Messages for employees only – Employment and Social Development Canada

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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August 3 - COVID-19 Update: Returning to the workplace

As a follow-up to our earlier messages regarding a safe return to the workplace for staff, we would like to provide an update on next steps as many jurisdictions across the country continue to ease restrictions. As you know, a limited number of Service Canada Centres have already begun to open their doors. And, some select staff have continued to work in our buildings throughout the pandemic. 

ESDC senior management has established a timeline of mid-September as a starting point to commence the gradual return of a limited number of staff to our buildings. As we have said in previous messages, initial occupancy will be limited to no more than 25-30% capacity as a first step to ensure physical distancing is respected.

A number of new measures are now being put into place in our workspaces across the country, such as:

  • New directional signage/arrows to manage foot traffic flow;
  • Maximum occupancy signage for elevators, meeting rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and other common spaces;
  • A reduction in bathroom stalls and sinks where physical distancing cannot be maintained;
  • An increase in hand sanitizer stations throughout our buildings; and,
  • The reduction in available cubicles to respect two-metre physical distancing.

Working remotely will continue to play an important role in our workplace. With regard to who will return to the workplace, your branch or regional management team will make that determination based on factors such as organizational needs and personal circumstances.

Employees may find themselves in a situation where they work from home on some days and enter the office on others. As a result, we will being phasing out assigned cubicle seating in many of our workspaces, which will require employees to remove personal items from their workspaces. Your branch or regional management team will share further information with you in the weeks to come.

You can rest assured that advance notice will be given to employees who will be returning to the office. Guidance and tools will be available to ensure a smooth transition. As always, your health and safety are our primary concern.

You may have also seen a recent message regarding non-medical masks and face coverings. While many jurisdictions have implemented mandatory mask wearing in enclosed public spaces, masks and face coverings are not mandatory in the non-public portion of ESDC workspaces such as in the secure areas where passes are required. That said, a non-medical mask or face covering is required when transitioning through these enclosed public spaces such as from parking garages and food courts, or as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada in any space where two metre physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Managers will continue to be guided by the principles outlined in the Manager’s Guide on Human Resources Issues During a COVID-19 Pandemic and will be working with employees to address any personal circumstances such as family obligations.

As an additional resource for all employees, please consult and bookmark ESDC’s Guide to Returning to the Workplace. This informative guide is being used to assist in the planning and preparation underway to reopen worksites across the country.

We remind you of the many health and safety and mental health resources available to you.

Thank you for your continued service to Canadians and dedication to our organization.

Sincerely,

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 30 - #ThankYouThursday – Atlantic Region

Dear colleagues,

It is truly impressive to see teams and employees across the department come together to help Canadians with the services, programs and benefits they need during these challenging times. We want to thank all of you for your hard work, commitment and dedication, whether you are on the front lines or working behind the scenes.

For this #ThankYouThursday, we want to pay special attention to Atlantic Region’s Citizen Service Specialists (CSS) for their tireless work supporting vulnerable Canadians in the Atlantic provinces. This is our first in a series of #ThankYouThursday messages to recognize the efforts of employees working in our regional offices.

On March 16, the CSS team faced a major dilemma. Outreach officers, who normally interact with the public, were no longer able to do so due to COVID-19 lockdowns. With swift action, they adopted a virtual approach to service delivery within the first week of the pandemic, including delivering workshare presentations virtually to employers. Paying particular attention to vulnerable Canadians, they had hundreds of interactions with employers and community leaders who work with vulnerable residents.

They also promoted the new Service Canada Outreach Support Centre, a phone line developed for their specific needs. They are currently working with Canada Revenue Agency on expanding the Government’s virtual service delivery options. The team is now focusing on providing virtual support to employers and temporary workers with the e-SIN application process, striving to provide an invaluable service in a new and innovative way.

While every week presents a new set of challenges, the team continues to be an endless source of support for one another by virtually sharing their work across the region, and lending an ear to colleagues on the tougher days.

The CSS team has gone above and beyond to ensure that the most vulnerable Canadians know where to access the support they need. We are proud to be able to share how Atlantic Region’s CSS team has successfully transitioned to new working situations, and continues to be a constant force of positive work.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 23 - #ThankYouThursday – National Emergency Operations Centre

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to celebrate a critical part of our efforts during the pandemic by highlighting the invaluable contributions of employees with the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), led by the Emergency Management team in Integrity Services Branch (ISB).

Early this year when COVID-19 was spreading globally, it was clear that Canada would not be exempt from what would become a national crisis unlike anything we have ever seen. As the organization that delivers the bulk of Canada’s critical social programs, ESDC had to quickly put measures in place to ensure the continued delivery of these programs as well as new forms of assistance to help Canadians get through this difficult period.

As part of that effort, ISB activated the NEOC to serve as the central operational nerve centre to coordinate the Department’s planning and management of the pandemic — both internally among employees and management, as well as externally with our many federal, provincial and territorial partners. The NEOC also supports the Departmental Crisis Management Team (which includes the Deputies and Assistant Deputy Ministers), coordinating meetings and briefings, facilitating decision making and providing answers to questions in a timely fashion.

Those of you who have been working with the NEOC have been busy coordinating measures related to security, health and safety, IT, accommodation, service delivery and communications in ESDC offices and workspaces across the country. You’ve also been working hard to ensure your colleagues who provide invaluable support in other business lines throughout ESDC are working together on our joint department-wide efforts during this crisis, so that all branches and regions receive the direction and support they need from each other.

Physically, the NEOC is a space tucked away in Place du Portage Phase IV in Gatineau with a fully equipped bank of computers, teleconference and videoconference equipment, TVs, and a large boardroom. Operationally, it is the key coordination support hub for any crisis or emergency that our department could face. During the earliest days of the pandemic crisis, the NEOC operated seven days a week, for approximately 16 hours each day. When asked to help out, employees joined the NEOC from branches and regions from across the Department.

The NEOC continues to play a vital and central role in the Department’s efforts to ensure Canadians receive the benefits and services they need during a period when they need our help the most. Your dedication and passion have not gone unnoticed, and are appreciated by us, your ESDC colleagues and your fellow Canadians. Thank you, and well done!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 20 - Use of masks and face coverings in enclosed public spaces in federal workplaces

Some municipal and provincial health authorities across Canada have recently introduced new requirements on the use of masks and face coverings in enclosed public spaces. Please consult your local public heath authority if unsure about your area.

While each building is unique, spaces that can be publicly accessed without the use of a security access card or escort are subject to the local bylaws. Examples of public spaces include areas leading up to security points, commercial spaces and public-facing service offerings.

Be advised that these new regulations do not apply to ESDC employees’ workspaces unless in a public space such as the client-facing portion of a Service Canada Centre.

That said, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends wearing a non-medical mask and/or face covering when physical distancing of 2 metres cannot be maintained.

Thank you.

Corporate Communications
Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada
corporate.comm@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

July 16 - #ThankYouThursday – Canada Emergency Response Benefit Implementation

Dear Colleagues,

Since March, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has paid out billions of dollars in financial assistance to millions of Canadians affected by COVID-19-related closures, layoffs and disruptions to the economy.

We know there were many people involved in making the CERB a success and we thank all of you. On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to specifically acknowledge the innovative thinking, commitment and quite frankly the sheer courage of the teams who were critically important to pulling together the CERB in a matter of weeks – literally from ground zero to its design, development and delivery.

We are referring to our colleagues in teams such as Business Solutions Innovation, Employment Insurance Policy, Employment Insurance Benefits Processing and the Call Centres Directorate. These teams collaborated on every possible minute detail to ensure Canadians could easily apply for CERB, receive much needed financial support quickly and troubleshoot with our employees to get the help they need. In a matter of weeks, our employees enhanced the capacity of the EI system and – in just nine days – set up a new virtual call centre capable of handling more than 30,000 calls per day.

Of course there were many steps, many long days and nights and hiccups in between. But the implementation of CERB is a shining example of what happens when our dedicated and knowledgeable employees collaborate to do whatever was necessary to make the CERB happen and help Canadians during these challenging times.

To all of you who contributed to make CERB a reality, we are hugely grateful. And, Canadians are grateful. What you have accomplished in a matter of weeks is amazing. When we look at the millions of payments amounting to billions in benefits, we are deeply impressed with your commitment to serving Canadians.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 9 - #ThankYouThursday – Reopening of Service Canada Centres

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this week, we shared with you a plan to gradually reopen Service Canada Centres. On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to recognize the phenomenal planning and coordination undertaken by Citizen Service Branch (CSB), Chief Financial Officer Branch (CFOB), Human Resources Services Branch (HRSB), Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch (PASRB) and the Regions that made this possible.

Each year, Service Canada helps over 8 million Canadians at over 600 points of service across the country. When in-person Service Canada Centres (SCCs) temporarily closed to the public in March, teams throughout ESDC immediately began to prepare for their eventual reopening. Developing an approach centred on protecting the health and safety of employees and visitors, while continuing to provide the service excellence for which ESDC is known, was a monumental undertaking.

We were proud to witness the immense collaboration between service delivery and supporting teams across ESDC to implement the robust plan in such a short time period. For example, the new appointment-based system developed by CSB for in-person SCCs will complement the recently created eServiceCanada option to reduce walk-ins and manage traffic within in-person centres. To ensure physical distancing measures are respected within SCCs, CFOB’s Real Property team led the refits for each centre, which includes limiting seating in waiting areas and installing Plexiglas partitions at service counters.  

Throughout the process, consultation with internal and external stakeholders was paramount to develop a plan that addressed the health and safety needs of employees and visitors, while adhering to guidance from public health authorities. HRSB played a critical role in that regard, leading and participating in consultations with occupational health and safety committees, unions, the Treasury Board Secretariat and Health Canada (among other key partners and organizations).

The development of consistent communications for both employees and the public is critical to the reopening and the work of communications in this regard has been fundamental. Working with the Regions, the Communications teams ensured the broad delivery of clear messages through many channels, including signage, social media and the web.

With this first test phase of re-opening SCCs, we are witnessing the culmination of months of hard work that would not have been possible without our regional Service Canada colleagues. On the front-lines of service delivery, you are the face of ESDC to millions of Canadians across the country - your expertise and dedication ensured we reached this point successfully. Without you, our department’s ability to help hundreds of thousands of Canadians in need simply wouldn’t be possible.

This week was a milestone in our journey to becoming a stronger and more agile organization, made possible by the tremendous efforts of so many teams. As we continue to evolve and prepare for the next phase of our re-opening plans, your unrelenting commitment to serving Canadians could not be more evident. We could not do this without you -- thank you!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 7 - Reopening of Service Canada Centres

As a follow up to our message on June 15, we would like to provide you with the latest developments on the reopening of Service Canada Centres across the country.

Earlier today, Minister Hussen announced the gradual and safe reopening of up to 90 Service Canada Centres across the country.

Although Service Canada Centre doors closed temporarily to the public in March, we have continued to deliver critical services to over 600,000 clients who have needed our help. 

To do this, we have made incredible changes in a short period. We launched a new approach to service delivery, which has allowed clients to access Service Canada programs, services and benefits through eServiceCanada and the Service Canada Outreach Support Centre.

These new channels have enabled the continued delivery of critical services while protecting the health and safety of our employees and clients. This focus on health and safety will remain a priority as we begin to reopen the Service Canada network.

This reopening will take place carefully. It will be guided by the advice of our public health authorities and in consultation with health and safety committees.

A gradual, phased approach will begin with reopening a small number of sites across our network to the public, based on a modified service experience model and a new work environment. The first Service Canada Centres will start reopening this week beginning with up to 14 sites in: Surrey, Vanderhoof, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Gatineau, Quebec, Montréal, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Halifax and St. John’s. 

Lessons learned from these early sites will lead to the reopening of additional sites across the country. A subsequent wave of up to an additional 76 Service Canada Centres reopening across Canada will allow us to serve 86% of the population within 100 kilometres of a Centre. Following this, a third wave of sites will be prepared for opening over the course of the coming weeks and months.

Our Citizen Service Officers will receive training to prepare for the return to the physical work place, and several measures will be in place in our offices such as Plexiglas partitions at service counters, and physical distancing and directional signage. We continue to ensure that the health and safety of our staff and clients remains our top priority.

We know that staff who will be working at these sites have many questions about what is coming next. You will be hearing more from your leadership team as the reopening date approaches.

Managers will continue to be guided by the principles outlined in the Manager’s Guide on Human Resources Issues During a COVID-19 Pandemic and will be working with employees to address any personal circumstances such as family obligations. As an additional resource for all employees, please feel free to consult and bookmark ESDC’s Guide to Returning to the Workplace. This informative guide is being used to assist in the planning and preparation underway to reopen worksites across the country.

Thank you once again for your service to Canadians when they need you most.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 2 - #ThankYouThursday – Communicating with Canadians

Clearly communicating with Canadians is critical to ensuring they understand and are aware of the benefits and services available to them, especially when they need our help during this challenging time.

For this #ThankYouThursday, we want to shine a light on our Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch (PASRB) employees for their exemplary communications work in reaching Canadians and ensuring they receive critical information about initiatives like the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

As you know, the CERB was launched to help millions of Canadians who stopped working due to COVID-19. It was designed to get financial aid into the hands of those who need it quickly and efficiently. It was important that our Ministers and the Prime Minister be able to communicate information about the CERB as regularly and accurately as possible, in a way that was easily understood by everyone.

Many of our colleagues in PASRB worked countless hours with their partners in branches and regions across ESDC to ensure materials such as web and social media content, news releases and backgrounders explained what CERB is, the eligibility criteria, and how and where to apply.

These exemplary communications efforts and products helped reassure Canadians. Even though a program of this magnitude had never been attempted before, Canadians had to know it would be administered carefully, thoughtfully and correctly.

Within three weeks, ESDC and the Canada Revenue Agency were issuing emergency payments to Canadians. The fact that we were able to design and implement the policy and get the word out to those who needed assistance during a constantly changing scenario, is nothing short of remarkable and must be acknowledged.

We are immensely proud of how PASRB came through for the Department and all Canadians. Their hard work literally paid off. To date, millions of Canadians have successfully applied for and received the CERB.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 26 - #ThankYouThursday – Remote access expansion

Most of you have been working from home for nearly four months. The reason any of us can do this is due to the herculean efforts of a team working tirelessly behind the scenes to expand our network capacity.

Today, we want to extend a special thank you to our colleagues in the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB).

IITB directly supports Canadians through ensuring online access to essential programs such as Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, the Old Age Security and the recently created Canada Emergency Response Benefit. It simultaneously must provide staff with the online tools and technology to deliver those services and benefits.

With an unprecedented surge in teleworking, IITB was faced with the urgent challenge of expanding our existing secure remote access – AppGate and the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

IITB met that challenge with speed, skill and dedication. Within weeks, this department went from having the capacity for roughly 4,000 employees working remotely–and that was pushing the network to the point of collapse–to more than 25,000 remote users.

In lay terms, IITB worked with Shared Services Canada to embark on major construction to upgrade and expand our remote access “highways”.

This, so all of us could keep serving Canadians and stay connected with each other–no matter where we are setting up our laptops.

And, to help set up those laptops and get us up and running, we would be remiss if we did not express our sincere thanks to our wonderful National Service Desk colleagues, including volunteers who stepped in to help tackle the surge in calls. They worked night and day to make sure we had the support where and when we needed them. Service Desk technicians have taken more than 43,000 calls since March, an incredible number. Many of you have expressed how helpful, patient and friendly these officers have been throughout the pandemic. Well done!

It is another example of the incredible innovation we are witnessing throughout the Department as all of you pivot and adapt to accommodate Canadians in need. It is truly inspiring.

We are told by IITB that at daily peak times almost 22,000 remote workers are connecting simultaneously. That is a milestone and a technological feat that deserves to be acknowledged and applauded.

Thank you, IITB, for your determination, your dedication, your commitment to Canadians.

Stay well. Stay safe. 

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 19 - Special thank you to the Labour Program as part of National Public Service Week

Dear colleagues,

It’s National Public Service Week, and this week is about recognizing you. Today, we’d like to dedicate this special thank-you message to our Labour Program colleagues by celebrating the outstanding work they deliver day in and day out, going above and beyond to help workers, employers and businesses deal with this unprecedented pandemic.

When the COVID-19 crisis began, it was clear that workers and employers from across the country would be significantly impacted. Labour Program staff worked around the clock with Canadians to discuss the impacts of the pandemic on federally regulated workplaces from both an occupational health and safety and labour standards perspective.

In addition to answering operational questions and providing guidance, the Labour Program provided timely responses to ongoing and emerging refusals to work and group terminations. Critical information was shared on government programs, guidance was provided for workplace reopening, and unanticipated operational challenges were addressed, such as finding rest facilities for truck and delivery drivers to keep our domestic and global supply chains running.

The Labour Program also played an important role in developing legislation that provides job-protected leave to federally regulated employees impacted by the pandemic. These legislative changes—which were developed in a week—allowed workers to take a leave of absence if they were unable to work due to COVID-19, whether it be to quarantine or provide care to a family member.

As we put the spotlight on the people who worked hard to meet the policy and operational demands to respond to the pandemic, it’s important that we look at this achievement as a great example of teamwork. From continuing your work on mandate priorities and their implementation, ably responding to workplace issues related to the pandemic, to research, to innovative projects to support operations—to all of you, we want to say a big thank you: You personify public service and you make us proud.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 18 - Pride and Recognition Beyond the Walls

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”  –Randy Pausch, Professor

Today, pride in being a public servant, and recognizing each other for the tremendous contributions we each make to Canada, means more than ever before.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire world is adjusting to a new normal, and we are no exception.

Adapting to change has taken innovation. It has taken embracing a new perspective and reality. It has taken a true team effort. And most importantly, it has taken you, our dedicated employees who embody the spirit of what it means to be a public servant.

During National Public Service Week (NPSW) 2020, we celebrate and honour your tireless work and support in new ways.

As many of us have shifted to working remotely and are physically distanced from our teams, the way we recognize and appreciate our colleagues has moved beyond the walls of our offices.

What used to be a thank you in the hallway or by the fountain, a high‑five across the baffle, or a shout‑out at a team meeting, has now gone high‑tech. It may take the form of a bravo email, an e-card, a thank you via video or teleconference, or Skype messenger (emoji-use not mandatory, but encouraged!), but the sentiment remains the same.

You are valued. You are important. And together, we are making history.

We have accomplished so much over these past months. We may have shifted the “how,” “what,” “who” and “where” of our work, but the “why” remains constant. Public servants from coast to coast to coast are dedicated to serving Canadians.

You play a pivotal role in a world that sometimes seems upside down at the moment. Your leadership, the actions you are taking, the commitments and the sacrifices you have made, have forever changed the public service, and the landscape of policy, program and service delivery in Canada.

I encourage you during NPSW to reach out to your colleagues and your friends. To share with them what makes them so special, and to pass the torch of what you have learned as leaders in your own right, from this generation of public servants to the next.

Happy NPSW 2020 and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service.

Mary Ann Triggs
Co-Champion, National Engagement and Recognition
Assistant Deputy Minister, Ontario Region

June 17 - Thank you message – Work-Sharing

Dear Colleagues,

While each day many of you have been answering questions from Canadians seeking help with their benefits, an unprecedented response has simultaneously been mounted to support the business community. Today, as part of National Public Service Week, we want to profile our regional colleagues and recognize the incredible efforts of the Program Delivery Branches (PDB) and Work-Sharing teams as well as the Program Operations Branch in National Headquarters, who have been working with a record number of employers to minimize layoffs resulting from the impacts of COVID-19.

As you may know, the Work-Sharing Program helps avoid layoffs due to a temporary reduction of work beyond the control of the employer. The program provides income support to employees who temporarily work a reduced schedule while their employer recovers. This allows employees to share the available work and maintain their skills, while employers retain their qualified and experienced workers, an important piece in minimizing the economic impact of the pandemic.

To say that COVID-19 had an effect on the program would be an understatement; with increased demand and new temporary support measures to assist more businesses, the impact was felt almost immediately. A 1000 percent increase in workload is difficult to imagine, but that’s exactly what many regions had to contend with. The Western Canada and Territories Region for example, received just over 2500 applications this year, compared to last year’s total intake of 198, representing almost half of the applications received nationwide. Seeing the enormous need, the team quickly grew from a small team of 12 to over 150, bolstered by their colleagues from across the region and organization.

Faced with overwhelming workloads while learning new program parameters, teams across the country have banded together in a show of tremendous teamwork, leadership and resolve. We are heartened by sentiments shared by your colleagues of how the enthusiasm of new staff, team leaders and managers to quickly learn a new program boosted morale when feeling overwhelmed with the incoming application volumes. At a time of great pressure in both our personal and professional lives, this willingness to come together speaks volumes about your dedication to your work and each other.

We are extremely proud of the leadership and remarkable efforts of our Service Canada colleagues, doing everything they can to ensure employers receive the critical benefits and supports they need to keep the economy going. Day-in and day-out, the impact of the work you do reverberates throughout the organisation and the country. Thank you, and well done! Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 16 - Construction on the remote access highways

Curbing the spread of COVID-19 meant most of ESDC’s 28,000 employees suddenly had to work from home. That presented ESDC’s Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB) with a two-fold, technological challenge.

IITB directly supports Canadians through ensuring online access to essential programs such as Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, the Old Age Supplement and the recently created Canada Emergency Response Benefit. It simultaneously has to provide staff with the necessary online tools and technology to deliver those services and benefits.

With an unprecedented surge in teleworking, Director General Jacques Mailloux says the existing secure remote access solutions – AppGate and the Virtual Private Network (VPN) – urgently needed to be expanded.

“At one point we thought we had capability to handle 12000 connections through each of two gateways,” he says. “We found out pretty quickly that each could handle between 3-4000 users.”

Teams within ESDC and Shared Services Canada embarked on a major construction project to add an entirely new remote access “highway”, plus additional lanes in both directions to each existing highway.

Canadians need these highways to access EDSC services. Employees need the same highways to access ESDC systems supporting service to Canadians – no matter where they are working from.

The huge challenge was to prepare for a lot more traffic within three weeks.

“It’s amazing what these teams have accomplished,” Jacques says. “I’m grateful every day for the effort they have put in. It was seven days a week of very long days for those first few weeks.”

He notes that the expanded teleworking traffic still requires a lot of monitoring, re-balancing, and re-directing: too much traffic in one lane could result in bottlenecks, or one lane overflowing into another. But the number of concurrent teleworkers recently reached 20,000 with more expected to come online soon. Staff have also been provided guidelines for safe and responsible teleworking and have been respectful of those guidelines.

“Any day now we expect to reach 21,000 concurrent connected users,” he says. “That will be another milestone, on the way to 28,000”.

June 16 - Reaching Home reaches out to vulnerable populations

Byline: Makeeba Gray, Dylan Cameron and Kendra Hansen, Senior Development Officers (SDO), Lisa McHaffie, Service Manager, Reaching Home Program, Labour Market and Skills Development Program (LMSDP)

People experiencing homelessness or housing instability and the frontline workers supporting them face increased risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overcrowded drop-in centres and shelters, group housing and a lack of resources for practicing proper hygiene make it difficult to prevent the spread of the virus. The likelihood of infection is also greater for people who live, work and volunteer in those settings.

In recognition of this, the Government of Canada speedily provided funding through Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy, a community-based program to address hardships in the homelessness sector created by the pandemic.

The W-T Region, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton were identified as recipients for funding through the program due to their bigger populations, larger shelter capacities and elevated potential for viral spread. By working quickly and expediting program approval processes, Social Development Officers (SDOs) across the W-T Region mobilized more than $48 million in additional financial support, paid out in an unprecedented seven days. Efforts are still underway to provide funding to three more communities.

“I am amazed at how quickly our team is able to act with speed and urgency to assist communities and citizens in times of need across W-T, and especially during the COVID-19 crisis,” says Jan Fix, Director of Labour Market and Social Development Programs. “We see hope and opportunity in all that we do, and the care and compassion of staff is evident in their day-to-day work with the organizations that serve our most vulnerable population. Good work team!”

Reaching Home is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to Designated Communities (urban centres), Indigenous communities, territorial communities, and rural and remote communities across Canada. For more information, visit the website.

June 15 - Sixth Employee Pulse Survey: COVID-19

We are pleased to launch the sixth Employee Pulse Survey. It is short, concise, and like previous Pulse Surveys, it gives employees a voice on important issues in our organization.

It goes without saying that over the last few months, we all have been experiencing deep changes in all aspect of our lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen your dedication, ingenuity, and perseverance help us adapt to a new reality as we continue delivering for Canadians.

In this context, it is more important than ever to hear from you about how you are doing, how you feel supported during this crisis and how you find telework. Your feedback will help shape our approach for the return to the workplace and how we will manage telework.

Tell us what we need to do as an organization to continue to improve.

Your opinion matters! Please take the time to fill out the survey before it closes on June 30th, and help make this organization an even better place to work. It will only take a few minutes to complete and it is confidential.

For help with any technical issues in completing the survey, please contact the Human Resources Services Branch’s Employee Survey Team.

For more information on COVID-19, we encourage you to visit ESDC’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Hub page for a list of preventive measures, available resources, and changes to our internal procedures during this period.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 15 - Happy National Public Service Week!

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past several months, many of us have worked long days and nights, and in some cases even learned new jobs, so that Canadians could get the help they need during this difficult and challenging period. It’s quite fitting that the theme this year for National Public Service Week (NPSW) is “Proudly Serving Canadians.”

Together and apart, you have continued to step up and help Canadians during this time of tremendous need, by delivering information, advice, programs, benefits and services in communities and regions across our vast country. We could not be more proud of your commitment, dedication and extraordinary efforts during these unprecedented times. On this first day of NPSW, we want to say thank you and well done!

In the midst of the global pandemic, you have continued to deliver existing and new programs and services in higher volumes and faster than before, including in new and innovative ways. As we work through these challenges, this is a time to reflect upon and highlight your major achievements. In that spirit, we are excited to announce the “ESDC Together, We Are Stronger Awards” to recognize your outstanding work and ongoing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Details about these awards can be found on iService, including the simple nomination process open to every employee.

NPSW is a celebration of excellence and pride in being part of the Public Service. While physical distancing measures have changed the format of celebrations, the pandemic hasn’t impacted our resolve to mark the week. Appreciation and recognition take many forms and virtual activities are taking place throughout the week within the department and public service. We hope you will join us in celebrating this week, wherever you are working from.

Your contributions have been nothing short of extraordinary, and for that, we thank you; Canadians thank you.

Have a great National Public Service Week!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 15 - COVID-19 update

We know that many of you are wondering about when and how you will be returning to the workplace. Naturally, many of you may be feeling anxious about returning; while others may be eager to return. As a follow up to our message of May 28 on workplace resumption, today we want to provide you with more detail on what a return to the workplace will mean for us at ESDC. 

While the exact timing of an eventual return to the workplace has yet to be decided, the health and safety of our employees and clients continues to be our top priority. We will move cautiously, safely and gradually as we consider when and where to increase access to our worksites. 

We will also be guided by the decisions of public health authorities, including Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, the direction of provinces and territories and the recommendations of national, regional and workplace health and safety committees, along with unions. As such, the timing of reopening of in-person centres to the public and the return of employees to the office will likely vary by region.  Likewise, for employees who work in the field such as inspectors, new guidelines are being finalized based on these same considerations.

Unlike many other departments, we also recognize that we have a very large in-person presence across the country with clients travelling in and out of our doors. That presents us with an added level of complexity that we must consider very closely.

As we move forward, employees and managers will be provided with information and training in various forms, including toolkits, checklists, new protocols for carrying out our work and other sources of information such as floor plans to help prepare for an eventual return.

General office space and processing centres

Let us begin with our general office space and processing centres. As a first phase, and over the short term in consultation with and Health and Safety Committees and unions, we will gradually increase the return to worksites to not exceed 25%-30% occupancy overall in our offices, which will differ from area to area depending on office layout and use of space.

These limited numbers will be in place to ensure that physical distancing measures are respected in cubicles, common spaces, kitchens, entrances, exits, elevators, meeting rooms and washrooms.

To facilitate this, expect to see signage and arrows in common areas such as hallways, kitchens, washrooms and elevators to manage flow and reduce the number of people assembled in one area.

Employees will likely be asked to occupy every other cubicle and may expect a shift away from assigned seating, where this is appropriate. As you know, this is already the case in some of our existing workspaces. A robust clean desk policy and depersonalizing of the space will allow those that need to be in the office to use the spaces that most easily respect the physical distancing requirements.  

Enhanced cleaning of high volume touchpoints such as door handles and elevator buttons is already underway, and you can expect to see an increase in sanitizer stations and disinfectant wipes dispersed throughout the workplace. 

In tandem with a reduced workplace occupancy, we will also explore flexible work hours to avoid crowding during peak arrival and departure periods throughout the day.

Teleworking opportunities will continue to be maximized, with some colleagues continuing to work from home, and others opting for a mix of telework on some days and a physical presence in the office on others.

As we move into this first phase of reduced occupancy in our workplaces, we will continuously evaluate physical distancing measures to identify any areas that may need to be adjusted to ensure the safety of all.

Service Canada Centres (SCCs)

During the pandemic, while Service Canada Centre doors closed temporarily to the public March 27, we have continued to deliver critical services to nearly 600,000 clients needing our help. 

We have made incredible changes in a short period. We launched a new approach to service delivery, which has allowed clients to access Service Canada programs, services and benefits through eServiceCanada and our new Service Canada Outreach Support Centre.

The reactivation of SCCs will complement the new online services. And, as in the case with our non-client-facing offices, the transition will be a phased process that will be guided by the evolving advice of our public health authorities, as well as provincial and local public health direction, in consultation with health and safety committees.

We will begin with the reactivation of a small number of sites across our network, based on a modified service experience model and a new work environment.

This new environment will include measures such as, signage to manage physical distancing, limited seating in waiting areas, glass barriers at service counters, and enhanced disinfecting of offices.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to provide you with the latest information and developments. Expect to hear more very soon from your manager and branch leadership teams.

Later today, we will be seeking your views about teleworking and other important issues such as mental health supports through a special COVID-19 Pulse Survey. We encourage all of you to participate so that we can learn about your experiences over the past several months to help inform decision making as we chart the way forward.

In the meantime, whether you are working remotely or from the office, refer to the COVID-19 Hub on iService for tips on working safely and talk to your manager about any concerns you might have.

Finally, we would like to take a moment to remind you that if you feel like you are struggling or need to talk, the Employee Assistance Program is available to all ESDC employees. We invite you to reach out to these experts, who are available 24/7 to answer some of your questions.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 11 - #ThankYouThursday – Canada Summer Jobs program

Dear colleagues,

All of you continue to amaze and impress us with your unfailing commitment to serving Canadians even while you may be grappling with your own personal challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is an unsettling time for everyone, but we recognize that some people face additional or unique challenges. That is why this week, on #ThankYouThursday, we want to shine a spotlight on those of you in the Regions, the Program Operations Branch (POB) and the Skills and Employment Branch (SEB) who are working so diligently to design and deliver the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program. We know you are passionate about helping connect young Canadians with jobs. From exploring new ways of delivering high-quality services to Canadian employers and Canadian youth, to quickly pivoting to introduce changes in how we receive and process applications efficiently and effectively, the collaboration amongst the Regions, POB and SEB is fantastic.

Right now, young people are facing serious challenges finding work. To build the foundations of strong communities, we need a strong workforce that includes quality job placements in safe and inclusive work environments. That is why this year, the federal government made some changes to CSJ. These include increasing the wage subsidy for private and public sector employers, allowing for part-time positions, and extending the job placement period to the end of February 2021.

In mid-May, we embarked on the hiring period for CSJ 2020. Tens of thousands of opportunities across the country are now on the Job Bank website and mobile app. The goal is to place approximately 70,000 young people, ages 15 to 30, in jobs.

Given the current COVID-19 economic climate, this year, CSJ job placements will respond to both local and national demands from small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and other employers in the public sector, including the delivery of critical services in communities across the country. Job placements could range from mental health support lines for youth, to delivering remote education services, to job placements in community services that focus on delivering supports to vulnerable populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is an extraordinary time and these youth need to be reassured that–along with the rest of us–they will pull through. By administering, managing and implementing CSJ 2020 under trying conditions, remote work arrangements, and changes to the program, you are helping these young adults build resilience and skills for their future careers, and we appreciate your commitment.

Youth are powerful leaders of change. Thank you again for the work you are doing to support them as they help us in shaping a stronger and more resilient Canada.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 9 - Helping vulnerable Canadians in a time of tremendous need

In urban areas and vast cities, access to technology and services in walking distance are more or less a package deal, a perk of living in densely populated areas. This is far from the reality for all however, and a major challenge and priority for the department was recognizing that not all Canadians have internet access, or are able to use the new e-Service Canada channel due to a number of barriers they may face.

To that end, the Service Canada Community Outreach and Liaison Service staff launched a new toll-free Service Canada Outreach Support Centre on April 14, giving Canadians facing barriers, including those without internet, a way to connect directly with outreach agents and access the services and benefits they need.

"This has been a huge accomplishment, knowing that our clients have access to critical services," said Evelyne Power, Director General, In Person Operations and Strategies Directorate. "Through an incredible unified effort of our staff, along with our great partners in the regions and in NHQ, we all realized the same goal: continuing to provide the high quality of service Canadians expect and deserve."

By supplementing the existing e-Service Canada portal with a toll free number for each region, this new Support Centre provides additional help to Indigenous communities and other vulnerable Canadians, including seniors and persons with disabilities. Over 8800 requests have been received since its launch.

Recently, a family of seven living a remote Manitoba First Nations community contacted the Support Centre. Having recently settled in with tea prepared to brave the long wait times they expected to deal with, it was with a mixture of surprise and gratitude that they reached an officer almost immediately. The Citizen Service Officer spoke to each family member to understand their challenges, and helped them apply for a range of benefits they needed.

This is just one example of how Service Canada staff are helping vulnerable Canadians across the country and providing the services that they need. Thank you everyone for making this happen.

June 9 - Deploying telework in Quebec call centres

In response to COVID-19, ESDC transferred over 10,000 laptops to enable employees to telework and therefore safely continue to help Canadians. This was a great challenge, setting up telework on a large scale, very quickly, while continuing to offer service to Canadians who needed help more than ever.

Julie Savard, Manager with Benefits Delivery Services Branch in Shawinigan, shares how it went in her call centre for Employment Insurance.

"All staff joined forces, also collaborating with colleagues in Longueuil and with IT services. We had to take an inventory of needs, for computer tools, place orders, assemble kits, distribute them in a safe manner and offer tech support," she explains.

To accomplish this, management teams worked tirelessly. That meant, among other things, ensuring each agent received their assigned material with access to their VPN and the telephone system. All hardware also had to be verified.

For Old Age Security payment service agent Valérie Leduc, the transition from the Longueuil call centre to working from home went smoothly. "I had no major technical problems. I received my equipment on March 30 and things were up and running for me to start answering calls the next day from home. I enjoy helping people. I find my work is even more important now in a time of crisis."

"We could say that the Department’s social mission came alive," says Karim Fala, Director of Quebec call centres. "In just a little more than a week, Julie Savard and manager colleague Amine Janbayne in Longueuil and their teams successfully equipped 90 percent of agents to telework. All this with no interruption to essential service delivery to Canadians. That’s what we’re most proud of!"

June 5 - I would like accessibility to start with the word “Yes”

In an ideal world, accommodations for ergonomic equipment would be met with “Yes.” If questioned whether the software being used is accessible, “Yes.” And yet, we are only in the early stages of accessibility. There are still challenges requiring solutions, plans requiring action, and culture change that needs to be embraced to reach that point where “Yes” can be the response to whether all is being done on the accessibility front. With National AccessAbility Week (NAAW), it is the perfect time to celebrate the contributions of all Canadians with disabilities and promote just how vital removing barriers and changing the ways we think are to enabling an equal chance for all in society.

As unfortunate as the current pandemic is for all Canadians, perhaps it can act as an example. We need to see a significant shift in culture. We talk the talk about inclusion and accessibility, but even just the shift to working from home can be a stressful and challenging ordeal that many may not realize, as it doesn’t affect them in the same ways. Yet accessibility and inclusion benefit everyone.

There are individuals who are fully on board with everything that accessibility encompasses, who start with the word “Yes.” This awareness, as well as the compliance and legislation that need to happen in order to enact that culture change, requires concrete action and the willingness to act—the willingness to say inclusion is not something to be questioned. Thinking of what something may mean in dollars is the small world view, whereas in the big scheme there’s a minimal cost in respecting diversity and being fully inclusive. This, as well as adaptive tools, technology, accommodations and how people are treated, needs to be addressed right now. Each is a piece of the ever-evolving topic that is accessibility.

For those who may be unaware, I was in an accident that left me with a broken back, and for a while in a back brace. Though I no longer wear the brace, someone looking at me and assuming I was not disabled, as an invisible disability, is very much an example of not noticing pain and other difficulties. This type of issue is a big challenge for current and potential employees with disabilities; perceptions of needs as opposed to preferences. We need to improve in developing a comfort level for employees with disabilities, eliminating any fear of reprisal, and advancing a culture of acceptance and positive actions for any scope required to be fully accessible. There has to be concrete action for inclusivity, not just talk. Not just the mechanics of making something accessible, but also the sensitivity, the mindset that acts as a barrier to overcoming adversity in making the public service fully accessible. One example of this action is our department beginning to develop a roadmap based on engagement sessions earlier in the year, with further opportunities for engagement and contributions to be available in the coming months.

On this National AccessAbility Week, take a moment to reflect on your mindset and the ways you work, as all efforts are central to overcoming adversity and driving inclusion onward.

As the Employees with Disabilities Network (EwDN) moves forward, we would like to hear about people’s experiences, which provides valuable feedback that not only helps us, but allows us to support you better. Some of the questions we are asking are:

  1. What are some of the challenges you have encountered?
  2. Have you experienced any benefits to working in this new work environment?
  3. Going forward, what are your hopes for the future in the workplace?

To provide your responses, become a member or just connect with us, please email the EwDN.

For the latest information on EwDN activities, visit our website on iService.

Jennifer Leenhouts
Chair of ESDC Employees with Disabilities Network
Senior Project Manager W-T, Accessibility
Benefits Delivery Services Branch, Western Canada Territories Region

June 4 - #ThankYouThursday - Recognizing IITB efforts to equip staff

Dear colleagues,

We want to take this opportunity on #ThankYouThursday to recognize your ongoing and tireless work every day to help Canadians during this very difficult period, when they need our help the most.

As you may know, our Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB) has been tasked with enabling thousands of you to work from home so you can provide critical services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has meant the sudden and rapid deployment of thousands of laptops and other devices in regions across the country.

Previously, the number of employees teleworking peaked at around 4,000. When COVID-19 struck, the plan rapidly ballooned to equip virtually the entire department to work remotely. In early March, an action team with people from across the Department, working in every part of the country, was brought together to quickly put a laptop deployment plan in motion. Key contributors included the Desktop Engineering Team; provisioning teams for laptops, headsets and phones; the National Service Desk and resolver groups; the National Emergency Operations Centre ; the asset management group; business relationship managers; and IITB technicians and officers from all the business lines in the device destinations.

When the crisis started, the teams preparing laptop devices could produce 200 per week. By mid-April, that had grown to 2,000 laptops and tablets per week. Between 18,000 and 21,000 employees were identified as delivering critical services to Canadians in support of the crisis, so they were among the first to be equipped with laptops. These employees work in areas such as Benefit Delivery Services, EI, CPP, OAS, Service Canada general inquiries, the Canada Student Loan Program, the Principal Web Publisher, Passport Services and Occupational Health and Safety inspections.

So far, IITB has shipped more than 13,000 laptops and tablets, of which just over 10,000 are already assigned to employees across the organization. And they continue to be sent out, with an eye to equipping all 28,000 employees with a device. Thanks to these fantastic efforts, more than 23,000 ESDC employees have secure access to our systems.

We are extremely proud of all our staff, who are moving mountains to serve Canadians and ensure they receive the critical benefits, supports and services they need during this pandemic.

Impressive work, and well done!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 3 - Answering Questions in the Atlantic Region

Many employees may not realize the work that happens behind the scenes to help millions of Canadians get through the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes delivering unprecedented measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Jacqueline Mahoney is one of these employees.

Working as a Payment Services Officer in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Jacqueline goes above and beyond every day. She is her team’s go-to agent as she is fully trained in Level 1 EI Processing.

As her team’s PAL (Peer Assisted Learner) for Level 1 EI, Jacqueline is a key resource for other agents. She is the first point of contact for agents’ questions, where they can turn for help before consulting the BERT (Business Expertise Resource Tool). Jacqueline’s Level 1 EI expertise is invaluable at the best of times; ensuring the process runs smoothly and Canadians receive their benefits as quickly and as easily as possible. “Jacqueline has an unwavering commitment to this department, the agents and her clients as she is still processing claims every day,” said Karen Barry, Jaqueline’s Team Leader. “From her friendly demeanour to her compassion, Jacqueline is appreciated so very much!”

Jacqueline has been bombarded with questions from agents across the Atlantic Region on new procedures for processing CERB. As someone who eagerly takes on new projects and tackles the most difficult files, Jacqueline has taken it in stride, ensuring Canadians receive their benefits quickly.

June 3 - The amazing race: IITB providing essential equipment to those serving Canadians

Tucked away in his basement, Mathieu Leprohon, Executive Director of Enterprise Architecture in the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB), is a man on a mission. His job? Overseeing and coordinating the mobilization of national and regional teams as well as complex logistical arrangements to enable thousands of ESDC employees to work from home to provide critical services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has meant the sudden and rapid deployment of thousands of laptops, among other devices.

The number of ESDC staff teleworking previously peaked at around 4,000. When COVID-19 struck, the plan rapidly ballooned to equip virtually the entire department to work remotely. This meant finding a solution that worked for each individual, and putting in place the infrastructure to use that solution reliably and securely. The Department is not there yet, but the progress is amazing thanks to some fantastic efforts.

Time, of course, was of the essence. In early March, an action team with people from across the Department, working in every part of the country, was brought together to quickly put a laptop deployment plan in motion. Key contributors included the Desktop Engineering Team; provisioning teams for laptops, headsets and phones; the National Service Desk and resolver groups; the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC); the asset management group; business relationship managers; as well as IITB technicians and officers from all the business lines in the device destinations. "There were all of these groups plus a slew of amazing people borrowed left, right and centre. Some folks were brought out of retirement, too", Mathieu says.

The first step was to identify a list of critical employees and prioritize which teams needed to be equipped the soonest. NEOC reached out to branches for this crucial information. The whole department was brought into the effort. Over a series of late nights, senior leaders then refined the approach. "A week later, on March 16, we had our deployment model and list of priorities", Mathieu says. They hit the ground running, bundling equipment into kits that were sent in bulk to managers who distributed them to their critical teams. When the crisis started, the teams preparing devices could produce 200 per week. By mid-April, that had grown to 2,000 devices per week.

The ultimate goal is to equip all 28,000 ESDC employees to work remotely. Between 18,000 to 21,000 were identified as delivering critical services to Canadians in support of the crisis, so they were among the first to get laptops. They work in areas such as Benefit Delivery Services, EI, CPP, OAS, Service Canada general inquiries, the Canada Student Loan Program, the Principal Web Publisher, Passport Services and Occupational Health and Safety inspections.

"In a matter of days, we had to figure out how to give this much equipment to all critical employees", he says. "We had to change our entire deployment method so people who needed it could get their equipment in under a week, in some cases the same day."

With so many moving parts, it’s only natural that Mathieu gets thrown a few curveballs. Two new call centres for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Virtual Citizen Services were a surprise that needed to be accommodated with 600 kits, sent to Toronto within less than 24 hours. And then there were the added difficulties. Some offices were closed, snowstorms prevented delivery, and remote capability had to be customized for specific functions and changing priorities. Plus, cell phones needed to have local area codes to avoid overloading the phone system (yes, injecting 15,000 cell phones within a matter of days to a single area code will create issues).

Procurement was also a challenge. Previous orders to suppliers were changed to have deliveries expedited and increased, while some others were stopped at the border or overseas. As a result, the procurement approach was modified, and focused on Canadian suppliers.

So far, IITB has shipped more than 13,000 laptops and tablets, of which just over 10,000 are already assigned to employees across the organization. And they continue to be sent out, with an eye to supplying the entire department. The Department is not there yet, but the progress is amazing thanks to these fantastic efforts that have contributed to more than 23,000 ESDC employees accessing our systems through secure remote access over the last months.

Through it all, despite working 14-hour days, Mathieu’s drive and energy remain high. His wife and family, just like many other employees in the same situation, look forward to seeing him emerge from the basement soon.

June 3 - Get Updates on COVID-19: A story of unprecedented digital collaboration

A few weeks ago, the Government of Canada announced the launch of “Get Updates on COVID-19,” one of many digital tools developed to support the health and well-being of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get Updates on COVID-19” is an email subscription service that provides users with important information from a trusted source at a critical time when Canadians are seeking and most in need of accurate facts. Subscribers get emails directing them to authoritative content on the main Government of Canada website, Canada.ca.

The service was developed and implemented in an agile manner within two weeks thanks to unprecedented collaboration between Health Canada, Service Canada and Canadian Digital Service (CDS).

Service Canada's Principal Publisher team played an integral role in this collaboration by leveraging the Managed Web Service (MWS) that underpins the Canada.ca infrastructure and connecting it to Notify, CDS’s e-notification platform. More precisely, they built the public facing subscription function to collect email addresses and built and configured the database to store the information in the cloud within Canadian space. Principal Publisher also connected the subscription function and database in a secure manner, and enabled subscription confirmation and unsubscribe capabilities. They did this all the while ensuring the service was optimized to handle high volumes of traffic, thanks to the MWS’s capacity to scale on demand.

In order to increase trust in the service, Principal Publisher worked with the above-mentioned groups to ensure emails complied with Canadian anti-spam regulations, were consistent with the branding of the printed version and included the Government of Canada logo as per the Federal Identity Program. They also provided recommendations to optimize the subscription pages on Canada.ca.

Additionally, since “Get Updates on COVID-19” has been live, Principal Publisher has been providing daily reports on the number of subscribers and the user behaviour details surrounding the service. This data enables Health Canada to make evidence-based decisions as they continue to manage the service as the official content lead.

With over 40,000 subscribers as of May 21, the “Get Updates on COVID-19” email notification service is a solution that can be repeated by the Principal Publisher and leveraged by other governmental groups to provide trusted and authoritative email subscription services to Canadians.

For more on the "Get Updates on COVID-19" Email Notification Service, read CDS’s recent blog article.

June 3 - Reimagining government service delivery, with you

Service Canada is embarking on an ambitious transformation effort called the “Benefits Delivery Modernization” programme, or BDM for short. The vision for this program is bold:

Transforming ourselves to achieve service excellence for our clients, now and tomorrow.

This isn’t about iterative change or single service improvements. This isn’t about tackling pain points, one at a time. It is about reimagining what great public services and sectors should look like in the 21st century and designing and delivering the sort of systemic agility, empathy and responsiveness that citizens and businesses expect in an increasingly complex and changing world. BDM is first and foremost about transforming ourselves culturally, systemically, technically—to best serve the diversity of communities and individuals across Canada.

BDM is building a new vessel for Service Canada—a future-state operating model for service delivery to act as a catalyst for all of system transformation.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay

We are led by the visionary Benoît Long, who was recently named the Chief Transformation Officer for ESDC, a new position that shows the organizational commitment to creating and sustaining ambitious change of the organization and for Service Canada.

There are several workstreams to such an ambitious and audacious change agenda, as you can well imagine. We are the “Digital Experience and Client Data workstream,” where we are looking at how to reimagine and redesign online service delivery for Canadians. We have thought carefully about what our mission should be, and have landed on, to deliver a dignified, user-centric, responsive and integrated digital journey that delights, motivates and empowers people.

Our current thinking is that if we extrapolate on our mission statement, we get some key principles to apply in all our work:

  • Dignified: We think the total experience should be as dignified as possible: meeting needs without unnecessary discomfort, respecting time, accessible, inclusive, context appropriate, user consent, log in only when required.
  • User-centric: How we can genuinely put users at the centre of integrated service design and delivery, including clients (people and businesses), staff and machines, taking into account their needs, tech, expectations, life context, accessibility and channels of choice.
  • Responsive: How we can ensure services are responsive in all respects: to change, personal journeys, needs, providing helpful guidance where appropriate, using inclusive design to provide different pathways according to need.
  • Integrated: How we should integrate services from a user’s perspective, bringing together everything they need when they need it. This requires bringing together systems, data and disparate functions into a virtualized presentation layer that supports online and emerging channels, keeping the user firmly in control of their journey and data.
  • Delights: What we can do to ensure the services and delivery are trustworthy, easy to use, values aligned, helpful (without being creepy), provide useful and timely nudges and create genuine new value and benefits for end users.
  • Empowers: How we can provide the best possible ability for people to self serve if they want to, taking into account different needs, accessibility, and the time and channels of convenience. This includes new ways to interactively and anonymously find relevant information to help Canadians in their day-to- day life, without having to log in or apply for anything.

We would love feedback on this, as it will be the greatest driver for our work. We are also looking to establish five teams in the Digital workstream, and we are looking for people with the skills and mindset, empathy and commitment to public service for all five teams

  • Digital Channel Strategy and Oversight team: to develop, maintain, evolve and oversee the digital channel strategy, delivery, workstream and program management, digital service standards assurance, and reporting.
  • Client Data and Personalisation team: a small data team working with the BDM Data Authority to manage, monitor and use data to personalize the client experience, data linkage, validation and verifications (with user consent) for service delivery, single client view.
  • Digital Channel Management and Support team: management, business development and continuous improvement of the digital channel and customer experience (CX), customer support functions (for clients, staff and third-party social service providers that interface with ESDC/GC).
  • Digital Futures and Foundations Accelerator (Discovery to Alpha for Digital): a cross-disciplinary team of service designers, developers and integrators that rapidly explore, design and produce concept and technical prototypes for new client services, digital futures, platforms and foundations.
  • Digital Platforms and Services team (Beta to Live for Digital): operational function to develop, procure, integrate and maintain relevant digital channel platforms and reusable service components for a virtualized and integrated digital client experience, with platforms and tools that can scale and adapt over time.

Of course, your experience with government and needs aren’t limited to digital, so we are working very closely with other workstreams to establish a holistic and human approach to service delivery that takes digital and non-digital needs into account, and provides people what they need, however they need it. Several of these functions will be established in collaboration with non-digital channels to ensure a consistent and excellent user experience regardless of channel.

We are also looking at ways to work with policy colleagues to bridge the policy–service continuum so that we can achieve a truly agile, test driven, user-centred and responsive approach to both service delivery and policy design.

BDM is currently in Definition phase, where we really take the time to understand and define our approach, priorities and work program, so it is the perfect time to engage publicly and draw the experiences, expectations, expertise and aspirations of Canadians into the mix.

Obviously, we will be applying the Government of Canada Digital Standards in everything we do.

We will be working in the open as much as possible so you can follow our progress here on this blog. Please let us know your ideas and feedback in the comments as we will be looking at all contributions to help us focus our efforts to improve the services you get from Service Canada. We also want to model more collaborative, open and inclusive ways for how public services can work with the sectors, communities and people we serve.

This post is just the start, so we will leave it there for now, but comments are welcome. We are looking for great people and organizations to join or collaborate with us. There is great talent to tap into across all sectors in Canada, and we look forward to establishing quite a diverse and representative team in this work. If you are interested in coming to our team on secondment from another area or agency, please get in touch. We are looking for people with skills relevant to all teams listed above, and we are also looking for people who have a heart for public service, who are really interested in the public good and who want to advance the needs and values of Canadians.

We will also start doing open showcase events (by video, obviously) to share and get your feedback on our progress. We look forward to being able to collaborate and engage with anyone and everyone interested in better public services. Together we can achieve so much, especially when we share a real commitment to improving the lives of all Canadians.

COVID-19 has demonstrated that it’s more important than ever to have the systems in place that are flexible, adaptable and able to pivot on a dime, supported by an agile workforce that can swiftly adapt to changing needs.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and collaborating with you to advance digital service delivery.

Email: pia.andrews@servicecanada.gc.ca

Follow us on Twitter: @STP_PTS

Written by Pia Andrews, Director General, Digital Experience and Client Data workstream, BDM Programme, Employment and Social Development Canada

June 1 - DMs’ message to all ESDC employees: National Accessibility Week (May 31-June 6)

This year, ESDC marks National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) from May 31 to June 6, providing us all with reminders and opportunities to work in ways that are more inclusive and accessible.

NAAW provides an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities and to recognize the work that is being done to remove barriers and ensure people with disabilities have an equal chance to participate in all aspects of Canadian society.

During this important week, you are all invited to participate in virtual activities, including learning opportunities offered by the College@ESDC, a curated playlist of Canadian films offering unique insights into disability and accessibility from the National Film Board,, and a new blog series from leaders in our department. These can generate invaluable discussions within the workplace, your families and communities. You may also wish to learn more about (or join!) the Employees with Disabilities Network. The Network is a vital community that offers a range of supports for staff and promotes awareness on accessibility across ESDC.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have had to adapt to new ways of working; find ways to counter isolation and stay connected with others; build resilience; and face countless other challenges. This is a temporary situation for many of us, but a constant state of being for employees with disabilities – an important reminder that the world should be accessible to everyone. No one should be left behind.

Earlier this year, we told you about the Department's work to develop an Accessibility Roadmap. The Roadmap will outline how the Accessible Canada Act, which came in to force in June 2019, will be implemented in the Department. Taking its cue from the legislation and the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada, it will set out our plan to identify, eliminate and prevent barriers to accessibility at ESDC, for employees, managers and the Canadians we serve. The Portfolio Management Board has identified the implementation of the Accessibility Roadmap as a key departmental priority for the coming year.

An Accessibility Roadmap Secretariat has now been established in the Citizen Service Branch to provide a focal point for developing the Roadmap for all of ESDC. Initial consultations were launched with employees with disabilities in February.You will soon be hearing more about virtual engagement and opportunities to contribute to the Roadmap. 

Celebrate NAAW by participating in learning activities outlined in this week's special edition of the ESDC eLearning Bulletin – available to all employees both on (iService) and off the network (Google Drive). By doing so, we will all be helping foster the culture change necessary to make ESDC more inclusive and more accessible and ensure employees can reach their full potential, especially those with disabilities.

We've all proven that the Department can be nimble and adapt when it needs to – and this mindset will serve us well as we continue to work together to make ESDC a leader in accessibility.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 29 - COVID-19 update for employees

Over the past two months, many of us have worked long days, and in some cases even learned new jobs, so that Canadians get the help they need during this crisis of unprecedented proportions. Others are doing their part by staying home and keeping their families and our society safe, while continuing to contribute as much as possible, often at odd hours of the day, so that they can care for children or avoid overloading government networks.

Now, as recent data points to some flattening of the curve of new infections in jurisdictions across Canada, a number of provinces and territories are announcing their plans to begin easing restrictions and gradually re-open economies.

The easing of restrictions will bring new challenges for Canadians and for all of us in the public service. During this transition period of living with COVID-19, we need to remain safe as we adjust our work lives to accommodate a gradual easing of restrictions and a corresponding increased access to worksites.

Public health authorities have signalled that physical distancing requirements will remain in place. Many employees will find themselves working from home for some time to come; and telework will continue to be our primary approach to work.

Throughout this period, we have demonstrated that we can continue to deliver critical services to Canadians with many of us working remotely. 9,000 laptops have been assigned throughout the department and 23,000 employees are now accessing our systems through secure remote access.

COVID-19 will likely forever change the way we work. We should not expect things to go back to the way they were. In fact, we have a tremendous opportunity to shape our future work to suit the agile, equipped and inclusive workforce we have shown ourselves to be. 

We will move cautiously as we consider when to increase access to worksites.  Re-opening access to federal worksites will be safe and gradual. 

The health and safety of employees and clients is paramount. We will be guided by the decisions of public health authorities, including Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, and the direction of provinces and territories. Planning will be based on government-wide guidance and also take into consideration the local public health situation.

Together and apart, we will continue to deliver information, advice, programs and services that Canadians need everywhere they are. 

Thank you and stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 28 - Thank you message from our Ministers (message to all-staff)

On this #ThankYouThursday, our Ministers wanted to take a moment to recognize your tremendous contribution to Canadians and your country throughout this challenging COVID-19 period. Play video here.

Some employees may need to access the video link off the ESDC network.

Corporate Communications
Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada
corporate.comm@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

May 25 - Old Age Security agents: compassionate and dynamic employees

During the pandemic, the Department's call centre agents continue to be very busy reassuring and informing Canadians about the continuity of existing programs, such as Old Age Security, as well as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Fortunately, teams have responded brilliantly to a range of unexpected calls, while demonstrating a great deal of humanity. This holds true for the agents at the Old Age Security call centres. Geneviève Monette manages a team of 60 agents based in Longueuil, Quebec. She says it is not necessarily the quantity of calls that has changed, but their nature.

Ms. Monette adds, “Of course, we have continued to provide the same service to our senior clientele, but we quickly realized that they also needed reassurance.”

Marieme Ba, who has been an agent for four years, confirmed this change: “Some people who were self-isolating at home were calling as much to talk about what was happening as to discuss their benefits with the agents.”

Agents have demonstrated resilience and creativity to adapt to the situation. Instead of referring people who called the wrong location for information about the CERB to another phone number just to be put on hold again, the team developed a way to help people as best they could by guiding them through their application and answering a few general questions when possible.

Ms. Monette is very proud of her team's work in this unprecedented time of change. “Our greatest success has been staying the course in these circumstances and being able to continue to provide the same level of service to a clientele that is even more at-risk, vulnerable and isolated than others!”

May 25 - Making the transition to e-Service Canada

For the in person services network across the country, everything changed on March 27th, when Service Canada Centres closed their doors to the public due to COVID 19.

"Even though our doors are closed, our services to Canadians continue," said Evelyne Power, Director General, In Person Operations and Strategies Directorate (IPOS). "We still have a job to do."

To make this happen, IPOS worked with their partners in NHQ and the regions to quickly transition to e-services for clients.

Through the creation of the e-Service Canada channel, launched on March 12, 2020, clients who require assistance in applying for benefits can now reach in-person staff and receive a call back from Service Canada staff within two business days. Citizen Service Officers are providing personalized service support virtually for EI, pensions and SIN applications, as well as critical passport services, mirroring the service provided to clients who would physically come into Service Canada Centres for application support.

The foundation piece of e-Service Canada has been a new service intake tool, MS Dynamics 365, rolled out by Citizen Service teams at the end of March. Similar to an electronic ticketing system, the new tool takes requests received from clients though the e-service site and routes these to Service Canada staff for action.

Since the launch of the new e-service channel, over 450,000 calls have been received from Canadians as of May 20th.

All of this has been the result of a team effort of Citizen Services across the country. Thank you to everyone who put so much effort into making this happen.

May 25 - Behind the Scenes

In the Western-Territories (W-T) Region, Judy Levasseur, Service Manager, Service Manager, Integrity Services Branch, W-T Region, played an integral role in ensuring the Region was prepared to "go live" with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) Call Centre on April 6.

In just over one week, Judy formed a small, yet mighty, team to get the CERB call centre up and running in her region. She simultaneously coordinated orders for new equipment – including shipment and distribution – and training, so employees could field calls and answer questions from Canadians applying for emergency financial assistance.

"Judy continues to work tirelessly, co-ordinating deployment of additional equipment, troubleshooting and allocating resources," says Sherri Abraham, Senior Advisor, Benefits Delivery Services Branch. "In addition to overseeing the operational challenges, Judy has been providing near constant updates to senior leaders and union executives alike. Judy Levasseur is an example of dedication and enthusiasm at its finest!"

"This was a group effort, with many individuals coming together from across ESDC offering their services," Judy said. "I appreciated the collaboration."

She notes many colleagues "really embraced the challenge," including Kent Spiers, Payment Services Officer, Benefits Delivery Services Branch,

"Working in the CERB Call Centre has been great, and connecting with Canadians during this incredibly challenging time has been very rewarding," Kent said. "While some calls are challenging, there are a number of people who are extremely appreciative just to speak to someone who can give them some peace of mind."

Judy is one of many who have shown commitment, drive and determination to accomplish the outstanding work underway across ESDC.

Because of employees like her millions of Canadians continue to receive the assistance they require.

May 22 - Mental Health Workplace-based Peer Support Program

Text description of the Mental Health Workplace-based Peer Support Program infographic

A confidential and non-clinical service to support employees coping with mental health issues.

Have you noticed upsetting changes in your mood and behaviour?

Do you feel overwhelmed?

Contact a peer supporter for a confidential conversation in a safe space. Talking with someone who has gone through something similar can help you cope with a difficult or stressful situation.

Talking to a peer supporter can help you:

  • realize that you're not alone in feeling this way and that there is hope for recovery
  • develop a new narrative to explain to others what you are going through
  • increase your sense of belonging
  • lessen the feeling that you're losing control
  • increase your self-confidence

And more . . .

Sincere and dedicated peer supporters

Peer supporters are ESDC employees who:

  • have been through a mental health situation and recovered
  • have volunteered to support their colleagues
  • successfully completed the mandatory peer support training

It's confidential

Your name and the details of your conversations and interactions with a peer supporter are strictly confidential.

We're here to listen without judgment!

Find a peer supporter

Visit iservice.prv/peerBio to consult peer supporter biographies and contact them by email, phone or skype.

We care - We listen - We help

Download the PDF format

May 19 - Public Servants in the Ontario Region work together to deliver CERB to Canadians

When the COVID-19 pandemic crisis hit, many Canadians were left wondering how they would pay bills and make ends meet. This meant delivering a benefit that was easy to apply for, quickly received, and supported by a team of public servants working together to make it happen.

Jemalle Cain, Acting Team Leader, Benefits Delivery Services Branch for the Ontario Region, leads a team of 13 agents who recently transitioned from pension support clerks to payment services officers working at the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) virtual call centres. The new 1,500-person virtual call centre, handling more than 30,000 calls a day, was up and running in just nine days to deal with the spike in call volumes. Within days, Jemalle’s staff completed the mandatory training (which normally takes around 6 weeks) and were ready to assist Canadians.

"The equipment needed to take the calls was delivered three days prior to the launch of the virtual call centre," explained Jemalle. "Many of my agents experienced technical issues during set-up, but they were able to resolve them by working together, sharing information and assisting each other. It was a perfect example of teamwork and public servants coming together to deliver an important service to Canadians."

"All my agents were taking calls on the first day of the new initiative, and while the call volumes at first were low, they are now receiving over 40 calls per day."

Some of Jemalle’s team took the initiative to go beyond just learning about the ESDC/CERB benefits—they also familiarized themselves with the ins and outs of the CRA portal. This allowed them to assist clients applying for the CERB using CRA’s MyAccount feature. One agent created his own CRA account to personally experience the process. He then used this knowledge to help clients create their own accounts.

When we work together as a cohesive team and every member feels equally dedicated to the outcome, incredible things can happen. Teamwork really does make the dream work.

May 19 - Going Extra Mile in Atlantic Region

In times of crisis, ESDC is a lifeline for many Canadians – and never more so than during this pandemic. In addition to its devastating impact on physical health, the virus’ reach has expanded to affect Canadians’ mental health, employment, and much more.

In survey after survey, ESDC employees have expressed how proud they are of what they do. When times are at their toughest, so many step up to do whatever they can to help others. Carolyn Cooper, a very dedicated Level 1 Employment Insurance Payment Services Officer in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador, is one of them.

When EI claims began to arrive in record numbers, Carolyn graciously offered to take on new work with the COVID-19 Exceptional Measures team. She seamlessly shifted gears to take on processing sickness claims, making it her top priority to ensure Canadians receive critical benefits.

"Right now, I am exclusively working on reviewing claims for Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefits. I am ensuring that claims are finalized quickly and correctly, making sure that applicants are getting the benefits they are entitled to," said Carolyn. "It means a lot to me to be able to help Canadians through this time. I’m really proud of the work we’re doing."

Carolyn, and thousands of employees like her, are playing a vital role ensuring millions of Canadians get through this unprecedented time.

May 19 - Webinars to Help Employers

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, millions of Canadians turned to Service Canada for help, particularly through Employment Insurance, as well as through the Work-Sharing Program.

Between March 26 and April 19, 2020, Work-Sharing Program applications skyrocketed, going from 281 to 4,219 across the country, including 918 in Quebec region. In order to support operations of the Programs Branch, the five members of the Quebec Senior Program Development Officer team acted quickly to respond to requests for information from employers, including 450 questions received by email.

"The situation was changing every day with the measures announced as part of Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. We had to follow the news closely! These employers were looking for advice to help their employees keep their jobs," explains the team's manager, Diane Fournier.

This led the Senior Program Development Team to create a webinar to respond to requests from clients. The content of the presentation, which is continually updated and offered in both official languages up to three times a day, covers key questions about the Work-Sharing Program and the latest measures to loosen the eligibility criteria.

As a sign of their success, just between April 6 and 24, more than 40 presentations were given, enabling 150 employers, intermediaries and interested individuals to connect. They will continue twice a day until May 15, and are open to everyone. They are also garnering a lot of interest from colleagues in other parts of the country.

Many employers have expressed their gratitude to the Senior Program Development team, and for good reason. These businesses can continue to contribute to Canada's economy and keep their qualified staff while they wait for their business to get back to normal.

May 14 - #ThankYouThursday - Recognizing teams across the department

Dear colleagues,

We want to take a moment to thank all of you for your dedication, commitment and hard work in serving Canadians, and supporting our collective efforts, to help our country during these challenging times.

We are proud and extremely impressed that so many of you and your teams across our organization have stepped up to the plate, going that extra mile and making personal sacrifices of your time, energy and moments with your loved ones.

As part of #ThankYouThursday, we want to show a little appreciation by informally recognizing the excellent work being done by your teams across many business areas, on the front lines and behind the scenes.  

Even though our physical doors may be closed, our services to Canadians have continued in full force. Because we still have a job to do.

To realize our department's efforts to help Canadians, the Citizen Services team – in NHQ and across our four regions – quickly put into place a transition to e-services for Canadians.

A monumental task, the team led the creation of the e-Service Canada channel, launched on March 12, 2020 to help Canadians reach in-person staff so that they can receive the benefits they need quickly, and at a time they need it most.

Citizen Service Officers with the e-Service Canada channel continue to provide personalized services and virtual support for Canadians who apply for EI, Pensions, SIN, and critical passport services, mirroring the service Canadians would have received before the pandemic in our Service Canada Centres for support.

Since the launch of the new e-service channel, over 410,000 requests have been received from Canadians as of May 12th.

Thank you very much to the entire Citizen Service team and partners across the regions.

We also put in place new policy measures this week to support seniors and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy and operations teams collaborated at light-speed to develop a seniors package that was announced on May 12. These measures include a new one-time, tax-free payment for seniors who are eligible to receive the Old Age Security pension (currently 6.7 million seniors) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (currently 2.2 million seniors), additional investment in the New Horizons for Seniors Program, and a temporary extension for GIS and Allowance payments if seniors' 2019 income information has not been assessed.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister announced yesterday that the Canada Student Emergency Benefit (CESB) will be launched officially on the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) website tomorrow.  This launch is significant, the CESB will provide much needed financial support to over, an estimated, one million postsecondary and high school students who are struggling to find jobs because of COVID-19 over the next four months.  It represents a culmination of more than six intense weeks of non-stop policy, legislation and regulation work undertaken by many folks at ESDC and CRA, with a particular mention to the folks at the Canada Student Loans Program.  

As we move to implementation of these measures, we want take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of these folks whose tireless efforts ensured these initiatives came to fruition. Amazing work, and well done!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 12 - Positive Leadership in Atlantic Region’s Integrity Services

In recent weeks, ESDC has pulled together like never before to help Canadians get through a public health emergency few of us have weathered in our lifetimes. Employees across the country have stepped up to ensure Canadians receive the financial support they need in the wake of massive job losses caused by COVID-19.

Kathy Lusk, Director, and Louise José St Amand, Senior Project Manager, Integrity Services in the Atlantic Region have been leaders in the Region by realigning staff to multiple business lines in a very short period of time, to better help regional teams serve Canadians during these difficult times.

Their realignment efforts throughout the region included going above and beyond to set up countless telework arrangements, so that employees can better provide Canadians with vital benefits and services when they need it most. 

"Thanks to their positivity, determination and hard work, we have been able to support the teams who need help and to keep Canadians from falling through the cracks," says Tara Arsenault, Acting Service Manager for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and workload.

She says Kathy and Louise José have shown incredible commitment to the Department, their management teams, their employees and Canadians. This commitment is the key to providing the best possible service to Canadians while maintaining a safe and positive work environment. What's more, Tara says these qualities aren't unique to the current situation, but are practiced every day by Kathy and Louise José.

Tara adds that she has never been more proud to be part of the team and of the Department's accomplishments in these past few weeks.

Canadians are noticing these herculean measures and thanking ESDC employees across the department for the service they're receiving, through a number of channels, including on social media.

May 12 - Keeping offices clean during COVID-19

A clean bill of health is everyone's priority these days. Proactive safety measures such as staying at home, physical distancing, frequent, thorough hand washing and stringent cleaning protocols remain essential.

Joanne Tucker, Manager of National Real Property Management, Chief Financial Officer Branch at ESDC, is part of the team responsible for coordinating national efforts to routinely clean and disinfect over 500 ESDC and Service Canada offices. Cleaning contracts fall under the purview of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). She says to move forward with these unparalleled cleaning measures, the Real Property team collaborated with PSPC.

"Where there's a will there's a way," Joanne notes. "PSPC gave the team liberties to work quickly to implement what was needed. We couldn't have achieved this without great collaboration between the national and regional Real Property, PSPC and BGIS teams."

To help combat COVID-19, routine cleaning was taken to a new level. This meant twice-daily cleaning with an emphasis on disinfecting high touch point areas such as elevator buttons, escalator and stair handrails, faucets, doors, security or keypad entry devices and washrooms. Offices have been stocked with disinfecting wipes, while hand sanitizer, soap and paper towel dispensers are frequently replenished. Telephones and workstations accessed by clients at Service Canada Centres are also regularly disinfected.

"While those of using Real Property are not working on the front lines assisting clients or processing benefit payments, we can take pride knowing we are doing our best to support Canadians during this precarious time," Joanne said.

May 12 - Frontline workers rise to the Challenge

A few short weeks ago, it was business as usual for ESDC employees. Today constant washing and communicating across two-metre gaps has become the norm.

ESDC's critical services colleagues have had to deal with these changes to daily routines while rising to the even greater challenges of ensuring all Canadians can access the programs and services they urgently need.

Payment Services Officers (PSOs), Service Canada Benefits Officers (SCBOs) and Citizen Service Officers (CSOs) are the backbone of the Employment Insurance (EI) program. Their expertise is critically needed now more than ever before.

Pre-COVID, an average week would have seen about27,000 applications. Even under normal conditions these positions can be mentally and physically challenging. Working under COVID-19 conditions has meant fewer staff due to realities such as childcare obligations. Yet employees across the Western-Territories Region continue to meet this challenge.

For example, PSOs at Service Canada call centres are moving their regularly scheduled shifts to core hours in order to accommodate the increase in call volume. Calls pour in with only a 10-second break between each call for the duration of every agent's seven-and-a-half-hour shift. When PSOs throughout W-T Region aren't taking calls, they are working extra hours to help process the influx of EI and CERB claims to ensure Canadians receive desperately needed financial support.

In-person Service Centres may be closed, but CSOs – including a number of past employees who have rejoined their colleagues – continue to serve unprecedented numbers of Canadians online and by phone.

Well done!

May 11 - Reopening of schools and daycares - Corporate Communications

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) has provided guidance this evening regarding the reopening of schools and daycares:

The guidance provided on the Employee Illness and Leave page on canada.ca regarding childcare arrangements continues to be in effect, recognizing that a number of provinces and territories have not announced the re-opening of these facilities or are announcing gradual re-openings.

As schools and daycares are re-opened, we expect that employees who could not work due to childcare obligations will be able to return to work.

We recognize, however, that there will be some instances where employees may be unable to work their full hours if their children are unable to return to school or daycare due to health reasons, limited availability of spaces or other restrictions put in place by provincial or territorial authorities. In these cases, employees may use ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ for hours not worked, if they are unable to make alternate childcare arrangements.

Employees should continue to adopt a good faith approach in using this leave, keeping in mind their important role in providing services to Canadians. Managers and employees should have a conversation regarding how best to manage leave requests in this context, including employees’ ability to return to work or whether flexible working arrangements would be a reasonable alternative to taking leave.

Guidance regarding special leave provisions will be re-evaluated in late June and updates on any changes will be provided at that time.

Public health authorities continue to signal that physical distancing requirements will remain in place even as some restrictions begin to ease in some places. We should all expect some combination of remote work and work at traditional worksites to continue for the foreseeable future.

The new normal for the public service will therefore take some time to shape. The health and safety of federal employees remains paramount. 

Darlène de Gravina
Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources Services Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

May 11 - Reopening of schools and daycares - Deputy Ministers

With certain provinces and territories beginning to slowly relax some measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we know many of you are wondering about what this may mean for you and your family. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) has provided guidance this evening regarding the reopening of schools and daycares.

As schools and daycares are reopened, we expect that employees who could not work due to childcare obligations will be able to return to work.

We recognize, however, that there will be some instances where employees may be unable to work their full hours if their children are unable to return to school or daycare due to health reasons, limited availability of spaces or other restrictions put in place by provincial or territorial authorities.

In these cases, employees may use "Other Leave With Pay (699)" for hours not worked, if they are unable to make alternate childcare arrangements.

Employees should continue to adopt a good faith approach in using this leave, keeping in mind their important role in providing services to Canadians. Managers and employees should have a conversation regarding how best to manage leave requests in this context, including employees’ ability to return to work or whether flexible working arrangements would be a reasonable alternative to taking leave.

In the weeks ahead, we are committed to keeping you informed of the latest information related to the gradual easing of measures currently in place in many parts of the country and the impact on us all and our workplace. 

Thank you and stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 8 - Working Remotely

Recently, provinces and territories have started to cautiously ease certain restrictions and phase-in certain services, which has each of us thinking about how that may affect our work in the weeks and months ahead.

ESDC has been working very closely with our partners to carefully plan a gradual return to the workplace, based on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s guidance.  As we work to ensure our workplaces are safe for each of us, I want to remind you that at this time, most employees should be working remotely with the exception of those performing critical functions who might be reporting to the physical workplace. In the meantime, if you have a need to return to the office, please speak to your manager in advance.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to keep you informed of the plans to welcome additional employees back to our offices.

I would like to remind you of the many health and safety and mental health resources available to you. Managers should consult the Manager’s Guide on Human Resources Issues During a COVID-19 Pandemic for more information.

Thank you and stay safe,

Darlène de Gravina
Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources Services Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

May 7 - #ThankYouThursday - Mental Health Week

Dear colleagues,

We would like to begin by thanking each and every one of you for everything you are doing to contribute to our COVID-19 efforts. Your flexibility, understanding and ongoing dedication continue to impress us, and we are proud to be working with such an exceptional team. And we are not the only ones who think so highly of ESDC employees. We’re hearing from Canadians through a number of channels, including on social media, who are thanking you for your service.

We are sharing this message with you as part of #ThankYouThursday, a new government-wide initiative. Each Thursday, we encourage you to thank your ESDC and Service Canada colleagues who are working extremely hard to provide Canadians with the essential services they need.

While it is important to celebrate our successes, we fully recognize that this can be a difficult period for us and our loved ones. The emergence of COVID-19 has created additional stress and uncertainty in all our lives, and presents new challenges for many of us. During these difficult times, our mental health is more important than ever. As we continue to navigate through this unprecedented situation together, we need to stay connected with our loved ones and with each other as colleagues, whether we are at work or at home. The human connections we have with our colleagues, families, friends and neighbours are vital to our well-being.

Some of us are more comfortable than others when it comes to talking about our emotions and mental health. But make no mistake—we all experience mental health challenges at times, and sometimes, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we may need help or that little extra boost we get from seeing a familiar face or hearing a friendly voice.

As this is Mental Health Week, as the Clerk reminded us, we encourage you to continue supporting each other and to accept help when offered; this will strengthen us as we come together to manage these challenging times.

Please remember that if you and your family members need support, the following resources are available to you.

To speak with someone:

To access resources about mental health:

To stay up to date:

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 6 - Virtual Assistant steps up to the plate!

When the Government began rolling out financial support for Canadians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, phone calls started rolling in to Service Canada call centres across the country. Agents worked 24/7 to answer unprecedented numbers of calls. But wait times – and frustration – quickly mounted.

That's when the Digital Service Directorate sprang into action. Director Verdy Boyer, web developers Donald McDill and Francis Gorman, and web data analyst Cora Hansen partnered with the Department of Finance and Health Canada to develop a Virtual Assistant. This tool assists Canadians in going online at Canada.ca to find answers to key COVID-19 related questions.

"We want people to get financial assistance as quickly as possible," Cora says. "The first triage helps Canadians find information on how to apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit or health information whether they are an individual or business. They can then choose from a range of benefits the Government is providing or get answers on other COVID-19 related questions."

Those benefits include Employment Insurance, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, changes to student loans, childcare benefits, and other emergency funding. With more clients using the Virtual Assistant, the overall wait time in the Service Canada centres was significantly reduced.

"Since April 1, the Virtual Assistant tool was used more than 750,000 times by Canadians," says Director of Web Services Verdy Boyer. "That is hugely gratifying. I am very proud of this team effort."

While the team is accustomed to developing online tools quickly, Cora acknowledges the team pulled out all the stops to get the Virtual Assistant up and running, quickly.

"Since the onset of COVID-19, people have been inundated with information. We didn't want them to become lost and frustrated," she says. "We want them to find the content and help they need, when they need it."

The team will continue to monitor, update and streamline the Virtual Assistant to ensure it is working as efficiently as possible for Canadians. The Digital Services Directorate is also working with other federal and provincial departments to see how it could be applied to help manage other online enquiries.

May 6 - Attitude and Adaptability Making a Difference in St. John's, N.L.

Over the past weeks and months, Canadians have experienced drastic changes in their lives. Millions have found themselves needing help to keep the lights burning and food on the table. ESDC employees across the country have risen to the challenge of helping them.

In St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Tanya Winter, acting Business Expertise Advisor (BEA), leaves her three sleeping teenagers each morning and heads to the office. In spite of her concern for the health of her family, Tanya has an integral role in her group.

"Tanya is an extraordinary Payment Services Officer, who goes above and beyond every day and who often takes on special projects," says Team Lead Julia Bursey. "She tackles personal or professional challenges head-on with the utmost determination and positivity."

In addition to her acting role, Tanya is facilitating and providing guidance to a new class of Call Centre PSO agents in training, which is done in-person in the office. Rarely have well-trained call centre agents been so critically needed as during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Once training is complete, Tanya will jump in to help the Regional Inquiries Unit deal with its tremendous workload resulting from the pandemic, working remotely from home.

Early in her career, Tanya was placed on a fast-tracked learning path. Her highly adaptable, positive attitude and her skills meant she was often pulled from one training class into another with the aim of completing her training as quickly as possible! She welcomed the challenge.  

Thank you, Tanya for all you do!

May 6 - Innovating and mobilizing in a time of crisis

On March 16, the world, including our department, went into crisis management mode. We had to rethink the way we work, continue to provide essential services to Canadians and meet their growing needs.

Far from thwarting employee enthusiasm and energy, many are drawing inspiration from the COVID-19 crisis to innovate and lead. Martin Chartrand, Policy and Program Director in the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB), is one of them.

Martin and his team first had to find a way to reconnect so they could continue providing essential services. In consultation with his colleagues, he implemented teleworking best practices, that included video conferencing to keep his team as connected as being physically next to each other. It was a first at the Department.

Another challenge was to ensure he was getting his hands on the most accurate information about critical staff in the Department in the event the IT network was deficient. Martin's team, in collaboration with their partners, was able to gather this information in under a month.

As a leader, Martin also had to respect and safeguard his employees' mental health as they strove to ensure service continuity. He did this by implementing a system that allowed employees to support each other and take time for themselves and their families.

His team enthusiastically supported these initiatives which they say highlighted Martin's exceptional leadership, his availability to his team, clients, colleagues, senior management and the pandemic management teams. "They feel their work behind their screens may be as valuable as the medical teams on the front lines," Martin says.

The teleworking best practices proposed by Martin and his team has now been adopted by several branches. Let's give him the last word: "It's clear that without the monumental effort of my team members, none of what we accomplished would have been possible. I'm lucky to work with such a spectacular team."

May 5 - Update from ESDC’s Compensation Services Directorate

Update on the eligibility criteria for the Salary Priority Payments (SPP)

ESDC employees facing pay problems have access to Emergency Salary Advances (ESA) / Salary Priority Payments (SPP), and Out-of-Pocket claims to help alleviate some of the financial burden associated with these issues. Some employees may also be eligible to submit a claim under the Phoenix Damages Agreement.

The eligibility criteria for a Salary Priority Payment (SPP) has been updated to provide greater access to financial support for employees, of note:

  • The definition of a SPP has been revised to be more inclusive of possible missing pay entitlements.
  • The minimum dollar value threshold that an employee must meet before requesting a SPP has been eliminated.
  • The minimum waiting period for which the funds are outstanding has been reduced from eight to six pay periods
  • The instructions for obtaining an ESA/SPP have been adapted for a more client-focused experience.

Refer to iService for more information on Emergency Salary Advance / Salary Priority Payment, including the application process.

Temporary measures for overpayment recoveries during the COVID-19 situation

In light of the current pandemic situation, the Pay Centre has temporarily suspended recovery plans for all new overpayments effective March 23, 2020.

The Pay Centre will continue informing employees of any new overpayments, and employees can still choose to repay their new overpayment by advising the Pay Centre. 

The recovery of overpayments that fall under the flexibilities provision outlined in the Directive on the Terms and Conditions of Employment can be found in the Information Bulletin: Additional Flexibilities with regards to the recovery overpayments, Emergency Salary Advances and priority payments. While the recovery of new overpayments, outlined in the Information Bulletin, will be suspended until further notice, it is important to note that the recovery of overpayments will continue for the following transactions, as they are excluded from the flexible repayment options: 

  • Overpayments of less than 10% of an employee’s gross bi-weekly pay.
  • Periods of leave without pay of five days or less.
  • Overdrawn leave (vacation/sick) upon termination of employment (for reasons other than incapacity, layoff, and death).
  • Cancellation of a leave with income averaging agreement by the employee, where the leave has been taken.
  • Amounts paid on behalf of employees for union dues.
  • Maternity/parental allowance, where the employee has not fulfilled their obligation as set out in their collective agreement or terms and conditions of employment.
  • Amounts owed to public service health/dental insurance plans, pension contributions, supplementary death benefit or disability/long-term disability following periods of leave without pay.

In addition, the recovery plans will continue for overpayments in the following circumstance:

  • Termination of employment, end-of-term or casual contracts without further extension (from first available funds).

Note: Existing repayment plans will continue, as agreed upon, for employees who already have these plans in place. Employees experiencing financial hardship, who wish to modify a repayment plan, may call the Client Contact Centre at 1-855-686-4729.

Temporary measures for Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) during the COVID-19 situation

Following the original announcement on March 24, 2020, the Government of Canada has implemented additional temporary changes to the PSHCP, effective April 24, 2020. These changes are designed to help PSHCP members and eligible dependents access health care benefits while at the same time minimizing social interaction with health care professionals. The temporary changes outlined in the Public Service Health Care Plan will remain in effect until non-critical business resumes. All other PSHCP provisions and coverage for members and eligible dependents remain the same during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additional Information for employees

For additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic, Government of Canada employees are encouraged to refer to updates from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO).

For those that are not able to log in remotely, please ask your manager to share these resources with you

Darlène de Gravina
Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources Services Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

May 5 - A message from the Clerk

Dear Colleagues,

This is Mental Health Week. Maybe in the past you've just noted it was Mental Health Week and moved on—but somehow this year it feels different. COVID-19 has made a lot of difference to a lot of people in a lot of ways. I think it has touched everyone in some way or another. One area it has had an impact on is our mental health.

There are many things that affect our mental health—stress, worry, disruption and uncertainty among them. COVID-19 has certainly brought those things into our lives, and it would be naive or arrogant to think our mental health isn't affected. Of course, many of us had struggles long before the pandemic arrived.

So whether it's about our own coping, or a loved one, or a colleague, Mental Health Week is a good reminder of our vulnerability and the availability of help. Be self-aware. Be aware of others. Make use of the help that is available—and encourage others to do the same.

This year's Mental Health Week campaign, led once again by the Canadian Mental Health Association, is asking all Canadians to stay socially connected, even while engaging in physical distancing, and to say more than "I'm fine", when discussing their mental health. In these rather uncertain times, it's ok not to be ok. This week is all about contributing to a culture of understanding and acceptance, where we can all be open and honest about our mental health and how we're feeling.

There are many resources available to you, such as the Government of Canada's Mental Health resource hub, Health Canada's Wellness Together Canada portal, and the Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace fact sheets on COVID-19 and mental health. I would also encourage anyone who would like to speak in confidence with a mental health professional to contact the Employee Assistance Program, which provides confidential support through its counsellors who are available 24 hours a day.

As you go through this week, remember: we are not alone. You are not alone. We will continue to face this together, and we will get through it together. 

Ian Shugart
Clerk of the Privy Council
and Secretary to the Cabinet

May 5 - Mental Health Week: It’s all about staying connected

The English poet John Donne once said, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." This is such a great quote for many reasons, and his wise words have never rung more true than today. I understand the frustration and loneliness that comes with physical distancing, yet, I also recognize that it is necessary to ensure that we, as a country, are able to come out from under this together, as safely as possible.

John Donne’s words encouraged me to reframe this situation as an act of kindness and compassion, not only to others, but also to myself. I usually try to take a few moments out of my day to reflect upon the importance of what we are all collectively achieving together, and the loved ones being kept safe by both our actions and those of the many essential workers we are so incredibly fortunate to have access to.

Connecting with others

While we may currently be physically distancing from one another, we are fortunate to live in a time where we can remain connected socially through our smart devices and social media platforms. Social media platforms have provided us with unlimited opportunities to reach out and keep the lines of communication open, a small but significant action doable by each and every one of us (while respecting the social media guidelines for employees). A moment taken out of our day to check in on staff, colleagues, friends, and family can make a world of difference to someone who is feeling isolated in these uncertain times.

Disconnecting (when needed)

It is also important to recognize that there is a need for us to consciously connect and disconnect. Specifically, when the use of social media platforms no longer serves the purpose of informing and bridging gaps, but rather, causing information overload, stress, and anxiety. At this point, being mindful of our emotions and choosing to consciously disconnect is a simple yet effective action we can take to positively impact our own mental health.

Plain and simple, this physical distancing thing is hard both mentally and emotionally. We miss our friends and family, we miss not having to strategically plan our route when going out for a walk, we miss the freedom to go to the mall, a movie, or the park. If you are struggling or need to talk, reach out to our Employee Assistance Program. They are available 24/7 to answer any and all of your questions during this difficult time.

Taking the time to connect during Mental Health Week (May 4-8)

I’m proud to say that ESDC is striving to keep people connected during this time and I invite you to participate in the activities below:

To all departmental employees, we may be islands for the time being, but we are strongly connected by invisible threads that keep us tethered to the mainland. Seek out one another if in need, and check in on each other to make sure we’re not drifting too far apart. I wish you all health and safety during this time.

Janet Goulding
Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development Branch, and Departmental Workplace Mental Health Champion

May 4 - Staying Social

Text description of the Staying Social infographic

Due to the evolving circumstances presented by COVID-19, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) employees are increasingly relying on social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp – to communicate to their social networks, connect with their team remotely, and follow developments related to the pandemic.

Despite the changing nature of how the Government of Canada and ESDC operate during this pandemic, your values and expected behaviours as a public servant continue to apply.

Please note that only designated spokespersons are authorized to speak on behalf of the Department, including on social media, and if you are using social media in a professional or personal context, as an ESDC employee you should remember to:

  • Use good judgement
  • Protect privacy
  • Respect the guidelines
  • Remember your responsibilities as a public servant

Social Media Guidelines for Employees and ESDC’s Code of Conduct are available to help guide ESDC employees.

If you have questions, please consult your manager or the ESDC Social Media Team.

Download the PDF format

April 30 - #ThankYouThursday

Today marks the beginning of a new government-wide initiative, #ThankYouThursday. Each Thursday, we encourage you to thank your ESDC and Service Canada colleagues who are working tirelessly on the frontlines to provide Canadians across our country with the essential services they need, now more than ever. For that, a heartfelt #ThankYouThursday from all of us!

We see your dedication, and we’re grateful for your service. We invite you to take part and show your appreciation, especially those on the frontlines, today and every Thursday on social media using the hashtag #ThankYouThursday.

Here are just a few examples of the remarkable work underway in our organization allowing us to keep delivering to Canadians:

  • We recently redeployed almost 3,000 staff from other less critical activities to focus on supporting the delivery of EI and the new CERB. #ThankYouThursday; 
  • A new 1,500 person virtual call centre, handling more than 30,000 daily calls, was up and running in just nine days to deal with the spike in call volumes. #ThankYouThursday; 
  • Approximately 19,000 employees are successfully working from home to deliver for Canadians. #ThankYouThursday;  
  • Over 7,000 laptops were dispatched to help staff work remotely and deliver our services. #ThankYouThursday.

Stay safe, be well and thanks again for everything you do, every day!

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 27 - Making the best of a challenging situation

On Monday, April 6 at 7:00 a.m. Cora-Leigh Johnson took the first call in a massive new departmental undertaking. With over 20 years in the public service, Cora-Leigh is just one of thousands of civil servants taking on a new role as a call centre agent as ESDC faces unprecedented demand for services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 16, the Department had processed over 2.4 million Employment Insurance (EI) applications, already exceeding 2018 and 2019 EI applications combined. On top of that, Service Canada call centres are fielding up to 1 million calls daily.

In response to the overwhelming need to help Canadians through this time of economic uncertainty, on April 6 the Government of Canada introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). CERB supplements other measures aimed at easing the burden caused by COVID-19 on workers and their families.

In a matter of days, Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) established a CERB Virtual Call Centre to provide those eligible for the program quick access to vital information. That was paired with a new Interactive Voice Response self-serve line allowing calls 24/7 from anywhere in the country.

"There was a lot to be done across many different areas to stand up a call centre in just 9 days," says Susan Ingram, Director General of Transformation Management and Organizational Readiness. "But I was most amazed by the fact that when the call went out, over 1500 employees raised their hands to staff the centre. It demonstrates once again our employees' deep dedication to serving Canadians."

In addition to rapid training, employees were provided with a suite of call centre tools, technology and infrastructure to work remotely and mobilize efficiently. External consultants were also on boarded to bolster efforts, augmenting those employees new to the system.

Approximately 800 additional ESDC employees have volunteered to contribute to other vital efforts wherever necessary. Going forward, new approaches such as surveys are being used to match employees in non-critical roles to support services that could use their skills.

"I feel privileged to be able to continue to serve my fellow Canadians during this difficult time," Cora-Leigh says. "Many citizens are expressing they are overwhelmed with anxiety, fear and loneliness in these times of uncertainty, so it's extremely important for me to be compassionate. Canadians are grateful knowing public servants are still there for them and still able to access resources like CERB so quickly. We are all in this together!"

April 27 - The stories behind the numbers

The numbers are impressive. By April 17, the Department received 7.45 million applications for the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Out of these, ESDC has processed 7.08 million requests, made 6.2 million payments and put a total of $7.92 billion dollars in Canadians' pockets.

Behind this data, there are "real people"who needed help during the COVID-19 crisis. Dedicated employees from all sectors of ESDC answered the call.

Service Canada officers are the face of the Department for Canadians. They have direct contact with clients and hear their stories. Because colleagues from other sectors of ESDC—who are just as passionate about public service— don't usually have this kind of personal contact with our clients, here are two client testimonials about the CERB.

One client is a self-employed worker who lives in a housing cooperative. "I did everything by phone, and it was super easy and efficient to apply for the CERB!", she said. "I got through to the line after two tries. It was all done in a few minutes. I'm really impressed with the speed and simplicity of the process."A note to communications teams: this client also applauds the "great idea"of promoting the CERB on Facebook.

Another client worked as a salesperson before temporarily losing his job due to the pandemic. "Because I already had an account on the Canada Revenue Agency portal, the process was simple for me from the start. The CERB application took less than five minutes to fill out and, to my great satisfaction, I received a direct deposit of $2,000 in my bank account in less than 36 hours,"he explained.

At ESDC, we have the opportunity to work to improve people's lives in a very concrete way. Testimonials like these give more meaning to what we do. If you have a story to share with the Intersection team, do not hesitate to let us know in the comments section below.

Editor's Note: The two clients quoted in the article are friends with the author and have agreed to share their story with ESDC employees in Intersection.

April 23 - Tips for Setting up Your Home Work Space

Text description of the Tips for Setting up Your Home Work Space infographic

Location, location, location.

Where you set up your home office space matters. Designate a specific place for work to help you maintain a work/life balance. If possible, a room with a door so you can leave your work behind at the end of the day.

Cabin fever might have you rearranging all of your furniture, but be consistent with where your designated work space is located. Once you start thinking you can work from bed, it's all over.

Where's my desk?

One of the most important steps in selecting the right location is to find the right surface height to sit at when performing much of your work. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle with shoulders relaxed. Kitchen tables are typically higher than you want, which could hurt your shoulders or neck. If your forearms are elevated, it could cause circulation issues or numbness.

The best solution, of course, is a desk that is adjusted to the correct height for you, or even a card table which tends to sit a little lower.

Don't glare at me.

If you have a window in your space, avoid directly facing it where you'll get glare. Sit perpendicular to the window, or close the blinds. If you're working in a basement, consider using task lighting angled behind your screen to avoid a stark difference. You don't want too much light or glare, or not enough light.

Choose your chair wisely.

The best solution is to get an office chair with adjustable height, tilt, and backrest. If you have to use your regular dining room chair, follow these additional tips to ensure your seating position is at the proper height and you are properly supported.

Put a pillow on your seat.

Placing a thin pillow underneath your seat can go a long way to making an ordinary chair a lot more comfortable. If you don't have a pillow, you could also fold up a fluffy towel for the same effect.

Draping a soft towel over the back of your chair is also a small thing that can make your chair feel softer.

Add a rolled towel for lumbar support.

If you're someone who struggles with lower back pain, lumbar support pillows that rest on the back of your pelvis have been shown to increase comfort while seated. You don't need to buy a fancy pillow to accomplish this effect; roll a towel and placing it between your chair and lower back.

Put your feet up.

Supporting your feet on an elevated surface - a phone book, step stool, etc. - if they don't firmly touch the ground while sitting, or stretching your legs long to increase circulation. Ideally, your hips and thighs should form 90-degree angles when you sit in your chair, but you can move your feet back and forth for exercise.

Monitor your monitor.

Your monitor (or laptop screen) height should be set up so that your line of sight is within the top third of the screen. If your screen is too low and you don't have access to a monitor stand, use books or a ream of paper to elevate the screen.

Using a laptop.

Even though it is named a laptop, the general rule is not to put your laptop directly on your lap while working. It gives off heat and the position it forces your body into postures that put you at higher risk of an ergonomic injury. The screen is either going to be too low or the keyboard is going to be too high.

The top third of your screen should within your natural line of sight, so you don't have to strain your neck to read. If you're working on a reading-intensive task, prop your laptop up on objects (like a stack of books or shoeboxes) so it's eye-level. When you need to type, lower it to a level that allows your arms to be bent at 90-degree angles.

Ideally, use an external keyboard and mouse and raise the laptop so that the screen is at the appropriate height for reading.

Change your posture ... a lot.

Maintaining a single posture all day long is unsafe. It's crucial that you vary your posture throughout the day, because sitting in the same position or chair all day can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain. For example, you might start your day at your kitchen table, then transition to a standing position or sit on your couch for a short period of time. It's best to alternate your postures regularly.

Give me a break!

Most people walk around when they're in the office to collect printed materials, go to the lunchroom or speak to a colleague. When you're at home limiting screen time might be out of the question, but you should still step away for five minutes once every hour of screen time.

Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes to take a break for three to five minutes. Beyond checking the fridge or playing with your pet, five minutes of standing up and walking around will reset your body's natural position and prevent you from getting "comfortable" in the wrong position.

Watch this video, https://youtu.be/f1_FAaN297g from Workplace Safety and Prevention Services for more great tips. Link only accessible off the network.

Sources:

  1. https://source.colostate.edu/ergonomic-tips-for-working-from-home/
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/19/ways-to-make-your-work-from-home-space-ergonomic-better-for-your-back.html
  3. https://us.anteagroup.com/en-us/blog/how-set-home-office-basic-ergonomic-tips
  4. https://nypost.com/2020/03/17/working-from-home-heres-how-to-make-your-setup-more-ergonomic/

Download the PDF format

April 20 - Access eLearning@ESDC at any time, from anywhere!

As you know, a number of ESDC employees are currently working off-network to ensure that colleagues have the bandwidth needed to continue to focus efforts on providing essential services to Canadians.

If you or your employees find yourselves working from home with no access to the departmental network, have no fear because ESDC’s new elearning bulletin is here! 

You can rely on the eLearning@ESDC bulletin to connect you to meaningful learning weekly. Each edition will focus on a departmental learning priority, including top five learning recommendations, tools and/or resources that are available for staff outside the network and accessed anywhere, as well as emerging learning-related news.  

Weekly eLearning@ESDC bulletins

Edition 1: Change Management and Digital Mindset 

  • Recommended Change Management and Digital Mindset eLearning in Saba
  • How to access Saba from outside of the network
  • Latest news about the Canada School of Public Service’s GCcampus
  • And more!

Edition 2: Mental Health and Workplace Well-Being

  • Recommended Mental Health and Well-Being eLearning
  • Accessing Second Official Language learning from outside of the network
  • How to reset your GCcampus password
  • And more!

Edition 3: Working Virtually

  • Recommended learning tools and resources to help you enhance your knowledge of technology to work virtually with ease
  • Finding guidance on working virtually, for both employees and managers
  • Virtual preparation classes for the Test of Oral Profiency in a Second Official Language
  • And more!

All editions of eLearning@ESDC are available on Google Drive, which can only be accessed from outside the ESDC network. While the weekly bulletin is designed for ESDC employees who are working off the departmental network, the bulletin is also available to staff via GCcollab, which is accessed only from within the ESDC network.

If you are not providing critical services to Canadians, talk to your manager about what eLearning opportunities you can complete right now in Saba by logging in to: https://esdc.sabacloud.com. Saba is cloud-based so it can be accessed outside of the network, at any time, from anywhere. We also encourage managers and directors to share this information with their teams who are not currently working on the network, so they can get started and/or continue with their learning objectives.

Forgot your password?

We all have a lot on our minds these days and forgetting passwords is not uncommon, even at the best of times. If you forgot your Saba password, here’s what you need to do: 

Start by contacting NC-SIGA-SABA-APPRENTISSAGE-ILMS-SABA-LEARNING-GD from your personal email address with the following information:

  • your first and last name; 
  • government email address; and
  • the name of your manager or team leader in Saba (if known).

The Saba team will then email your personal email address with a temporary password and reset instructions. Please note that at this time the Saba help desk is experiencing a higher than usual volume of emails; we thank you in advance for your patience with password reset requests.

Handy tips for Saba

  • Not sure how to do something in Saba? Detailed job aids such as Change My Manager and Add a Learning Activity to a Team Member’s Plan are also posted in the eLearning@ESDC Google Drive in the Saba Job Aids section.
  • To make sure that your courses are marked complete: 
    • Visit all pages in your course: if you have not viewed all of the pages and branching pages the course will not be marked as complete.
    • Open all hyperlinks and play all media (e.g. play entire video) in courses, even if outside of the network: although links to internal websites or systems (e.g. iService) will not be available outside of the internal network and will show an error message when opened, you must attempt to open all hyperlinks. Media (e.g. videos) must be played in full.
    • Use the CLOSE button on the Saba player window: you must use the CLOSE button on the Saba player window instead of your browser.

April 20 - COVID-19 update

It has been over a month now since we have had to adapt, transform and reinvent ourselves in light of the COVID-19 pandemic gripping our country and the world.

During that month, we have delivered a monumental effort to respond to this crisis. We’ve responded by doing what we do best–helping Canadians when they need us most.

To give you a sense of the scope of this effort, we need to look no further than the 6.2 million Employment Insurance-Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments made to date totalling $7.92 billion in the pockets of Canadians. These figures are simply incredible and are a reflection of the organization’s dedication to public service and to our country.

As we reflect on the past month or so, many of us find ourselves having to work from home. In fact, approximately 19,000 (or 67%) out of over 29,000 ESDC employees are working from home. We know this is not easy and it comes with its challenges.

As you know, the very nature of our department is to help people. For some of you, not being able to work or perform critical service due to important responsibilities at home can be frustrating given your inherent desire to help.

We want to assure you that we understand these challenges and support all of our staff no matter your current role or function. Everyone’s role is important. For some of you, it may be focussed on doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying home with your loved ones and ensuring you and your neighbours remain safe and healthy.

Please remember, there are mental health resources available to you such as EAP. Our organization is nothing without its people. We are here for you.

Stay safe and take care of yourselves.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 17 - Working remotely, pulling together

Last month, most ESDC employees were told to work from home to help stem the global spread of the Covid-19 virus. One of the department’s first challenges was to ensure a regular flow of information to employees who were no longer working in the office.

"It was immediately critical that we develop ways of ensuring those employees remain connected and apprised of the constantly changing Covid-19 situation," said Melissa Consorti, Communications Advisor in PASRB.

One of the first measures was to ramp up the use and scope of an ESDC Twitter account, initially launched in 2018 to keep employees informed about Service Transformation.

On March 16, @STP_PTS became devoted to "all things Covid-related," says Melissa. "We use this account to share anything we feel employees need to know about Covid-19, keeping them in the loop so they don’t feel isolated or disconnected. Even if they aren’t able to access the network and ESDC intranet."

Within days the number of followers surged from about 1,000 to nearly 4,000 followers keen to be kept up to date on everything from teleworking best practices to cyber security and good mental health practices while working remotely. Although Melissa says the most popular tweet to date was at the end of March telling employees the Department had processed more than 1 million Employment Insurance claims. She says that landmark, historic number in the earliest days of the pandemic "was a real morale booster."

"So many people commented on that, and re-tweeted about on how proud they are of their colleagues," she says. "It was really heartening to see so many positive messages during such a difficult time."

Since then, followers such as journalists, Deputy Ministers, and Ministers from other federal government departments have jumped on the ESDC twitter feed.

To augment that messaging, Internal Communications simultaneously created an external facing employee web page. Melissa says it provides a "deeper dive" on corporate messaging.

"Everything we post on Twitter is also posted on the external employee page," she says. "Twitter provides the short, snappy updates plus a link to the external facing page for a fuller, more detailed read."

Those links include information on the proliferation of malicious email scams, changes to the health care plan, thank you messages to staff from Ministers and Deputy Ministers and other topics relevant to employees.

"We are also working on getting more material such as how employees can access learning from home as we all figure out these new working arrangements together," she says.

"ESDC employees are still committed to doing their jobs even under very trying circumstances," Darrel Houlahan, Director of Internal Communications, acknowledges. "Understandably, some are feeling isolated from their friends and colleagues. These communications tools go a long way to helping them work through this uncertain period. Melissa from our team has been a huge part of this effort. Well done Melissa!"

April 16 - Resources to take care of yourselves

For several days now, we have all been affected by an unprecedented crisis that has brought many new challenges.

I would like to thank all ESDC employees from the bottom of my heart – now more than ever, each and every one of you is demonstrating how dedicated you are to the Department’s mission. Whether you are at work to ensure Canadians receive critical services or at home in order to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, all of your efforts are recognized and very much appreciated by everyone.

All of us, without exception, are currently experiencing a wide range of emotions that vary from one day to the next. Please know that it is perfectly normal to feel this way considering the circumstances, and it is of the utmost importance to take care of yourselves in the current situation. I would therefore like to share with you this infographic, in which you will find the many services that are available to you. You will also find below some useful resources to help you take care of yourselves.

To speak with someone:

To access resources about mental health:

To stay up to date:

If you still have questions after accessing the references listed above, do not hesitate to contact ESDC’s workplace mental health team by sending an email.

Take care of yourselves and of your loved ones.

Darlène de Gravina
Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources Services Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

April 9 - Thank you

As many of us celebrate Passover and Easter, we wanted to take a moment to wish you and your loved ones good health and happiness. Please take this time to rest and recharge following what has been both a challenging and rewarding several weeks for our organization.

As we reflect on the many important ESDC accomplishments highlighted in recent days, one of the most remarkable is the processing and payment of millions of Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) claims. You have helped put money in the pockets of Canadians when they need it most.

From our policy shops, legal teams, operations staff, human resources specialists, corporate services, information technology experts and communications colleagues, everyone has played a critical role in this. Whether you are processing claims from your kitchen, solving problems on Skype or helping vulnerable clients over the phone, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of your service during a challenging period for many of us, both personally and professionally.

Canadians are noticing. Recent media coverage referred to you as "unsung heroes," and we couldn’t agree more.

Many of you are working under incredible pressure in your regular jobs. Others have taken on new tasks to fill in gaps. And we know that many others are pushing to be able to contribute more but have been limited by our current systems. We are working hard to address that and will keep you posted on progress. Canadians need all of your passion and skills to help them through these challenging times.  

Your dedication and commitment to our country, is nothing short of remarkable. And for that, a heartfelt thank you.

Take care of yourselves,

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 7 - A message from the Clerk

Dear colleagues,

I wanted to be in touch to share three thoughts.

The first is to encourage all of us, as strongly as I can, to renew—and redouble if possible—our efforts to take all the public health precautions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This is for our own protection and that of our communities right across the country. Hand washing, physical distancing, and staying home except for the necessary requirements—as public servants, we should be leading the way; as citizens, we join with everyone in our communities to make a practical contribution to battling this pandemic.

Just as important to me as reinforcing the public health advice, is offering my thanks to you. I couldn't properly capture all the work that is being done by public servants to protect all of us from the virus, to serve Canadians who continue to need help, to design and set up new services for those facing the impact of the pandemic, and to support the infrastructure needed to make it all function. So many of you, in all parts of the country, are working at an unprecedented intensity, some of you at personal risk and so many with significant impact on your own personal and family lives. We have heard the Prime Minister acknowledge and thank public servants for their service, and we should feel proud of what we are doing. We join colleagues in public service at all levels of government, in all forms of service, who are acting professionally and selflessly. Words aren't adequate, but they are heartfelt—thank you.

My last thought in this message is to acknowledge the strangeness of what we are going through. For many of us who are separated from our colleagues and those still working in their normal workplaces and having to keep their distance, relying on phones and email for communication, day after day, feels unsettling and upsetting. Some of us have been asked to do different things or even to join different groups or teams that need supplementing. Many of us are keenly aware that we are not working nearly as hard as some on the front lines or on projects and initiatives requiring intense and ongoing effort. I would say this: don't feel guilty! Maybe you've made this kind of exceptional effort in the past; others will be called on to take their turn in the future! It is what it is, and I know that all of us are willing to do whatever is required of us.

In the meantime, stay sharp and be thoughtful of the contributions you and your teams can make. Please respond enthusiastically if asked to help out with efforts somewhere else, as many have already done. Keep working on assignments whose time will come again! Take the time to train and upgrade your knowledge if the immediate pressure is reduced on your normal tasks. Managers, stay close to your teams and be responsive. All of us can help to reinforce our colleagues and support their mental health.

The motto of our ongoing renewal of the public service is "Agile, Inclusive, Equipped." Who knew that "agile" would mean this kind of adjustment! But for now, it does. And who knows what we are learning along the way that will help us be better equipped for the future? As for inclusive, we are all in this together. The Canada that is so reflective of the world is experiencing a global pandemic. Our commitment to being in this together and serving everyone will be an incalculable advantage for Canada. The public service has a big role in making that so.

Ian Shugart
Clerk of the Privy Council
and Secretary to the Cabinet

April 6- COVID-19 update

We are communicating with you today to express our sincere appreciation for the tremendous amount of work employees from across the department have invested in our organization in recent weeks.

With this hard work can come fatigue, both physically and mentally. It is important to take care of ourselves and each other, particularly during this challenging time. Mental health remains a priority in our department and we are very mindful of the heavier than normal demands on you, both at work and at home.

With this in mind, we want to remind you of temporary changes to the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP). Most notably, new measures are now in place, including:

  • Relaxing the dispensing limit for maintenance medications and allow the pharmacist to exercise professional discretion whether to dispense the medication sooner;
  • Removing the requirement for a prescription for mental health and physiotherapy services.

Please also see below an earlier message from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat shared with staff last week.

Thank you, and take care of yourselves.

This message is sent on behalf of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

The Government of Canada has implemented temporary changes to the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP). These new measures are designed to help plan members and their eligible dependents access healthcare benefits, while at the same time, minimizing their social interaction with healthcare professionals as well as supporting the social distancing directive.

In summary, these measures include:

  1. Extending travel emergency benefits;
  2. Relaxing the dispensing limit for maintenance medications and allow the pharmacist to exercise professional discretion whether to dispense the medication sooner;
  3. Accepting claims for social workers as mental health professionals;
  4. Removing the requirement for a prescription for mental health and physiotherapy services.

These temporary changes will be in effect until April 24, 2020, with the possibility of being extended.

More information on these changes is available on canada.ca. Plan members who require assistance with travel-related medical emergencies in Canada and the United States should call Allianz toll-free at 1-800-667-2883. Those in all other countries should call Allianz collect at 519-742-1342.

***Managers, please convey this information to your staff as per your Business Continuity Plan (BCP)***

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 3 - COVID-19 update

As a result of ESDC’s collective brain power, hard work and exceptional commitment to service to Canadians, a few short hours ago, Service Canada met a milestone truly worth celebrating—One million EI claims processed since March 16! As the week comes to a close, we wanted to reflect on what this represents for our organization.

Our ability to process this surge in volume has been tested and challenged more than ever before. Since March 16, we have received 2.4 million claims. That is almost as many as the 2.8 million we received all of last year. Our systems have been able to handle these volumes which were up to 35 times our normal intake with almost no service interruptions. 

This week alone, we processed 714, 676 EI claims. To put this into context, we processed 47, 459 claims during the same period last year. This is more than 15 times the claims processed just a year ago.

As you know, the decision to close our in-person Service Canada Centres was a difficult one, and we appreciated your support. In response to COVID-19, Service Canada has had to reinvent itself to ensure Canadians can access the services previously available in person.

We developed a new approach to service delivery with the launch last month of E-ServiceCanada. Clients can request assistance online and a Citizen Service Officer will contact them within two business days.

To reach vulnerable clients, Service Canada is working with community partners to identify individuals unable to access E-ServiceCanada, and find alternate mechanisms to provide them with assistance.

A toll-free contact centre to support those most in need is also being tested and will be launched shortly. Please consult your manager if you are interested and able to help staff this new centre.

On April 1, new authorities were put in place allowing us to fully automate EI processing by paying a flat rate to everyone eligible.

We are confident that by next week, because of your work, virtually all of the backlog will have been processed—exceeding our normal service standards of first payment within 28 days of filing. 

None of this is possible without you. We have smart, dedicated, passionate, hardworking people in this organization. A million EI claims processed is just one example of the many remarkable things happening today throughout ESDC.

Canadians need you and you are delivering. And for that, we thank you.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 1 - COVID-19 update

Further to our previous messages, we wanted to reach out to you today to mark a truly historic occasion in our organization.

We are proud to convey to you that last night, the interim orders, an important legal requirement that allows us to formally launch the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), were signed.

That means that the processing of the first batch of new claims under the CERB has now begun, and an announcement took place this afternoon by Ministers Duclos and Qualtrough.  

The amount of work our department has had to undertake to make this a reality is staggering. From our policy shops, legal teams, operations staff, human resources specialists, corporate services, information technology experts and communications colleagues, the collective effort we’ve just witnessed is a testament to our dedication to Canadians during this time of need. 

It took long days, late nights and lots of coffee to get to this point. We could not have done it without you! For that we salute you, but more importantly, Canadians salute you today. Thank you.

In the lead up to the CERB launch, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the innovative work that has taken place in recent days to ensure Canadians receive critical service following our office closures.

As of yesterday, more than 18,590 clients have accessed our newly launched alternate service delivery. That is truly remarkable. They say necessity is the mother of invention. We have witnessed that here, maybe more than at any time in our history, in just the past few weeks. 

Once again, from all of us, thank you and stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 1 - Checkpoints in the Outaouais region

As announced today by the Premier of Quebec, the Public Health Department of Quebec has issued a directive that is now in force for the Outaouais region. This measure aims to limit "non-essential movements," including between Ottawa and Gatineau, to protect the population from the spread of COVID-19. Additional police checkpoints will be deployed in and around the Outaouais region.

What does this mean for you? If you are teleworking, there will not be any change.

However, if the work you do supports activities that are deemed critical by the department, and you will be required to enter our offices in this region to work, please ensure you have your official Department-issued ID card with you.

If you encounter issues at any of the checkpoints, please notify ESDC’s National Emergency Operations Centre immediately at 819-956-6777.

Luc Tremblay
Chief Security Officer, Integrity Services Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

March 31 - Telework measures

Hello,

As part of our ongoing efforts to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our critical services, the department is expanding its telework options. This message serves to provide you with important security information and guidance on applying required security measures when teleworking.

With the influx of employees now working from home, it is important to remember that teleworking requires employees to practice increased vigilance and apply sound security practices in order to protect departmental information and assets while working from home.

Employees who telework must follow the Teleworking Best Practices, as mentioned in the Chief Information Officer’s message of March 16, 2020 to help to reduce the load on ESDC’s network.

Therefore, if you are teleworking, you must adhere to the following important security measures:

  • Complete a Telework Security Attestation Form and send the completed form electronically to your Manager. Given the current inaccessibility to printers, your Manager can send an e-mail back to you confirming his/her approval of the Attestation. Both you and your Manager must keep a copy of this Attestation Form;
  • Work electronically as much as possible and keep paper documents to a minimum;
  • You may work on information up to Protected B by following the instructions listed below;
  • Any work that involves information that is Protected C, Confidential, Secret or Top Secret is not permitted;
  • Any loss or theft of Protected hardcopy information or asset (e.g. phone, laptop, tablet) must be reported immediately as per usual security incident reporting procedures.

If you work with protected information, consult the ESDC Information Classification Tool to properly determine the security classification of your document and get all the information pertaining to transporting or storing that document

TRANSPORTING PROTECTED INFORMATION when teleworking

  • Speak to your Manager if your work requires the transport of hardcopy Protected A or B information;
  • Transport all Protected A or B information in a secured briefcase, RCMP lock pouches or backpack in accordance with the ESDC Information Classification Tool;
  • It is not permitted to leave any Protected A or B information unattended including inside a locked vehicle. As such, if stopping at a public place before arriving at the telework location, the briefcase/backpack/pouch must stay on you at all times;
  • Create and keep a separate inventory of Protected B information that is being transported. This will assist in identifying affected individuals for privacy breach processes and reporting should a theft or loss occur.

** If secured briefcase/backpack/pouch is unavailable: Standard briefcases and carrying cases can be used on an exceptional basis. This is a temporary measure in light of the increased use of telework during the COVID-19 situation and is only to be used if secured briefcases/backpacks/pouches are not available.

EMAILING AND PRINTING PROTECTED INFORMATION while teleworking:

  • Keep in mind that you are not allowed to send protected A or B information to your personal email address to work offline.
  • Printing work documents while teleworking is also not permitted.
  • Do not take screen shots or pictures of personal information displayed on your screen.

STAY SECURE while teleworking

Secure your Home

  • Ensure that appropriate door locking mechanisms and window hardware for all access points in your home are in good working order. Furthermore, engage those locking mechanisms to secure your home (e.g., keep your front door locked).
  • Activate your alarm system (if your home is equipped with one).
  • If feasible, work from an office not located on the main floor. Street-level spaces are easier to access by passersby.

Secure your Equipment

  • Ensure that any equipment under your control is stored securely at all times;
  • Do not leave your devices unattended in or near public places
  • Do not allow family members or other unauthorized individuals to use your work devices;
  • Follow ESDC’s Clean Desk Guidelines at home;
  • Do not display or share your passwords/access codes;

Secure the Protected Information (work related)

  • Ensure that any work-related activities are conducted in such a way as to prevent unauthorized individuals from viewing or overhearing protected information.
  • Close your blinds and/or face the monitor away from windows or glass doors to ensure your monitor is not in someone’s line of sight.
  • Do not discuss personal information in public areas, or in areas perceived as private (e.g., on the balcony or near an open window in your home, in your kitchen while guests are visiting).
  • Use a headset or the cellphone itself, not a speakerphone, when discussing with a colleague.
  • Turn off and/or disconnect your Google Home, Amazon Alexa and/or other virtual assistant devices to prevent the devices from recording your work-related conversations.

If you have any additional security questions about protecting departmental information and assets and these teleworking best practices, please contact your Regional Security Office.

Finally, we would like to remind employees, when working from home, home workspaces should be set up to promote good ergonomic practices.  This is especially important where telework is a temporary arrangement, such as during a pandemic.  Employees are also encouraged incorporate micro breaks, as well as, stretching exercises to promote dynamic posturing throughout the day.

Your personal safety

Remember that your personal safety is also important while working from home.

  • If you must use your personal telephone line or cellular device to contact clients, you should block your number (individual calls or permanently) from appearing on call display features.
  • If you do not already know how to use call-blocking features, please contact your service carrier for the exact procedures.
  • You should also be careful not to disclose too much personal information about yourself that may make your home location easily identifiable and refrain from using personal email addresses to contact clients.
  • If you must deal with an external client by e-mail, use a generic e-mail account if possible and do not provide your full name.

I appreciate your continued support in safeguarding our departmental information and assets.

Luc Tremblay

Chief Security Officer

Integrity Services Branch

March 27 - COVID-19 update: In person Service Canada Centre closures

Please be advised that all in person Service Canada Centres across the country will be temporarily closed until further notice.

The safety and security of our employees is our primary obligation and guides our decision.

This decision was not taken lightly given our department is the face of government, probably more than any other, to countless Canadians who depend on our services now more than ever.

Signage, web notices and other outreach is underway to direct clients to online and over the phone service. Rest assured, we have contingency plans in place to handle the workload pressures that are expected as a result of these office closures.

Employees are being provided with the tools they need to continue delivering critical service to our clients across the country. Laptops have been mobilized, network capacity has been increased and other resources have been shifted.

For Service Canada Centre staff that have been affected by these closures, we remind you that if your function is not already identified as critical, please consult your manager about whether flexible work arrangements may be required, such as telework. 

If you are not required to work remotely, please consult your manager about taking online training through Saba.

If that is not possible, please discuss options with your manager, including other paid leave. 

Again, we understand that the recent events can be upsetting and stressful. Remember that counselling is always available to you through the Employee Assistance Program.

For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s webpage on the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and ESDC’s iService COVID-19 page.

The department is now sharing COVID-19 updates through a dedicated employee webpage and Twitter account, @STP_PTS. Please follow us here: https://twitter.com/STP_PTS.

***Managers, please share this latest information with your staff***

Thank you,

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Office for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 26 - Message from Minister Hussen

Dear colleagues, 

In these unprecedented times, I wanted to take a moment to recognize and thank you for your indispensable role in Canada’s response to COVID-19. In every province and territory, from coast to coast to coast, Service Canada employees have stepped up to serve Canadians with professionalism and dedication. Your essential work during these difficult times has provided support and reassurance to countless Canadians. From our senior citizens to new parents, the work you do has helped Canadians know that they can take care of themselves, their families and loved ones.

In the coming days, weeks and months, your work will continue to play a vital role as we all come together to overcome these challenges. Your work will not just be essential in supporting Canadians, but also in keeping Canada strong and united. During this time, your health and safety remains a priority to us all. Please take time to take care of yourselves and your families, and know that you have my full support and gratitude for your service to Canadians.

Sincerely,
The Hon. Ahmed Hussen
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

March 25 - Temporary Public Service Health Care Plan changes

This message is sent on behalf of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

The Government of Canada has implemented temporary changes to the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP). These new measures are designed to help plan members and their eligible dependents access healthcare benefits, while at the same time, minimizing their social interaction with healthcare professionals as well as supporting the social distancing directive.

In summary, these measures include:

  1. Extending travel emergency benefits
  2. Relaxing the dispensing limit for maintenance medications and allow the pharmacist to exercise professional discretion whether to dispense the medication sooner. 
  3. Accepting claims for social workers as mental health professionals
  4. Removing the requirement for a prescription for mental health and physiotherapy services

These temporary changes will be in effect until April 24, 2020, with the possibility of being extended.

More information on these changes is available on canada.ca. Plan members who require assistance with travel-related medical emergencies in Canada and the United States should call Allianz toll-free at 1-800-667-2883. Those in all other countries should call Allianz collect at 519-742-1342.

***Managers, please convey this information to your staff as per your Business Continuity Plan (BCP)***

Corporate Communications
Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada
corporate.comm@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

March 22 - COVID-19 update

As you know, the COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly. The department is taking measures to ensure we can continue to deliver critical services to Canadians. We couldn't do this without you.

Provinces and territories continue to announce new or enhanced measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In some cases, those include limiting the size of group gatherings. 

These provincial and territorial measures are important, but do not apply to those federal workplaces that remain open in order to provide critical services to Canadians. 

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.

As you know, only ESDC employees who provide critical service to the department are expected to report to work.

Your function may be considered critical, for example, if you work at a call centre or an in-person Service Canada Centre, if you offer financial or pay-related support, you work in benefits delivery, developing COVID-19 related policy or HR services.

Protecting your health and well-being remains our top priority.

We are following health protection protocols and best practices established by the Public Health Agency of Canada to keep your workplaces clean and healthy.

We are also working quickly to equip more people with the ability to telework, and working closely with HRSB Occupational Health and Safety to support social distancing within our offices. 

This means making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others, including:

  • avoiding non-essential gatherings
  • increase the distance between desks and workstations or spreading employees in office areas
  • avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes
  • limiting contact with people at higher risk like older adults and those in poor health
  • keeping a distance of at least 2 arms-length (approximately 2 metres) from others

Proper hygiene can also help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food
  • use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • when coughing or sneezing:
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
  • dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands afterwards
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • use approved disinfectants when cleaning hard high-touch surfaces

This situation is evolving rapidly, further staff reduction and office closures may occur on day-to-day basis.  We are monitoring this hourly and we will adjust delivery of our services throughout the situation.

Again, we understand that the recent events can be upsetting and stressful. Remember that counselling is always available to staff through the Employee Assistance Program.

For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s webpage on the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and ESDC’s iService COVID-19 page.

We want to stress how appreciative we are of your ongoing dedication and professionalism to our organization and to serving Canadians.

***Managers, please share the webpage and Twitter information with your staff***

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 18 - Malicious email scams about COVID-19

With public concern around COVID-19 growing, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has observed an increase in phishing emails and fake websites related to the virus.

Malicious cyber actors are quick to take advantage of high profile events, particularly those that cause worry and concern.

These emails may appear to be from a legitimate source, but they contain malicious attachments or links. There have been recent instances in which phishing has been used in an attempt to impersonate various health agencies.

If you receive any suspicious email, please report it using the fish hook button in Outlook.

These tips will help you identify phishing emails:

  • Be extra cautious if the email tone is urgent.
  • Make sure the link or the attachment is relevant to the content of the email.
  • If you were not expecting an attachment, verify with the sender.
  • Make sure URLs are spelled correctly.
  • Directly type the URL in the search bar instead of clicking on a provided link.
  • If you must click on a link, hover your mouse over the link to check if it directs to the right website.

More information on phishing is also available on iService.

For the latest and most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s webpage on the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and ESDC’s iService COVID-19 page.

The department will also be sharing updates through a dedicated webpage and Twitter account on COVID-19, @STP_PTS. Please follow us here: https://twitter.com/STP_PTS.

***Managers, please share the webpage and Twitter information with your staff***

Peter Littlefield
Chief Information Officer
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

March 17 - COVID-19 update

As you know, the COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly. The department is taking measures to ensure we can continue to deliver critical services to Canadians. We couldn't do this without you. Thank you for your continued dedication and support during this period and in the coming days and weeks.

ESDC has taken the decision to focus solely on delivering critical services to Canadians until further notice.

This means that only employees who provide critical service to the department are expected to report to work.

We expect that managers have already identified and communicated with the majority of critical employees. Should you have any questions, please contact your manager. Your function may be considered critical, for example, if you work at a call centre or an in-person Service Canada Centre, if you offer financial or pay-related support, you work in benefits delivery, developing COVID-19 related policy or HR services. If you're unsure about your status, please consult your manager.

If your function is not considered critical, please consult your manager about whether flexible work arrangements may be required, such as telework.

For those who need to telework, given our network capacity, it is important that you stay off the network as much as possible to ensure bandwidth is reserved for critical service delivery. Specifically, please:

  • If you have one, use your ESDC mobile phone to send and receive messages;
  • Use your personal computer if possible for online training materials (video or audio courses);
  • Cancel all non-critical teleconferences, videoconferences and other meetings; and,
  • If absolutely necessary, connect using VPN or AppGate to get what you need from the corporate network and then disconnect, which allows for others to do the same.

For additional guidance on reducing stress on the network, please see yesterday's message from Chief Information Officer Peter Littlefield here.

If you are determined to not be a critical employee at this point, you may be reallocated to assist with critical services now or in the coming days or weeks. Your manager will let you know.

If you are not required to work remotely, please consult your manager about taking online training through Saba.

If that is not possible, please discuss options with your manager, including other paid leave.

This guidance is based on the information currently available at this time. Note that there may be different guidance for different areas of our operations. We will continue to keep you updated as the situation unfolds.

Your regional management team may provide further direction in the days ahead.

We understand that the recent events can be upsetting and stressful. Remember that counselling is always available to you through the Employee Assistance Program.

For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada's webpage on the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and ESDC's iService COVID-19 page.

The department will also be sharing updates through a dedicated webpage and Twitter account on COVID-19, @STP_PTS. Please follow us here: https://twitter.com/STP_PTS.

***Managers, please share the webpage and Twitter information with your staff***

Thank you,

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 17 - Urgent – VPN Connection Gates

With many employees teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to balance the Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections among all three available VPN sites. This will ensure that our VPN services are maximized across the country.  

When you are establishing a VPN connection, please use the gate listed below based on your location of work:

  • srv541.services.gc.ca - MCT: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick;
  • srv542.services.gc.ca - KEC: National Capital Region, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon;
  • srv543.services.gc.ca - MTL: Quebec, Ontario (excluding NCR).

You may encounter connection issues from time to time. If you do, please try a different gate.

As the situation continues to evolve, this information may be revised in order to better distribute the load. We will update you as necessary.

Thank you for your collaboration,

Jacques Mailloux
Director General, Enterprise Operations and IT Security
Employment and Social Development / Government of Canada
jacques.mailloux@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca / Tel: 819-654-1205

March 16 - COVID-19 update

As you may know, a number of cities and regional municipalities across Canada are providing local guidance and directives to Canadians who live in those communities.

These local precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 may include limiting municipal services, access to public spaces and asking people to avoid leaving their homes for non-essential reasons.

As such, some employees of ESDC in these municipalities are heeding public health advice and may be teleworking, or taking other paid leave to care for children affected by the closure of schools and daycares.

Given our fundamental responsibility to provide critical services to Canadians, and to contribute to the wider Government of Canada pandemic effort, our approach may be slightly different than that of other departments. It is during difficult and challenging times like these that the services we provide are most needed. This means that for those of you who provide mission critical services, we need you to come to work. If you have children, please try and make alternate childcare arrangements. Of course, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, if you’ve been asked by a public health official to self-isolate or have travelled internationally, you should not come in to work.

Over the next 24 hours, managers will discuss with you directly whether your services are considered critical so that you are aware of your status should there be additional guidance around working from home or social distancing. If you are not, your manager will speak to you about other arrangements or leave options. If you are not in a position deemed a critical function and you have a skillset or experience that can help support mission critical functions, you may be temporarily reassigned.

This guidance is based on the information currently available at this time. Note that guidance for different areas of our operations may evolve over the course of the next few days. We will continue to keep you updated as the situation unfolds.

For the most up-to-date notices to staff, visit ESDC’s iService COVID-19 page.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 16 - Teleworking Best Practices

As part of our ongoing efforts to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our critical services, I am providing you with important information and guidance on teleworking, the deployment of mobile devices, and new and potential future changes to network usage.

In planning for the event where our staff may be asked or required to work from home, the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB) has been working with Shared Services Canada to maximize Internet bandwidth to support remote work. While improvements have been made, our network does not have the capacity to handle the volume of remote access that would be required for all ESDC employees to telework.

Reducing stress on the network

I encourage anyone connecting to follow Teleworking Best Practices to help to reduce the load on ESDC’s network. For instance, you can:

  • Make copies of documents you need to work on (e.g. SharePoint, shared drives) while you are not connected to the network. When you reconnect, upload the documents to their original locations. Make sure to inform your colleagues of the documents you are working on in order to avoid version control issues.
  • Download large documents outside of normal business hours.
  • Use social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) on your personal computer and not while connected to the ESDC network.
  • Refrain from using online training materials (video or audio courses). Log off the network or use your personal computer for these, if possible.
  • Cancel all non-critical online meetings. If a meeting is critical, limit the participants to only those who are absolutely required to attend, and use teleconferencing instead of videoconferencing and Skype for Business video calls, wherever possible. Send documents required for the meeting in advance so that meeting participants can have the documents stored locally prior to the meeting.
  • Use alternate forms of communications that do not require a Virtual Private Network (VPN). For example:
    • If you have an ESDC mobile phone connected to your work email, use it whenever you can.
    • Use Blackberry Messenger Enterprise (BBME) for communications, including video calls.
    • Use public cloud services to collaborate with colleagues on unclassified work
      (e.g. FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, Google HangOuts, Slack, etc.).

With demand for remote access to the network expected to increase considerably over the coming days, we will be monitoring usage closely. Measures to restrict access to functions and employees supporting critical services may be taken as and when required. Even if you have a mobile device and remote network access, you may not always be able to log on, as access may need to be reserved for employees supporting these critical services. In an effort to free up network capacity, we have also temporarily blocked video streaming via remote access.

Mobile devices and remote network access

A prioritization framework has been developed in concert with every branch and region, which identifies key employees and the equipment that they require in order to continue to provide critical services to Canadians, no matter what situation we face in the coming weeks. This effort has identified more than 8,000 employees who support the Department’s critical services. Efforts are now underway to equip these employees with remote access and devices needed to telework, in priority order, and in waves of deployment to match our supply of equipment. Both of the Department’s remote access methods (AppGate and VPN/FortiClient) will be used to enable employees to telework on short notice, and to balance out the Department’s capacity.

Any urgent requests for mobile devices or remote network access related to COVID-19 should be channelled through the Assistant Deputy Minister’s Office in your branch or region, which will forward them to the National Emergency Operations Centre. We want to ensure that our mobile devices are directed where they can best serve the Department during this situation. As a result, pending and new requests for mobile devices or remote network access that are not in support of critical services to Canadians may experience a delay in processing.

If you are already equipped to work from home using AppGate, remember to restart your desktop device when leaving the office. Employees with a laptop or tablet with VPN access should be bringing their device home daily, in case of a sudden office closure.

If you need technical support, please contact the National Service Desk (1-800-268-0408). Support services are available from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday. If you have any questions regarding your critical status, or whether or not you should telework, please consult your manager.

I recognize that this is a challenging time for you, your family and citizens across the country. I appreciate your co-operation to ensure our limited resources are used most effectively to support critical services for Canadians.

Chief Information Officer
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

March 15 – COVID-19 update (National Capital Region only)

Further to the All Staff Message you just received, guidance for National Capital Region employees only is as follows:

Only employees who provide critical service to the organization are expected to report to work. If unsure about your critical status, please consult your manager.

For all others employees, please consult your manager about flexible work arrangements such as telework.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 15 – COVID-19 update

*If you are a resident of the National Capital Region, please see additional information at the bottom of this message. 

We are writing to you in order to provide an update on the situation with the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We all share real and valid concerns about school closures, childcare, international travel, the health of our families and friends and, in many cases, aging parents and relatives. We want you to know you are not alone in these concerns.

As you know, our department, probably more than any other, is the face of government for many Canadians across the country. Whether through call centres and processing, Service Canada Centres, mobile outreach and other means, you are there for countless Canadians when they need you. That's what we do and we couldn't do it without you. Thank you for your continued dedication and support during this period and in the coming days and weeks.

On flexible work options:

In the coming days, the management team will continue to work on expanding existing options such as telework, compressed hours and staggered hours. But, given our network capacity, we must be mindful of any strain on the system and will therefore prioritize the delivery of critical services.

For those of you who are able to come to work and are not affected by childcare obligations or other circumstances, we need you to do so.

On childcare:

We know you may be anxious about childcare with different school closures. Try to make alternative care arrangements and if that is not possible talk, to your managers about telework. If that is not possible, "other leave with pay" (699 leave code) will apply.

On travel:

If you have travelled internationally, please immediately notify your manager. You must self-isolate for 14 days before returning to work. Talk to your manager about teleworking. If you can't telework, other leave with pay will apply.

In addition to above, we are releasing a Managers' Guide with more information and guidance for employees on COVID-19.

This guidance is based on the information currently available at this time. Note that there may be different guidance for different areas of our operations. We will continue to keep you updated as the situation unfolds.

For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada's webpage on the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and ESDC's iService COVID-19 page.

We understand that the recent events can be upsetting and stressful. Remember that counselling is always available to you through the Employee Assistance Program.

This is a difficult and challenging time for all Canadians. Stay safe, and thank you for all that you do.

***Managers, please convey this information to your staff as per your Business Continuity Plan (BCP)***

*For National Capital Region employees only: Only employees who provide critical service to the organization are expected to report to work. If unsure about your critical status, please consult your manager. For all others, please consult your manager about flexible work arrangements such as telework.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Chantal Maheu
Deputy Minister of Labour

Lori MacDonald
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

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