Employees on leave who seek to provide humanitarian or other support in Ukraine
March 23, 2022 - Defence Stories
Like many Canadians, federal public servants have expressed grave concerns about the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. In addition to the important steps being taken by Canada and its allies to provide vital humanitarian aid, Canadians, including public servants, have been seeking ways to support the people of Ukraine.
The safety of public servants is a top priority of the Government of Canada.
Global Affairs Canada continues to advise all Canadians against travel to Ukraine for any reason. As Global Affairs Canada’s ability to provide consular services in Ukraine is severely limited, Canadians cannot depend on the Government of Canada to assist Canadians in leaving Ukraine.
There are potentially significant implications for employees taking leave and, as private citizens, travelling to engage in or otherwise support activities relating to international conflicts.
What to consider
Employees who do take leave and travel to participate in humanitarian activities in relation to the conflict (i.e., supporting the Red Cross, United Nations, or a similar non-governmental organization) continue to have obligations to maintain their security status/clearance and to abide by the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Directive on Conflict of Interest.
Specifically, pursuant to the Standard on Security Screening, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, and the Directive on Conflict of Interest, employees who take leave and travel to participate in humanitarian activities in relation to the conflict must proactively report such change(s) in circumstances, which may warrant further review by their department or agency.
At the same time, an employee’s coverage under the employee benefit and insurance plans may be impacted during a period of leave to travel to areas of international conflict. In some cases, their activities may exclude them from certain coverage entirely.
Employees who seek to participate in a foreign army or militia
There are potentially significant implications for employees taking leave and, as private citizens, travelling to areas of international conflict to engage in supporting a foreign army or militia.
Employees who take leave and engage in supporting a foreign military or similar force could be in conflict with their duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada if their off-duty conduct is shown or perceived to adversely impact the employer’s interests. This would result in a review of a security status/clearance and subsequent administrative actions up to and including termination of employment.
The Foreign Enlistment Act prohibits enlistment in the armed forces of any foreign state at war with a friendly foreign state and travel to enlist in such an armed force.
Employees have an obligation to the Government of Canada by virtue of their security status/clearance and employment relationship. This includes a duty of loyalty to the Government of Canada, which extends to their off-duty conduct.
The Directive on Conflict of Interest and the Standard on Security Screening requires that employees must report these kinds of changes in circumstances, and must also report, in writing to their deputy head all outside employment and activities that might give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to their official duties and responsibilities.
Employees who cannot maintain their security status/clearance, and/or who do not act in accordance with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Directive on Conflict of Interest could face disciplinary measures up to and including termination of employment.
Employees wishing to take leave must seek approval
Prior to leave, employees must ensure that they seek and obtain appropriate leave approval in compliance with their collective agreement or relevant terms and conditions of employment. The obligation is on the employee to disclose or enquire if the activities they plan to undertake may have an impact on their employment status or benefits as outlined above.
Managers may not necessarily inquire about the activities being undertaken during the leave. For leave without pay (LWOP), as per the guidance in the Directive on Leave and Special Working Arrangements, employees who are not covered by a collective agreement should identify the reason and duration for the absence in order for the delegated manager to properly consider the request against operational requirements. Managers with employees requesting a leave of absence, per their collective agreement, can consult with Labour Relations.
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