inbox, we have received a lot of questions asking how supervisors are making decisions. Questions like:
- Do I have to go back to my physical workplace if my supervisor says so?
- If I report to a civilian L1 but work within a military L1 organization, who has the authority to tell me if I need to return to a physical workplace?
- Why don’t the same rules apply to everyone?
- Why is DND not following the same business resumption processes as other departments in the Government of Canada?
- What are my options if I am told to go back to work and I don’t agree I should have to?
Like these questions, the answers are not straightforward and there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution.
How are supervisors making decisions about who returns to the physical workplace?
Local supervisors have been granted significant flexibility to make decisions about who comes back to the physical workplace and who works from home.
That said – and as the Deputy Minister has made clear numerous times—no decision should be made without several important conversations having first taken place.
Supervisors should discuss decisions with their chain of command – especially in situations where military members manage civilians, and vice versa. For the most part, civilians work under collective agreements that must be honoured.
Supervisors should also be having conversations with each employee about their personal circumstances. Are there childcare or caregiver challenges? Is someone a member of the vulnerable population? Is working from home an option? What arrangements will work for the individual employee and the organzation so that the necessary work gets done?
Consideration should also be given to the unique nature of the individual’s role. L1s will have provided specific guidance to their management teams about which roles have a work-from-home option, and which do not.
While many desk-based jobs within the Defence Team are suited to working from home, many roles are not. DND, like many other federal government departments, is home to many civilian jobs that are difficult, if not impossible, to perform outside the physical workplace.
If you are an employee and are concerned about when and why you are expected to return to your physical workplace, we recommend you do the following.
- Talk to your supervisor. Make sure you have had a very frank conversation. You are entiled to ask questions and raise concerns without fear of reprisals.
- If you and your supervisor cannot come to an agreement, you can use HR Connect to seek advice. You can either call 1-833-747-6363 or visit the HR Connect RH on-line form.
- Through HR Connect, you may be advised that your issue is related to your collective agreement and you will be directed to your local union rep to assist with the discussion. You can also find your local union rep through the HR Go App.
Business resumption is an ongoing process, so flexibility and open discussions are critically important as we navigate the return to the workplace. Thank you to all Defence Team members for your understanding and cooperation as we work together to find a solution that follows public health advice while maintaining operational readiness.
For information on Business Resumption, check out the following resources on the Defence Team – COVID-19 page:
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