Messages for employees only – Employment and Social Development Canada

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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May 26 - #ThankYouThursday – Internal Audit and Enterprise Risk Management Branch

Dear colleagues,

A call from auditors can sometimes bring uneasy feelings when we hear they may visit or look at our work – but at the heart of their work is a drive to help ESDC improve what we do and how we do it for Canadians. For this #ThankYouThursday, we are doing a shout out to the Internal Audit and Enterprise Risk Management Branch (IAERMB) – and also to the audit coordinators across the department who are key to continuous improvement.

Concentrated in the National Capital Region but growing in number across the country, the team of about 60 people supports the department in continually improving its operations through trusted advice.

How do the auditors and risk advisors choose what to work on? Sometimes, ESDC senior management asks the audit team for help in reviewing difficult issues. In the case of the Benefits Delivery Modernization programme, agile auditing is a built-in feature. Most often, the work is driven by the Risk Based Audit Plan. This plan assesses risks across ESDC and determines which are the most urgent. Management is consulted, data is analysed and the Departmental Audit Committee recommends the plan for the Deputy Minister’s approval.

Cybersecurity, fraud, technical debt and change management, including the Future of Work, are top areas of focus for 2022-23. The branch’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) team provides insight and analysis to help make better decisions. Risk management coordinators throughout the department have been key in helping ERM reimagine and relaunch the departmental risk management process and reporting. Stay tuned for upcoming virtual sessions offered by the ERM team.

The audit branch is also ESDC’s point of contact with the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG). Given the size and the nature of our business, ESDC is frequently the subject of OAG audits. These audits are critical to ensuring that we provide quality and timely service to Canadians. These skills have been shown to be exceptional with the recent audit of the Temporary Foreign Workers program, the Reaching All Canadians audit and other audits currently underway. A huge thank you to the audit coordinators in all ESDC branches whose hard work, patience, negotiating skills and sound judgement ensure the OAG audits achieve fair and balanced outcomes.

These are just a few of the many ways IAERMB contributes to ESDC’s ongoing effort to improve. The Oxford dictionary defines “audit” as both a noun and a verb. The noun is the official scrutiny of accounts; the verb is the conduct of said scrutiny. The Latin root is auditus, meaning hearing.

The IAERMB certainly does a lot of listening and is a source of continual advice for improvement at ESDC. We thank them for their rock solid commitment to helping all of us better serve Canadians.

Thank you.

Stay Well. Stay Safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 19 - #ThankYouThursday – On-site staff

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we recognize the thousands among you who continue to provide front-line, in-person service in our physical workplaces during the pandemic. This includes staff who serve to address emerging and urgent client needs including for passports, as well as those addressing emergency events, such as in wildfire and flood evacuation centres and supporting Afghan refugee resettlement.

Despite everything our world faces, we remain diligent in providing exceptional support to Canadians. The commitment you demonstrate every day to continue delivering for Canadians is nothing short of remarkable. Across all regions of our vast country, about 3,500 of you continue to work on-site and another 7,000 have already adapted to an ongoing hybrid work schedule of part-time at home and part-time in the workplace.

Most recently, with international travel restrictions being lifted, a tsunami of passport demands has hit us with Service Canada having received approximately 500,000 applications in March and April 2022 alone. We have responded by hiring about 500 new staff and providing increased access to in-person service across the country. Beginning this week, Service Canada has returned to pre-pandemic in-person service capacity by opening all passport service counters across the country – in more than 300 Service Canada Centres – an increase of 40%. Across the network, many of you have also volunteered to work overtime to assist in meeting this unprecedented demand for passport services, on top of your regular duties.

On-site staff perform many different critical functions. This includes managers and staff at Service Canada Centres, Passport Offices, processing sites or call centres where much-needed assistance is provided to Canadians. Indeed, two among us, Jean-François and Lori are visiting staff today along with Minister Gould at the Service Canada Centre in Gatineau, Quebec, where employees continue to provide Canadians with access to the programs they rely upon. JF and Lori are eager to connect with staff in-person in order to convey our deepest gratitude and appreciation for the incredible hard work and expertise employees have shown during the pandemic - especially from the front lines. Without you, our department cannot succeed in helping Canadians at times in their lives when they need us most.

In offices across Canada, many in Management Services and the Information Technology business are also on-site because you provide key tools to the department so that colleagues could work remotely or move our services online. Some of our Human Resources and pay-related employees are on-site, as are those in benefits delivery and COVID-19-related policy development and those who provide support the department’s delivery of many programs to help Canadians get through the worst of the pandemic.

Furthermore, site leads and support staff continue to provide key administrative and security functions, ensuring seamless operation of our printing services and responding to incoming and outgoing mail. Our Access to Information and Privacy teams continue to meet deadlines and maintain service delivery to Canadians. All the while, our Team Leaders, Managers and Directors maintain on-site supervision and support to employees in many of our offices.

The duty and commitment shown by ALL of these on-site staff to help Canadians during the pandemic is admirable and greatly appreciated. As we prepare for the next phase of the Future of Work and the introduction of a flexible work environment this Fall and greater occupancy in our buildings, we salute those of you who continue to give their best for Canadians in our physical workplaces across all regions of Canada every day.

Thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 12 - #ThankYouThursday – Occupational Health and Safety teams

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) teams across the organization for their ongoing work to ensure the health and safety of our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic and the emergence of the numerous waves of COVID-19 created a lot of pressure on ESDC’s OHS teams. Through it all, they rapidly provided guidance, and developed and updated resources in a constantly changing situation.

As we know, OHS is a shared responsibility and various teams and individuals were essential to ensure the health and safety of our workplaces during the pandemic and now, as more of us are returning to the office. On the national level, the Human Resources Services Branch’s National OHS Office worked extensively with stakeholders, such as the Policy Health and Safety Committee, key enabling branches, and various business lines, to develop departmental guidance to ensure employees and managers understand what is required and how to stay safe at home and in the workplace. Enabling services, such as Human Resources, Real Property, Security, and Emergency Management and Business Continuity helped shape our departmental guidance to ensure workplaces were properly equipped and that proper signage was in place to direct employees and clients.

This collaborative work resulted in the development and on-going maintenance of several key tools, including ESDC’s Guide to Returning to the Workplace, the Toolkit for Employees, the Toolkit for Managers, the Manager’s Guide on Human Resources Issues During a COVID-19 Pandemic, the Employee Active Screening tool (accessible via the MyESDC App), and the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Hub page. These were regularly updated as the pandemic and recommended guidance evolved.

Our small but mighty team of OHS Advisors in the regions and NHQ were also very involved in this effort by continuously providing advice and guidance to OHS committees, OHS representatives, and managers to help them support their employees and workplaces. Regional OHS Committees, were very active in guiding their regions and local workplaces and overseeing the application of health and safety measures.

The coordination and application of the department’s COVID-19 response required the participation of many essential groups and enablers. The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) brought together key enablers along with branch, regional and business line representatives to co-ordinate the departmental pandemic response. Regional Emergency Operations Centers (REOCs) played a similar role to ensure critical co-ordination at the regional level. The various Branch and Regional Management Services groups supported their branches and regions throughout the pandemic, often leading the planning on behalf of their Assistant Deputy Ministers, helping equip managers and employees within their branch or region and co-ordinating key activities in support of the transition to a flexible work environment.

Throughout the pandemic, as some employees never left the office and continued to provide critical services, site leads and local management coordinated local efforts to ensure the safety of our staff and operational continuity on a day-to-day basis. Local OHS Committees and OHS representatives were and continue to be key to ensuring the health and safety of our offices as they continued to inspect workplaces and regularly review safety measures, while collecting and reporting recommendations to management based on employee feedback.

For those who continued to work on-site, we must also thank the employee volunteers who took on the role as First Aid Attendants and Building Emergency and Evacuation Team members. Last, but certainly not least, we want to thank employees, team leaders and managers who continue to do their part by respecting the health measures and protocols that are helping to keep each other safe at work, while continuing to carry out their work and serving Canadians.

Thank you for your dedication and all your hard work.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 5 - #ThankYouThursday – Canada Summer Jobs

Dear colleagues,

Young people across the country have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. In fact, throughout the pandemic, young workers have shown the greatest likelihood of working reduced hours and losing their jobs out of any age group, with 50 per cent of Canadians under 30 experiencing one or both of those outcomes.

As we work through the economic recovery, it is crucial that we empower youth with quality employment opportunities. With the summer hiring season now underway, the team responsible for Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) in 2022 is hard at work helping both youth and employers by providing thousands of quality part-time and full-time job opportunities. CSJ is helping young Canadians between the ages of 15 and 30 gain quality work experience in safe and inclusive work environments, while providing opportunities to develop and improve their skills. The program also helps youth—including those who face barriers—gain access to the labour market.

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to congratulate the employees from the Program Operations Branch, Service Canada teams across all regions, the Citizen Service Branch, the Skills and Employment Branch, the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch, the Chief Financial Officer Branch, Legal Services and the Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch. All of them have dedicated tremendous efforts to ensure young Canadians have access to quality paid work this summer.

Rolling out the CSJ every year involves many ESDC employees working tirelessly to deliver this incredibly important and time-tested program. Their invaluable contributions include: ongoing improvements to internal tools and dashboards; streamlining the application form for employers; assessing more than 48,000 employer applications representing more than 230,000 potential jobs; automating parts of the screening and assessment process; automating the data entry of the Employee and Employer Declaration form; and coordinating input from Members of Parliament. The resounding success of the CSJ requires a united effort by so many across the department, at both NHQ and the regions, who have been working in lockstep.

This is a banner year for the program, with more than 140,000 summer job opportunities available for youth posted on Job Bank. They represent a wide variety of fields such as community and charity work, food industries, recreation and fitness, marketing and public relations, landscaping, farm labour and many others. The program is helping to ensure all youth have access to equitable opportunities to develop their skills by prioritizing projects that support youth who have not completed high school or who are not currently enrolled in an education or training program, as well as Black, Indigenous and racialized young people, youth with disabilities, and youth from the LGBTQ2+ community.

We would like to take the opportunity to extend our sincerest gratitude to all employees who have supported the CSJ program. Thank you for your tremendous achievements in assisting young Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The commitment you have shown supporting the next generation is truly inspiring.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 28 - #ThankYouThursday – Mental Health Week

Dear colleagues,

In advance of Mental Health Week next week, we wanted to dedicate this #ThankYouThursday to the national Workplace Mental Health (WMH) team and all mental health advocates in the department. They are a critical voice to help us learn more about all aspects of mental health and they work hard to ensure employees who struggle with mental health issues get the support they need.

The national Workplace Mental Health (WMH) team is a small but mighty group that oversees the organization, creation and delivery of ESDC’s mental health-related programs, services and initiatives. When ESDC shifted to work in a virtual environment, the WMH team rose to the occasion to adapt their existing services and created new tools and resources for employees to access during a time of frequent change and growing uncertainty:

  • ESDC’s Resilience Gym launched in May 2021, and is a virtual space where employees can work on their resilience through tools, videos, live sessions and daily practices.
  • ESDC’s Employee Assistance Program (offered through Health Canada) introduced a new Chat Service to their suite of options to help employees.
  • More than 400 employees and managers have taken part in 36 check-in sessions, all hosted by the WMH team since the onset of the pandemic. These sessions allowed participants to explore their current mental, emotional and physical wellbeing in their work and personal lives.

Further, we want to recognize the hard work of the WMH team for revitalizing the Peer Support Program to better connect employees with other colleagues who have experienced a mental health challenge directly, or through a loved one. Peer Supporters are ESDC volunteers who have gone through a mental health situation, have been carefully selected and trained to foster relationships of mutual trust and respect, and are empathetic, respectful and authentic. They also offer confidential support to any employee who is experiencing mental health challenges. They listen, without judgment, and share their personal experiences to give hope and inspiration to others.

All of the work taking place at the national level would not be nearly as successful or far reaching without the support of our Workplace Mental Health Champions. These representatives from each branch and region are instrumental in moving forward the department’s mental health-related goals while also leading their own helpful initiatives.

The WMH team is currently leading the development of the next iteration of the ESDC’s Workplace Mental Health Action Plan. Through detailed consultations with employee networks, the WMH team was able to gain invaluable insight into the trends and current challenges experienced by staff across the department. The 2022-2023 Workplace Mental Health Action Plan will be released in the coming months.

Finally, we would like to thank all of you who are taking care of yourselves, and your fellow colleagues, by looking after your own wellbeing and seeking help when you need mental health support. When we make our wellbeing a priority, we are able to build and maintain healthy relationships with others, and are better able to learn, work and grow.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 21 - #ThankYouThursday – Bill C-12 & One-time grant for Guaranteed Income Supplement

Dear colleagues,

This week's #ThankYouThursday goes to the many people who developed and brought to fruition Bill C-12 and implemented the One-time grant for Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) recipients who received pandemic benefits. These measures will help alleviate the financial hardship of GIS and Allowance recipients who accessed pandemic benefits, and as a result, faced a reduction or loss of their GIS/Allowance benefits. The changes will also ensure that seniors who continue to access pandemic benefits will not face a reduction or loss of GIS and Allowance in future years.

The collaborative work of our departmental teams is a great example of the best in public service cooperation to build effective policy and delivery.

Employees across the department delivered a range of services and benefits to Canadians during the pandemic, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), to support people who lost their jobs. As we know, these supports helped countless Canadians; however, some GIS and Allowance recipients faced lower benefit payments because of the income they received from these pandemic benefits.

From the beginning, the department has been working to support the government in developing a solution. As a first step, the Government is providing up to $742.4 million for one-time payments to alleviate the financial hardship of GIS and Allowance recipients who received the CERB or CRB in 2020, and who faced a reduction or loss of GIS and Allowance benefits.

Secondly, to ensure that this issue does not recur, Bill C-12, which received Royal Assent on March 3, will exempt federal pandemic benefits from the calculation of income for GIS and Allowance purposes in future years. Exempted benefits include the CERB (including amounts paid under the Employment Insurance Act), CRB, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit.

The development of this solution took many tireless hours of sophisticated policy development from the OAS Policy and Legislation team; data analytics and privacy reviews from the International and Domestic Policy Statistics and Agreements unit; technical skills of the Innovation, Information & Technology Branch; and, in-depth operational knowledge and innovative solutions by the Service Canada Pensions team which conceptualized the implementation solution for both the one-time payment and Bill C12. We also appreciate and want to recognize the work of the people who supported this effort at every stage, including going forward – translation services, Chief Financial Officer Branch staff, communicators with the Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch, Legal Services teams and our partners in the Skills & Employment Branch.

It takes a village to make important policy changes that make a real difference in the lives of Canadians. Thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 14 - #ThankYouThursday – Budget 2022

Dear colleagues,

On April 7, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance presented the first budget of the 44th Parliament, building on the 2021 Speech from the Throne, the Economic and Fiscal Update 2021 and the ministerial mandate letters.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have supported the Government as it has focused on ensuring Canadians are able to pay their bills, put food on the table and find meaningful work. We have made significant investments to help Canadians with emergency measures and ensure Canada’s economic recovery. Now, to help move the country forward, Budget 2022 is focused on expanding our country’s economic capacity and productivity, driving long-term growth and managing public finances in a prudent and responsible manner.

Once again, ESDC features prominently in the Budget. It contains many proposals related to our programs, benefits and services. Some Budget 2022 highlights include proposals:

  • for an Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund;
  • to amend Part II of the Employment Insurance Act to ensure more workers are eligible for help before they become unemployed, and that employers can receive direct support to re-train their workers;
  • to grow the workforce by addressing barriers faced by mothers, Black and racialized Canadians, newcomers, persons with disabilities, young Canadians, and other people who are underrepresented in Canada’s workforce;
  • to support the implementation of an employment strategy for persons with disabilities through the Opportunities Fund;
  • for the Temporary Foreign Workers program to increase protections for workers, to reduce administrative burdens for trusted repeat employers who meet the highest standards for working and living conditions, protections, and wages, and to ensure employers can quickly bring in workers to fill short-term labour market gaps;
  • to complete the Employment Equity Act Review in the coming months;
  • for the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative to continue empowering Black-led and Black-serving community organizations and the work they do to promote inclusiveness; and,
  • to create an expert panel to study the idea of an Aging at Home Benefit.

This is why, for this #ThankYouThursday, we are highlighting the commitment and hard work of all employees who were instrumental in preparing for countless briefings for Ministers and more than 50 proposals for Budget 2022. Many briefing notes were prepared and briefings given in support of our Ministers throughout the Budget 2022 process. Numerous Treasury Board submissions were prepared – a process which involved hundreds of employees in every branch and region of the department. We cannot understate how impressed we are with all of the effort that went into this monumental task!

Strategic and Service Policy Branch staff coordinated this impressive effort, while employees in the Chief Financial Officer Branch ensured our diligence on costing and in securing funds through the Treasury Board Secretariat. As we have done time and again throughout the pandemic, our success in developing and implementing measures that help Canadians is thanks to the extraordinary behind-the-scenes work from employees in all policy, enabling and operational branches and regions across the organization.

We are grateful for your important contributions to Budget 2022, which underscore your continued commitment to serving Canada and Canadians, as we deliver on the Government’s priorities and drive a recovery that is robust, long-term and inclusive. For that, we thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 7 - #ThankYouThursday – The Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care

Dear colleagues,

This #ThankYouThursday, on the heels of concluding negotiations with all provinces and territories to bring affordable, accessible, quality and inclusive child care to families across Canada, we are shining the spotlight on the Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care within the Strategic and Social Policy Branch.

Budget 2021 identified up to $30 billion over five years to deliver the federal policy direction for an average cost of $10-a-day for regulated child care for all families in Canada, no matter where they live. Starting in 2022, fees will be reduced by 50 percent on average for families with children in regulated child care and will reach an average of $10-a-day by 2025–2026. This is in addition to the commitments made in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement investing $420 million in the early childhood educator workforce and extending, and making permanent, the investments made in 2017.

As they set about to craft the policy direction for a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system and begin building from the foundation up, the Secretariat staff responded to the calls by child care advocates and the women’s movement that had been ringing for over 50 years.

This Canada-wide, community-based system will help ensure all families have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care. In particular, it will increase women’s participation in the workforce, support economic growth in Canada and ultimately offer every child a better start in life.

Over the past year, the Secretariat has been working tirelessly (and creatively) to make this vision a reality, by:

  • establishing the policy and program design;
  • negotiating multiple bilateral agreements with all 13 provinces and territories;
  • building data and research capacity;
  • advancing work on the establishment of a national advisory council;
  • launching consultations on federal legislation;
  • administering grants and contributions programming promoting innovation and strengthening official languages in the early learning and child care sector; and
  • representing Canada’s work on early learning and child care at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and in other international fora.

This tremendous effort could not have happened without the support of the Secretariat’s many partners, including the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Secretariat, Legal Services, Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch, Chief Financial Officer Branch and Internal Audit and Enterprise Risk Management Branch. The collaborative effort across the Department in support of this priority demonstrates a tremendous commitment and belief in the work we do at ESDC.

Your remarkable efforts have delivered the largest social policy advancement in Canada since universal health care. Not only is it great news for families in Canada as a whole, it is a game changer for women in the workforce. Access to affordable, high-quality, flexible and inclusive child care comes at a time when we need it most, acting as a catalyst to build a stronger and more prosperous Canada that starts with the youngest and one that will change the trajectory of our country for generations to come. For this, and so much more, we commend and thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 31 - #ThankYouThursday – Labour Program’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we’d like to congratulate and thank the Labour Program’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) for their dedication and hard work during the latest round of collective bargaining between Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC). FMCS worked very closely with the parties to help them arrive at an agreement. This ultimately resulted in the end of a work stoppage and a return to work for thousands of CP rail employees, and the swift restoration of CP rail service across the country which is vital to our supply chains and economy.

As a neutral third party, FMCS promotes cooperative labour relations between unions and employers that are subject to Part I of the Canada Labour Code. It provides assistance to both unions and employers when they negotiate and renew collective agreements and helps maintain positive relations during the term of these agreements.

In the case of CP and TCRC, stakeholders across Canada voiced their concerns about the impact of interruptions in service to already volatile supply chains. The Government of Canada was acutely aware of the potential impacts of a work stoppage and took steps to encourage the parties to stay at the table and continue working together with the support of FMCS.

Federal mediators had been working closely with both CP and TCRC since December 2021, providing conciliation and then mediation assistance. During the most recent round of discussions taking place in Calgary, Alberta, FMCS mediators worked with both parties for 12 consecutive days. They remained at the table even as a lockout and strike action began and continued working with parties to assist them in arriving at a resolution.

Mediators were supported in their efforts by a team of their colleagues at national headquarters, including Gatineau-based FMCS staff and the Labour Program’s Strategic Policy, Analysis, and Workplace Information Directorate (SPAWID).

FMCS has once again demonstrated the importance of supporting the parties through the collective bargaining process. Their work with federally regulated employers and employees benefits all Canadians as we continue to work towards strengthening our national supply chains during a critical period of economic recovery for our country.

Fostering fair, productive and cooperative working conditions and constructive labour-management relations is just one more way ESDC serves Canadians. When it comes to mediation, we know that the best deals are the ones reached by the parties at the bargaining table. As such, we wanted to extend our sincerest gratitude to the Labour Program and FMCS employees for their efforts to help CP Rail and the TCRC come to an agreement. You make us all proud!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 24 - #ThankYouThursday – for all ESDC managers and the ESDC Manager Community

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize managers across the Department. Managers are a critical part of our organization, ensuring the flow of information, connecting dots, making important decisions, providing leadership, and ensuring their employees – and their senior management – feel supported and connected. Of note, this community is given an important voice in our organization through the ESDC Manager Community, which provides helpful information and resources to supervisors and team leaders across the department.

In March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, the first place most employees turned was to you, their manager. Your inboxes were overflowing, as you helped triage questions, provide reassurance, and seek out information to help respond to your teams. In addition to your regular duties, you became confidants and support persons in HR or IT issues. You adapted and learned to manage your teams remotely, keeping employees informed and maintaining safe and healthy work environments during unprecedented circumstances. Your crucial contributions kept employees feeling supported and helped millions of Canadians receive the help they needed during a crisis.

Learning how to manage teams and maintain team spirit from a distance was one of the major challenges that managers faced since the pandemic started. Many of you have effectively learned and used the technology at your disposal, including MS Teams, to organize various virtual activities and motivate your teams. You also onboarded new employees despite the initial challenges of hiring applicants remotely, while directing them to resources and making yourselves available.

Managers also played a critical role in promoting mental health. Despite the many challenges of the pandemic, you have shown tremendous empathy, patience and understanding. You listened when people needed to talk, and referred them to appropriate resources such as the Employee Assistance Program.

Despite these additional tasks and duties, managers were able to come together thanks to a critical support network that started to grow during the pandemic: the ESDC Manager Community. While the Community was started years ago by passionate managers, thanks to the support of its champions and following a conference in February 2020, the Community’s steering committee was able to signal the need for more dedicated resources. With increased capacity and new tools to support remote work, the Community turned its attention to connecting managers from all branches and regions in ways that were not possible before.

Over the past year, the MS Teams Community group has grown to over 1,300 members. The Community aims to create a sense of belonging among managers and to support them to be modern leaders. It provides managers from across the organization with useful resources and timely information such as the availability of information sessions on the vaccine mandate and automatic cash-out of vacation and compensatory leave. Managers can reach out to each other easily to ask questions and share information. In addition, the Community has partnered with the Digital Workplace Taskforce and formed a planning committee with key partners such as the College and the Transformation Branch to organize the next ESDC Manager Forum (Stay tuned!).

Beginning next week, we will start welcoming more employees into the physical workplace on a gradual and voluntary basis across the country. As we begin our transition to a new flexible work environment at ESDC, the Manager Community will again play a critical role. On behalf of the entire senior management teams that you will be supporting in this work, we thank you as we know that implementing the re-occupancy plans developed by your branch and regional leadership teams will involve more work for you.

Once again, on behalf of employees, senior management, and the ESDC Manager Community’s Co-Champions, Robert Allen and Claire Caloren, we want to thank all of the managers who continue to do an outstanding job to ensure their teams are supported, engaged and connected. Thank you!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 17 - #ThankYouThursday – Modernizing Canada's Official Languages Act

Dear colleagues,

As we celebrate Francophonie Month and the International Day of La Francophonie on March 20, there is no better time to recognize the tremendous work being done across ESDC to support Canada’s official languages.

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we would like to highlight the collective efforts of everyone involved in the modernization of Canada’s Official Languages Act (OLA), a reform led by Canadian Heritage, Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and the Department of Justice Canada. Thanks to input from multiple government departments, including the combined contributions from across the Labour Program, the Skills and Employment Branch (SEB), the Strategic and Service Policy Branch (SSPB), the Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch (PASRB), the Human Resources Services Branch (HRSB), Citizen Service Branch (CSB), the College@ESDC, Income Security and Social Development Branch (ISSD) and the Legal Services Unit, Bill C-13, an Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages, was tabled in Parliament on March 1, 2022.

The last time Canada’s OLA underwent significant reform was in 1988. A lot has changed since then and as Canada’s linguistic dynamics continue to evolve, so too must our legislation. The modernization of the OLA and the introduction of Bill C-13 reaffirms Canada’s commitment to preserving the vitality of the French language.

Among those who contributed to the modernization of the OLA is the Labour Program’s Strategic Policy, Analysis, and Workplace Information Directorate (SPAWID). This team has supported the modernization in many ways, including drafting portions of Bills C-13 and C-32, an Act to amend the Official Languages Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. SPAWID also supported the creation and work of the expert panel on language of work and service in federally regulated private businesses. Much of what SPAWID accomplished, though, could not have been done without ESDC’s Legal Services Unit, who supported them throughout much of their work.

But it didn’t stop there.

SSPB’s OLA Part VII Centre of Expertise played an important coordination role within ESDC by ensuring that senior management, Official Languages colleagues at CSB, HRSB and the College@ESDC, as well as other internal stakeholders, were informed of the progress of the OLA modernization and provided opportunities to give their perspectives.

Supporting the modernization of the OLA was truly a group effort, with multiple branches pulling together to make it possible. SEB’s Enabling Fund and Skills for Success programs, ISSD’s Social Development Partnerships Program, along with SSPB’s Early Learning and Child Care Innovation Program, provided their expertise in regard to how ESDC’s programs may continue to contribute to the Government of Canada’s commitment to enhancing the vitality, and supporting and assisting the development, of Canada’s official-language minority communities in a modernized act.

Finally, a big thank you goes out to PASRB and HRSB staff. PASRB provided their expertise when it came to promoting the OLA modernization to Canadians, ensuring that communications were strategic and clear, and HRSB represented our department on consultations to provide expertise to TBS on the impact of the OLA language of work proposals. HRSB also worked with ESDC Cabinet Affairs on providing briefings and impact analysis for our ministers.

Official languages are a crucial part of ESDC’s mandate. As Canada’s predominant provider of government benefits and services, the modernization of the OLA is particularly close to our hearts as we serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast in the official language of their choice. There is still much work to be done when it comes to protecting the French language and improving the rate of bilingualism in Canada, but we have taken a step in the right direction—and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of so many employees across the organization.

Today, we thank you for your commitment to linguistic duality and for your continued dedication to the protection and promotion of Canada’s two official languages.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 10 - #ThankYouThursday – International Women's Day

Dear colleagues,

On Tuesday, March 8, countries around the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Across the public service and at ESDC, it has been a week of recognition of women’s achievements in a range of endeavours.

For today’s #ThankYouThursday, we want to take a moment to recognize and celebrate women across ESDC and all those who work on the numerous programs we deliver that directly and indirectly support women.

Every day and throughout the past two years of this pandemic, the extraordinary women of our department have continued to step up in unprecedented ways. It has not been easy with added stresses and responsibilities coupled with the general uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, but you have shone bright and have provided us all with a glowing example of inspiration and determination.

Looking around ESDC, our gender makeup tells a compelling story: 68% of our current workforce are women, including 63% and 59% of our managers and executives respectively. Our leadership is made up of many women, including four Ministers, four Deputy Ministers, 19 Assistant Deputy Ministers, and numerous Champions and Network Chairs.

And, speaking of our Deputy Ministers, please watch this very special International Women’s Day video message shared on Tuesday in case you missed it!

What’s more, in their most recent blogs, Lori and Sandra also offer their personal perspectives on their experiences as leaders, including what inspires them and progress they’ve seen that they find empowering for women in the department. International Women’s Day also marks the one-year anniversary of Sandra and Annette joining the department, days after Tina’s arrival on March 3, 2021!

Throughout the last week, we have been truly inspired by what we learned and heard. A huge thanks to everyone who participated in ESDC’s ELLE: Empowering Leadership, Learning and Experience event, which included an inspiring and thought-provoking panel with four of our Ministers. If you were unable to participate in the discussion that took place, a video recording of the session will be made available in the coming weeks.

Our department is also in the process of launching ESDC’s new Women’s Network! Stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead, including how to join. This will be an opportunity for women in ESDC to connect, communicate and discuss important issues in a safe forum.

To all the women (cis, trans, two-spirit, genderqueer and more) of ESDC who bring compassion, dedication and commitment to serving Canadians and our organization, thank you!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 3 - #ThankYouThursday – Employment Insurance surge capacity

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we would like to highlight Service Canada’s successful response to an unanticipated surge in Employment Insurance (EI) claims linked to the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Service Canada expects an annual increase in EI claims in the winter months but for the first four weeks of this year, EI claims were 35 per cent higher than forecasted. It was apparent that the Omicron surge had the potential to overwhelm the system, in particular the service delivery target of responding to 80 per cent of claims in 28 days or less. To meet the unexpected surge in volume, the EI processing network augmented capacity by leveraging all interventions in our system, including all employees with processing knowledge who were willing to contribute to delivering timely EI benefit payments to Canadians.

The team was well positioned for the Omicron surge. To deal with the unprecedented volume of EI applications since the beginning of the pandemic, the government had invested an additional $825 million to increase Service Canada’s capacity. These investments have made a tremendous difference.

Furthermore, the capacity of the EI call centre has nearly tripled from approximately 1,100 officers prior to the pandemic, to nearly 3,000 last year.

While the combined winter- and Omicron-driven surge is beginning to decline as restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus are eased and as the busier spring employment season nears, it is a reminder of the crucial role EI plays in maintaining a stable workforce for the Canadian economy.

Since September 2020, Service Canada has helped over 4.5 million Canadians with a total of $57.8 billion in EI benefits. Despite these record volumes, Service Canada staff processed 88 per cent of the applications within the 28-day service standard. For claims that took more than 28 days, the average processing time was between 29 and 35 days.

In addition, EI Call Centre officers are on track to answer more than seven million calls from Canadians inquiring about EI by March 31, 2022. The high volume as the pandemic took hold led to a wait time of over an hour in 2020-21. However, the additional resources reduced the wait time to an average of 18.6 minutes in 2021-22.

EI and its predecessor programs have been a pillar of the Canadian economy for over 80 years. Its longevity is proof of its value and the important role it plays in the lives of Canadians. Despite its size—it is one of Canada’s biggest and most important social programs—it has proven to be both nimble and responsive. Those qualities are due to the incredible people who deliver and manage the complex program. Today, we thank you for your ongoing effort to keep EI running smoothly even as we face an unprecedented and unpredictable pandemic.

Thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

February 24 - #ThankYouThursday – Office of Informal Conflict Management

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we would like to acknowledge the behind-the-scenes contributions of the Human Resources Services Branch’s Office of Informal Conflict Management (OICM).

The OICM supports the wellbeing of our employees and ESDC’s overall operations. In fact, statistics show that OICM team members have been busier since the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago. The increased demand may be a result of people working remotely and becoming more aware of OICM’s services. The increase also suggests that the informal route is becoming a path that more employees at ESDC are willing to take to resolve various issues within the workplace.

For most of us, the pandemic has confined our personal interactions with colleagues to virtual platforms. This is unlike the past when most of us went to a physical workplace and met our colleagues in person. That environment encouraged informal interaction, and we learned more about one another and our shared life experiences. Private, informal encounters were easier to arrange, and we oftentimes overcame misunderstandings that could lead to conflict, as a result. Much of that has changed, which may explain the increase in demand for informal conflict management.

The OICM services are confidential which also means that the team largely works out of sight. Nevertheless, we know that they contribute greatly to our collective success.

The OICM offers ESDC employees a way to deal personally and directly with conflict as soon as it arises. Various options are available for this purpose: consultation, conflict coaching, facilitated conversation, mediation and group conflict intervention. It offers an alternative to the more formal grievance and complaint processes. The goal of informal conflict management is to resolve any workplace conflict or issue at the lowest level of operations and as quickly as possible.

The OICM also offers training sessions, providing a variety of tools, skills and approaches to respond to conflicts. High-quality workshops and other prevention training programs continue to be delivered and have expanded within a virtual environment.

So with today’s #ThankYouThursday, we highlight the contributions the OICM team members make to the department. These trained practitioners provide important services to ensure that conflicts are discussed openly, in a safe space, and overcome.

Thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

February 17 - #ThankYouThursday – Implementation of Microsoft Teams

Dear colleagues,

For this week's #ThankYouThursday, we would like to acknowledge the collective efforts of everyone involved in the department-wide rollout of Microsoft Teams (Teams), an application in the Office 365 collaboration suite used for instant messaging and audio/video calls. This effort began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in response to the need to collaborate remotely. The technology is now the de facto way in which many employees across the department communicate with their colleagues on a daily basis.

The Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB) Office 365 Project Team, with support from numerous colleagues within IITB and throughout the organization, worked diligently on the implementation of the technology and onboarding all ESDC employees to Office 365, with Teams at the centre of this important change. This transition also meant the retirement of Skype for Business, which the project team executed thanks to your help in July 2021.

To support employees in this change, the IITB Change Management and Communications Team created an innovative peer-to-peer support system known as the Office 365 Community of Practice (then named the “Teams Agent Network”) beginning in March 2020. At that time, the Office 365 Community of Practice included over 60 ESDC volunteer Super Users, who were willing to provide non-technical support to help their peers get started with Teams. Since then, the number of Super Users has grown to over 350 employees from all parts of the department. Additionally, articles featured in the weekly Intersection newsletter contained tips for using Teams, which were each among the top ten most popular this year.

The pandemic has been challenging for many of us, in part due to the absence of in-person interaction while working remotely. Thanks to their innovation and insight, our IITB colleagues provided employees with a single engagement tool that enabled us to see each other for meetings and other occasions, and easily stay in touch throughout the day. For many of us, that human and visual dimension has made working through the pandemic a little easier.

Once again, thank you to everyone who was involved in making the transition to Teams possible, as well as those who continue to work on ongoing Office 365 projects. Your support has enabled employees across the department to communicate and collaborate more seamlessly!

Stay well. Stay safe

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

February 10 - #ThankYouThursday – Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit

Dear colleagues,

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is how to pivot.

For this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to acknowledge the extraordinary pivot performed by the Employment Insurance Policy team in the Skills and Employment Branch (SEB) and ESDC’s mighty Legal Services Unit for revamping over the holiday season the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB).

Over a very busy period between December 22 and January 4, these teams wrote four Treasury Board submissions, with all the required supporting documents, to adjust the CWLB from a focused income support program designed for the tail end of the pandemic to one that could meet the unforeseen challenges of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Looking back to October 2021 when CWLB was announced—pre-Omicron days—the Government of Canada’s news release struck an optimistic tone.

It declared that rather than “the broad-based support that was appropriate at the height of lockdowns,” the CWLB would offer “narrowly targeted support” to help Canadians in regions that were under specific government-imposed public health lockdowns. Two months later with Omicron raging in Canada and around the world, the government decided CWLB would have to do much more.

Governments across the country were issuing province-wide public health orders, ranging from full lockdowns to capacity restrictions. Once again, workers were losing jobs and in need of income support, but on a larger scale than the CWLB was designed to offer. On December 22, the government recognized that Omicron had changed everything. The CWLB would now expand eligibility for key support measures and include a much broader definition of “lockdown,” that would apply to most of the country.

The Employment Insurance Policy team went into overdrive to implement the new, expanded scope of the program. Putting in 15- to 18-hour days at work from their home offices, they delivered a CWLB that would help Canadians who lost jobs due to public health lockdowns ordered by government health authorities.

Thanks to their pivot, that included workers in regions under partial lockdowns with capacity restrictions of 50 percent or more. Normally a single Treasury Board submission takes six months. To draft four of them in a week is an amazing accomplishment. On December 30, thanks to the diligent and quick work from Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch (PASRB), working closely with counterparts at the Canada Revenue Agency and Finance Canada, the government announced “expanded access” was in effect and Canadians in the majority of provinces and territories could apply through the Canada Revenue Agency. Citizen Services Branch also sprung into action to ensure that information about the new program was available on Canada.ca. Mission accomplished!

Hold on, there’s more to this #ThankYouThursday story.

On February 9, the government announced it will amend regulations to extend the benefit for another month, to March 12, given that capacity reduction public health orders are still in place in many regions. As well, to help workers access the benefit as early as possible, these amendments will remove the previous requirement for provinces and territories to acknowledge regional lockdown orders in their jurisdiction. Once again, ESDC’s Employment Insurance Policy team and the Legal Services Unit did the heavy lifting. Once again, ESDC pivoted. This time, to successfully design and implement an extension to a revamped program to help Canadians through whatever lies ahead through the next period of the pandemic.

Thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

February 3 - #ThankYouThursday – Supporting a Strengthened ESDC Workforce

Dear colleagues,

This #ThankYouThursday, we want to recognize employees within the Human Resources Services Branch’s (HRSB) Corporate Planning, Strategic Integration and Analytics Division. This talented group of employees is responsible for helping ESDC branches and regions with enterprise-wide support such as workforce planning, employee surveys and HR digital modernization efforts.

During this past year, the Division developed the Reimagining Workforce and Workplace Data at ESDC, to help their colleagues across the department make evidence-based decisions about our people and how we work. Not surprisingly, they have been especially busy supporting our evolving work environment during the pandemic.

Their efforts ensure that our workplace is using HR-related data to its fullest potential in a digital era, aiming to give our employees the best experience in government through seamless, digital, inclusive and user-friendly services. The Division was also responsible for spearheading and coordinating strategic workforce planning across the department and developing a multi-year strategy, with the goal of aligning workforce and workplace approaches to meet current and future business needs.

The Division also launched and assessed the findings for various employee surveys, including the June 2021 Employee Pulse Survey on Defining Our New Work Environment, completed by about half of the Department – the most for a Pulse Survey so far! Additionally, the Division developed strategic and tactical internal communications on behalf of HRSB, ensuring that managers and employees have a clear understanding of HR programs and initiatives through various communications products, including the HR info RH bulletin.

HRSB employees are the foundation that enables many critical departmental initiatives including the delivery of programs and services to Canadians. We’re glad to shine a spotlight on your team and the innovation, dedication and professionalism you put into your work.

Our sincere thanks go out to you, we are all very grateful for the work you are doing.

As a quick reminder, employees still have time to complete the latest Employee Pulse Survey between now and Friday, February 11. Surveys likes these allow you to have a say about what is working well and what can be improved in your workplace and job. We look forward to seeing the results of this survey, which will help shape the ESDC work environment going forward.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

January 27 - #ThankYouThursday – ESDC parents

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, as kids across the country make their way through the winter semester of online learning or in-person classes – or some combination of the two – we would like to give a shout-out to all ESDC parents who have spent much of the past couple of years being teachers, daycare providers, personal chefs and counsellors concurrently as they work to serve Canadians.

Our gratitude extends to all our employees who assumed additional obligations as parents and guardians. We deeply appreciate your dedication and commitment to your work, while also taking care of your children. You are heroes in our books!

Before the pandemic, we had access to all kinds of services that supported our working lives. Throughout the pandemic, many of us have taken on new roles in addition to our work responsibilities. A manager turned part-time math teacher. A program officer suddenly a papier mâché art creator. How about the administrative professional turned IT specialist for all the devices running in the home? Our workdays interrupted for midday school pick-ups due to stuffy noses and our meetings starred teenagers in the background looking for yet another snack. Where does work stop and home life begin?

As parents, we’ve all asked, “how much screen time is too much” and wondered what will happen to our children’s social growth after interactions became limited to online chats and video games.

What’s more, many of us have had COVID-19 or have been forced to self-isolate because of an exposure. Schools have closed (often at the last minute) and important appointments were cancelled or postponed.

So, this week, we thank all of you parents who are showing incredible dedication, creativity and resilience during this difficult time. We share in your feelings of worry for the safety and health of the children you love and your longing for a sense of normalcy – and maybe for one single afternoon of working from home in peace and quiet. We also see you doing the best you can, and putting your best face forward at ESDC, stepping up for Canadians.

Once again, we thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

January 26 - #Our Two Cents Blog – Building Connections

As we approach Bell Let’s Talk Day, my mind was drawn to a recent situation within my own family. A few weeks ago, my son shared with me that the current state of the world has affected his wellbeing. I understood his concerns – with the recent waves of new COVID-19 variants and the resurgence of old restrictions, I too have been with doubts and uncertainties that I was sure had been left back in 2021. Wanting to help, I encouraged him to reach out for support but he quickly declined, stating that he felt his feelings were “irrational.” He didn’t understand why he was feeling so anxious and unwell, but still felt his situation was not worthy of a professional’s time or efforts.

I know his experience is not unique. How many of us hold the belief that our feelings are not valid? Over the last few years, how many times have we needed to push aside fear and doubt in order to adapt, be strong and resilient? These things are important but they are tiring, and going into the third calendar year of this pandemic, we are all exhausted. We have continued to show up for work in a constantly evolving virtual environment, where many of us juggle new roles as fulltime caregivers, educators, chefs, nurses and mediators for children unable to attend school. Some of us could not see friends, family and loved ones for months on end, or chose not to out of concern for their safety. This sense of being disconnected from the lives we once knew is real, and our fears, anxieties and the feelings of loss around it are real, too.

It is an interesting paradox, the idea that we are all connected to one another by a shared experience of loneliness and disconnection. This has been and continues to be a very challenging time in both our personal and professional lives. Our individual realities are unique and carry their own challenges, yet there are underlying themes woven throughout each that I am sure connect us all on some ethereal plane. We (and the entire planet, in fact) are going through life altering events, and this most certainly will have an impact on our overall wellbeing. This is a difficult experience but it is a shared experience, and we must keep the lines of communication open with one another.

To mark Bell Let’s Talk Day, registration is now open for the annual signature Federal Public Service event on January 26th 1-3 p.m. (ET), with this year’s theme being A Spotlight on Mental Health Peer Support. #GCMentalHealth background images for MS Teams and Zoom can be downloaded from the Bell Let’s Talk 2022 GCconnex folder, and there are several videos available for viewing on the Canada School of Public Service’s website (Sharing Our Stories, Inspiring Hope; Managing Your Mental Health; You Are Not Alone; Supporting a Colleague; Tips for Managers).

I encourage you all to pay attention to the personal connections in your lives. Within your family and friends, who do you feel the most strongly supported by? Have you told them how much you appreciate their presence and encouragement? Amongst your colleagues, is there someone who has gone out of their way to help others? Do they know how valued their efforts have been? I also encourage you to connect back with yourselves: Where were you a year ago? How have you grown since then? What lessons have you learned that you can apply moving forward?

It is essential that we know our feelings are valid, and that these feelings are worthy of other people’s time and efforts. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for support and know you are not alone. The Employee Assistance Program offers mental health support to you and your family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For Indigenous Peoples across Canada, The Hope for Wellness Help Line also offers immediate help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Within our own department, you have access to the Mental Health and COVID-19 site for public servants, and ESDC’s Resilience Gym, a virtual space to help you and your colleagues maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and learn to embrace change and uncertainty as opportunities. If you prefer one on one conversation, ESDC’s Mental Health Peer Support Program offers confidential sessions with trained colleagues who have experienced similar life challenges.

I will leave you all with a reminder of the motto we use in my home: “Be kinder than is necessary.” That includes being kind to yourself. Extend yourself to others, and be willing to accept support when it is offered. We are all going through this together, and we will get through this – together.

Janet Goulding
(she/her)
Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development Branch
Departmental Workplace Mental Health Champion

January 20 - #ThankYouThursday – Employees with Disabilities Network

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to recognize ESDC’s Employees with Disabilities Network (EwDN or Network). Since 2015, this employee-led forum has been supporting and learning from each other, and sharing their perspectives, experiences and expertise to improve our understanding of issues related to inclusion and accessibility across the department.

Before and during the pandemic, the Network has been a champion in helping to raise awareness about issues affecting employees with disabilities. Their invaluable work includes providing guidance about ways that public-facing and internal communications, processes and meetings can meet or exceed accessibility standards, and providing advice and resources so that employees have the necessary training and tools to build accessibility into their work and projects from the start. We are proud that the EwDN is helping to support culture change among employees and managers alike.

Over the last year, as ESDC has continued its work towards implementing the Accessible Canada Act and the ESDC Accessibility Roadmap, the EwDN has been an invaluable partner. We are appreciative of the Network’s integral role on various committees and consultations, including: guiding work on enhancing our built environment to ensure that ESDC’s design standards can meet accessibility needs; advising the Future of Work Secretariat; and, providing feedback and input on a new Duty to Accommodate Centre of Expertise within ESDC.

An important part of building a more welcoming, inclusive and representative department is to ensure we have recruitment and onboarding practices that support those principles. We are thankful for the EwDN’s advice on how we can broaden our recruitment practices and better support the retention and advancement of employees with disabilities. For example, working with the Citizen Service Branch, they helped build personas and process journey maps, providing a visual story of what it is like to experience our department’s services externally and supporting the onboarding process internally. This also includes exploring challenges and successes, all with a view to improve the processes and experiences of clients and employees with disabilities.

With membership and leadership across the country, the work of the EwDN is far reaching. For example, the Network has been integral to providing feedback on the development of the Western Canada and Territories Region’s Employee Wellness Passport pilot project, an accessible, user-friendly platform that will enable all employees to easily request the support measures they need every day to achieve success.

With a common goal of creating a diverse, inclusive and accessible workplace, the Network has been a leader since its inception, supporting its members and advocating internally for changes in policy and practice. The commitment and impact made by a small group of people, dedicating time outside of their regular duties, is tremendous. We are grateful for the work of the membership and leadership, which has benefitted our colleagues with disabilities directly and continues to help ESDC build a more inclusive and accessible workplace.

Whether as an employee with a disability or as an ally, there’s a place for everyone on the Employees with Disabilities Network. We encourage you to consider joining the Network today; all it takes is a simple email!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

January 13 - #ThankYouThursday – MyESDC App

Dear colleagues,

One year ago, a tech-savvy group of employees led by the Human Resources Services Branch (HRSB) and the Innovation and Information Technology Branch (IITB) with support from the Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch (PASRB) came together virtually to develop and promote a tool that would allow us to connect with ESDC’s 35,000+ employees seamlessly, effortlessly and digitally – off-network. Today, with over 13,000 downloads and counting, the MyESDC App is live and thriving. For this #ThankYouThursday we would like to show our appreciation for these teams who used innovation, collaboration and creative thinking to bring this App to life.

Launched in July 2021, the MyESDC App is a single-window e-channel that enables ESDC to communicate with all employees and provide them with access to tools available off-network anytime, anywhere. Although many of our workforce can now access the network from home, and significant strides have been made to strengthen our ability to connect through our work issued devices, there are still occasions when off-network capability is preferable.

Through the use of your smartphone device, this App provides you with important tools and services right at your fingertips, such as resources for:

  • your mental health and well-being, including the Employee Assistance Program;
  • compensation and pay-related issues;
  • career development, including training, networking and job opportunities;
  • the status of the Virtual Private Network (VPN) across the department;
  • COVID-19 employee active screening tool and newly added COVID-19 information and resources including the vaccine attestation form;
  • links to ESDC social media channels and videos through ESDC Watch; and
  • onboarding content for new employees including a pre-arrival checklist, links to important resources and additional information for executives and students new to the department.

Thanks to your feedback, the App is ever evolving and in 2022 you can expect to see exciting new features and resources added to it. If you haven’t already done so, we encourage you all to download the App to your personal or work device through Google Play or the Apple store.

Once again, well done to these teams on this game-changing App that shows how innovative and forward thinking we can be.
Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Jean-François Tremblay
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

January 6 - #ThankYouThursday – Saying farewell to Deputy Minister Graham Flack

Dear colleagues,

Let us first wish everyone a Happy New Year. Today’s #ThankYouThursday is a bittersweet one.

It is with mixed emotions that we say farewell to Deputy Minister Graham Flack.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that Graham will be leaving ESDC to become Secretary of the Treasury Board, effective next Monday, January 10.

As Graham takes on this new and important role, we wish to offer him a heartfelt thank you for demonstrating exceptional leadership time and time again during a historic period for our department and for our country.

Graham was appointed Deputy Minister of ESDC in October 2018. From day one, he has been a driving force for innovation and modernization within the department. He has injected intellectual curiosity, boundless energy and enthusiasm to solving the most stubborn policy, program and service delivery challenges. And most importantly, from day one, he treated every employee as his equal, with respect and humility. (“Just call me Graham” is a familiar phrase to this day when greeted by new colleagues in the department as “Deputy”).

Fun fact for the many newcomers among us: we can all thank Graham for our now well-established casual dress code. It goes like this: suits and ties are out; blue jeans and open collars are in on any day of the week.

But nothing could have prepared Graham, or any of us for that matter, for what was to come in March of 2020. He has often light-heartedly remarked that his mother is convinced that whenever he takes on a new position, a crisis erupts. This is true during his time at the Privy Council Office when September 11, 2001 hit, and in 2008 when the global financial crisis unfolded during his tenure at the Department of Finance. ESDC would be no different with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020.

Maybe it was only fitting or serendipitous that we, and Canadians for that matter, would be fortunate enough to have such an experienced and compassionate leader at the helm of ESDC to guide us through one of the most difficult periods for Canadians in recent memory.

Even the most thrifty taxpayer – including, notably, his mother – owes Graham a debt of gratitude for so capably shepherding the Government’s agenda at ESDC through the crisis. For the record – and since his mother is no doubt counting – this legacy amounted to a staggering $5 billion in spending at ESDC per week over the past year.

This considerable experience will no doubt serve Graham well at the Treasury Board Secretariat.

During Lori’s most recent podcast with Graham as her guest, he remarked of the crisis: “Everyone was asked to go above and beyond what was seen as possible. It was not only the question of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, but also how we can create other benefits for students, for those who cannot predict what their situation will be, for people with disabilities, for seniors, etc. For everything we did, there was a need or a request that went beyond what we thought was possible.”

Let there be no doubt that we were able to deliver on these critical supports at a crucial time in our country’s history and achieve that which was “beyond what we thought was possible” in large part due to your unwavering commitment, intellect, wisdom and exceptional leadership, Graham.

Above all, you have inspired us everyday to be the best role model and version of ourselves in the service of Canadians. To genuinely and fully embrace the beautiful linguistic duality and diversity of this country’s population. To preoccupy ourselves with a concern for the physical and mental well-being of our fellow colleagues – as individuals, as parents, as caregivers, and as humans struggling with the many challenges presented by the pandemic. And, yes, to be the most excellent pet owners (and doorman, in your case).

For all of that and more, we thank you and we salute you.

On behalf of the entire ESDC family, we wish you all the best in your future endeavors at the Treasury Board Secretariat. You will be missed.

No doubt, many of you will want an opportunity to offer well wishes to Graham, so we invite you to reply to this email and we will ensure that Graham sees every message before the end of this month.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

December 16 - #ThankYouThursday – HRSB's Workforce Strategies

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we are pleased to recognize the Human Resources Services Branch’s Workforce Strategies Division. This talented group is leading the way on a number of priorities that contribute to making ESDC a workplace where employees feel supported, respected, included and empowered. Working closely with the Department’s employee networks, champions, human resource teams and other partners, the mighty Workforce Strategies team has undertaken a number of important initiatives over the last year to help strengthen our workplace.

The Division’s Indigenous Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (IRRA) team had a busy year working with partners across the organization on a variety of projects, including the new Reconciliation Hub, which houses resources and promotes engagement opportunities for all employees. The IRRA team also hosted their first learning event to mark Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and they recently finalized an AS staffing inventory resulting in hundreds of assessed Indigenous candidates available for hiring by managers across the Department.

Employees in the Division’s Diversity and Inclusion teams put into motion several important initiatives this year. Among the Diversity Network Support team’s achievements were the launch of the first-ever ESDC Inclusion and Organizational Culture Survey, the facilitation of several employee network elections and the release of ESDC’s 2020–2024 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. The Diversity Outreach team, which supports the recruitment, retention and advancement of employment equity (EE) groups including people with disabilities, visible minorities and the LGBTQ2+ community, responded to an increasing number of requests for data on diversity and inclusion. This information will soon be made available to HR advisors and managers to help make our workplace more inclusive. In an effort to recruit a more inclusive workforce, the team also reviewed qualified pools to identify and promote EE candidates, including 53 candidates who identify as people with disabilities.

The new Black Engagement and Advancement Team developed the Black Employee Community iService page, featuring resources and stories of lived experiences and celebration. The group created the Black United and the Black United Allies safe spaces, established mentoring initiatives, facilitated workshops and raised awareness of the first nationally recognized Emancipation Day.

The Official Languages team continues its dedicated work with the Official Languages Co-Champions to create a safe culture for employees to use their language of choice and by providing expert policy advice. This year, the team delivered a number of presentations to management committees on language insecurity and on employees’ rights to an inclusive, bilingual workplace.

Last but not least, the Division’s Corporate Staffing, Recourse and Monitoring and Reporting teams have been supporting the Department with staffing and official languages complaints; developing tools, guides and simplified processes for staffing; and monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of ESDC’s staffing.

There is no doubt that 2021 has been a year like no other, and there is still much more to do to create a wholly respectful and inclusive workplace and to help realize our commitments to diversity and inclusion. We want to thank all employees and employee networks who support inclusion and diversity across the Department and who have taken their own steps to help build a stronger workplace. Today, we especially thank all the hard-working employees in the Workforce Strategies Division of the Human Resources Services Branch for continuing to make progress toward a better and more inclusive workplace for us all.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

December 2 - #ThankYouThursday – ESDC Charitable Campaign

Dear colleagues,

On this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we want to shine a spotlight on the employees who are the driving force behind ESDC’s annual Charitable Campaign, and on all those who have embodied the spirit of giving.

We’d like to start by recognizing this year’s ESDC Charitable Campaign Champion, Nathalie Manseau; the Youth Co-Champions, Tara Shapransky and Walter Perc from YMAGIN; and the ESDC Charitable Campaign Core Team. Your leadership and dedication to the Campaign helped to bring some incredible ideas to life, resulting in a successful campaign so far.

We’d also like to thank the Branch Champions and Coordinators who have been finding creative ideas to encourage a spirit of giving during this year’s virtual campaign. The volunteer ambassadors also played an important role in connecting personally with employees, providing help and support, and giving their time to making fundraising activities special.

As you can see, it is a true team effort to run this campaign, and it would not be the success that it is without the dedication and commitment of our volunteers.

We also want to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to all of you for giving generously to the Campaign year after year. ESDC employees have a rich tradition of giving and stepping up to help support communities in need. It comes as no surprise that our culture of generosity and volunteerism is so evident during the Charitable Campaign.

To say that this year has been a difficult one for our communities is an understatement. Charities are being called upon now more than ever. The ESDC Charitable Campaign gives us all an opportunity to help support the people and the causes we care about. Your contributions help those in need and ensure charitable partners can advance their critical work.

If you haven’t already—and are able to—we would encourage you to once again open your hearts and donate generously to the Campaign. December 3 is the last day to donate using payroll deductions via ePledge, which is one of the easiest ways to support the Campaign. Every donation makes a difference.

Thanks again to all our generous staff and to those behind the ESDC Charitable Campaign.

Together, we can make a difference!

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

November 25 - #ThankYouThursday – ESDC support for communities during emergencies

Dear colleagues,

Today, on this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to thank employees across all business lines currently supporting communities affected by flooding in British Columbia.

As you may be aware, parts of British Columbia have been dealing with the devastating impacts from unprecedented rain due to a weather phenomenon known as an atmospheric river. This has triggered floods and mudslides that has, tragically, cost lives. On November 17, the provincial government declared a state of emergency. During these unparalleled times, communities have come together in extraordinary ways to help each other. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the flooding and mudslides.

Over the last week, employees from all over the Western Canada and Territories Region went into action immediately when they learned about the damage and impact of the floods to ensure their clients were safe. They contacted numerous municipalities, organizations, service delivery partners, and Indigenous communities to provide an active service offer for assistance. The Community Outreach Liaison Services (COLS) team also advised organizations about clients’ ability to book appointments via E-Services, reported on any evacuation orders and prepared to provide virtual or in-person services as required. In addition to being available to provide assistance to organizations, the team provided the phone number for Outreach Support Services (OSC) that provides one-on-one, telephone service to vulnerable clients. The OSC has started to receive calls from those affected by the floods.

While municipal, provincial and federal responses are mounted, we proudly thank ESDC and Service Canada employees for the hands-on and coordinated effort required to ensure Canadians continue to get the support and services they need during challenging times. From standing up the Regional Emergency Operations Centre, in collaboration with the National Emergency Operations Centre, and working with local Emergency Support Services in communities to supporting agreement holders and ensuring that Canadians have access to their documents and benefits, your efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Outreach was also deployed with partners to ensure the wellbeing of Temporary Foreign Workers and to offer assistance to those affected.

ESDC and Service Canada employees are always ready to spring into action from coast to coast to coast providing support and services to help Canadians through any challenge they may face. As we speak, we are witnessing more devastating weather on the complete opposite side of the country in Atlantic Canada.

These teams represent the best spirit of ESDC and the federal public service especially during emergencies when community outreach and support is required.

We recognize that this may cause stress for some and please note that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is always available for confidential, short-term or crisis counselling and referral services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1-800-268-7708.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

November 18 - #ThankYouThursday – Top 100 Employers

Dear colleagues,

We are honoured that once again, for the third year in a row, the department has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers! That is why for this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize all of you, our over 34,000 employees from coast to coast to coast.

We would like to start by thanking the organizing team in the Human Resource Services Branch (HRSB) for their work putting together the application on behalf of the department. Through this year’s submission, our colleagues in HRSB told the story of what makes ESDC so great, which starts with all of you.

We work so hard to be the workforce we want to be: safe, respectful, productive and diverse. It goes without saying that over the last twenty months, we have asked a lot of you. Winning this award for the third year in a row, and during this difficult time, speaks volumes about your commitment, professionalism and dedication.

As employees in our organization, you have demonstrated that you put other Canadians first. The support you provide to others, especially during a time of need, is truly noteworthy and admirable. Your collaboration, engagement and positive attitude translates into the work you do and the results you produce.

We’ve made significant advancements in attracting top talent, engaging with each other, centralizing business processes, encouraging a culture of respect and innovation and advancing diversity and inclusion. Throughout, you have been open and receptive to the changes committed to improvement.

We are grateful to be part of a workplace in which employees are able to be their authentic selves, and where individual differences are valued and seen as a source of strength in the achievement of results. Our employee networks and communities of practice allow you to feel heard and share insights with one another in a safe way. By enabling more of you to share your voices, we are able to help our workplace become healthier, free of barriers and better reflect the communities we serve.

Through other areas such as training and development, community involvement, mental health initiatives, engagement opportunities and technological advancements, the impact you have in improving our workplace each day makes us feel truly proud.

Once again, thank you for what you do and celebrate this award, as it is yours to embrace! We also invite you to hear from us directly in our video message thanking you, found on iService.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

November 4 - #ThankYouThursday – Ministerial Transition Team

Dear colleagues,

This summer and early fall, in preparation for the opening of Canada’s 44th Parliament, the Corporate Secretariat and Strategic and Service Policy Branch (SSPB) took on an incredibly important mission to create and implement a hugely detailed and finely choreographed plan and associated products to welcome our new and returning Ministers last week.

For this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to highlight the hard work and behind-the-scenes coordination that went into this operation. These two teams led the charge in coordinating extensively with many branches and regions to plan and deliver a seamless transition, which resulted in the department providing a very well organized and heartfelt welcome to our Ministers.

Long before the election was called, the Corporate Secretariat began planning for the arrival of the Ministers. The rehearsals for the event began with departmental assistants and colleagues in the Innovation, Information & Technology Branch, Chief Financial Officer Branch and Human Resources Services Branch all giving the best of themselves to prepare. SSPB undertook department-wide consultations and coordination to compile and draft briefing documents to ensure a smooth transition. Regional Assistant Deputy Ministers and their staff also played vital roles in providing sound strategic advice to national headquarters, while at the same time being ready to mobilize and assist, if needed.

Preparations for the big day included many moving parts and possible scenarios. From welcome letters for each Minister to an impressive suite of infographics highlighting the breadth and depth of the work ESDC employees do, the briefing materials highlighted existing and new challenges the department will face as our economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic towards recovery.

Logistics planning was tricky, as the team was required to plan for various in-person, virtual or hybrid scenarios for swearing in of new Ministers and Ministerial briefings. No element was left unpracticed and numerous teams contributed to review every possible situation, ensuring that every “i” was dotted and every “t” crossed. Our IT colleagues ensured that we were ready for a virtual transition – meticulously setting up and testing new phones, computers and AV equipment in Ministers’ offices and boardrooms. Departmental assistants worked collaboratively with SSPB and Corporate Secretariat to ensure briefing materials were printed and loaded on to laptops to support Ministerial briefings.

As expected, Ministers and their staff moved seamlessly into the department, underscoring the importance of strong logistical planning and the development of solid briefing materials.

These teams, supported by the amazing folks in our own offices, made this incredibly complex operation look easy! The sequence of events was perfect. We want to acknowledge this tremendous effort and celebrate you on this #ThankYouThursday.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

October 28 - #ThankYouThursday – ESDC Data Week

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we want to recognize the teams who organized ESDC’s first Data Week and the presenters who shared their expertise and experiences throughout the week. From October 18 to 22, nearly 1,000 ESDC employees took part in this inaugural event, a testament to the creativity, dedication and professionalism of the Chief Data Office (CDO) and others involved in the event’s organization.

Data is central to our daily work at ESDC. It is key to driving decisions that matter, whether informing internal priorities such as “the future of work” or using the wealth of data that we steward to better understand the people we serve and the impact of our programs and services on their lives.

The work and collaboration that went into organizing and delivering Data Week was impressive. The CDO’s Data Literacy, Awareness and Engagement team worked closely with partners and colleagues over several months to bring ESDC’s first ever Data Week to life. Through partnership and collaboration, they brought the department a week of activities focused not only on increasing awareness and improving data literacy, but also on building partnerships and fostering the secure, ethical and meaningful use of data within the department. With diverse sessions and interactive events covering everything from data ethics and storytelling to using automation to find and manage information, the CDO and a steering committee with representation from across the department ensured there was something for everyone.

We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch, the College@ESDC, Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch, as well as Public Services and Procurement Canada for making Data Week a reality. With their support, the CDO was able to leverage best practices in managing inclusive virtual events and ensure that official languages and accessibility requirements were addressed from the very beginning. They also provided support in recording many of the week’s announcements and events, which are now available online.

The Week also saw the launch of the first ESDC Data Awards. We were delighted to see the number of nominations recognizing your colleagues’ important contributions to the department’s data journey and innovation at every stage of the data lifecycle. Thank you to the nominators and the selection committee and congratulations to all the nominees and winners.

If you haven’t already, feel free to listen to ESDC’s Chief Data Officer, Ima Okonny, discuss the importance of data in our workplace with Lori MacDonald in the Chief Operating Officer’s latest podcast.

We are all on a journey to better understand and manage the data we have. Individually and as a department, it is our duty to use data in a responsible and ethical way with a view to doing our best for our clients. Thank you again to everyone who helped plan and deliver the week-long activities to help us achieve these goals. To the Chief Data Office, thank you for spearheading the Week and for your leadership and guidance all year round.

Finally, thank you to all the participants for your commitment to making data an important part of our work and modernization. Today and throughout the year, we encourage everyone to #DoMoreWithData.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

October 21 - #ThankYouThursday – Cyber Security Operations

In the past year, as our virtual connections to conduct day-to-day business activities have increased, so have the threats to our cyber security.

For this #ThankYouThursday we want to recognize the team quietly managing major and minor incidents and their incredible work that goes into keeping cyber attacks from impacting ESDC and all Canadians. The Cyber Security Operations team behind this success work tirelessly in the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch to identify and address cyber vulnerabilities, threats, events and incidents and they keep us all safe from malicious and ill-intentioned groups. They have been steadfast in adapting and responding to our evolving work situation, supporting rapid and massive increases in remote work during the pandemic and helping to prepare for a limited, gradual and safe return to the workplace as the department moves forward.

Internationally, across Canada and specifically against ESDC we have seen an unprecedented number of cyber threats and attempts to compromise our systems during the pandemic. Although we may see media headlines for major incidents, which are rare, the Government of Canada experiences an average of 600 million attempts…each day.

Before COVID-19, much of our business was conducted within the four walls of traditional brick-and-mortar offices. The Cyber Security Operations team managed most Internet points of presence, and most of the 30,000 users were working within the perimeter of our secure network.

With the majority of our staff working remotely during the pandemic, our current business is managed through close to 30,000 Internet points across the country. The threat landscape has increased considerably as the threats themselves have intensified. Fortunately, thanks to this incredible group of people, working with Citizen Service Branch, Integrity Services Branch and the program branches on incident coordination, significant progress has been made to keep our information and system assets safe within the expanded footprint of our network, ensuring that we can deliver our essential services to Canadians. This amazing groundwork allows us to continue adjusting to the evolving workplace safely as we move ahead with plans to support the gradual and safe re-entry of greater numbers of employees returning to traditional offices, beginning on a limited basis this fall.

Access to many of our systems is managed through trusted identity credentials. We are seeing more implementation of multi-factor authentication (MFA), which is a tool used to further assure that an employee or citizen in possession of a user ID and password is indeed the owner of those credentials. MFA should be used whenever possible in order to reduce vulnerabilities and ensure that those accessing our systems are legitimate, trusted users. Credential breaches and identity theft are on the rise. Therefore, it is important to protect your digital identity by following strong password guidelines, for both your personal and business accounts.

We’d also like to recognize all employees for doing their part in following security protocols as the environment changed to remote working, and continues to change moving forward. We all have a duty to keep information and systems safe and protected. Cyber attacks and phishing attempts always follow the issue of the day, and COVID-19 continues to present an enormous opportunity to would-be attackers and fraudsters. Your awareness and diligence are a key aspect of our defences including your reporting of suspicious emails, which is the first line of defence against phishing attacks. Whether you are currently working remotely, in the office most or part of the time, or whether you will be returning to the traditional workplace in the coming months, we ask that you continue to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity.

Once again thank you to the hard-working and dedicated team members of Cyber Security Operations for keeping all of ESDC and Canadians safe in this advancing technological environment.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

October 14 - #ThankYouThursday – IT On-site Technicians

Dear colleagues,

For this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize our IT on-site technicians, who work in the Enterprise Operations team in the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch, for their impressive work throughout the pandemic to ensure our employees at home and in offices are properly supported and equipped with the devices they need.

Since the onset of COVID-19, our IT on-site technicians have been relied upon daily to ensure their colleagues can help Canadians. We are grateful that this team integrated themselves with our front-line workers and served as a foundation for our capability as an organization to work effectively in this new environment.

This team of dedicated professionals spent many hours preparing the thousands of laptops and tablets that most of you have been provided. This includes unboxing these devices, setting them up, installing software, conducting IT security checks, arranging shipping or pick-up and being available for support for at-home set-up. Their incredibly crucial work enabled our employees to get back to work and be properly set up to support Canadians during this difficult time.

Additionally, IT on-site technicians were needed to manually power on office computers of employees using AppGate to remotely connect to the corporate network earlier in the pandemic when, for instance, power outages or computer updates caused devices to shut down.

As we get ready for the Future of Work, our technicians continue to work in dozens of offices preparing for a gradual return. They have been working diligently to reconfigure each office into remote workstations, equipping each with a universal docking station and monitors to support a fully mobile workforce.

The department’s technicians are also working with our partners in Shared Services Canada to upgrade the bandwidth of offices across the country. This will ensure that, once employees start returning to the office in larger numbers, the local infrastructure is capable of handling higher use of digital tools, including the collaboration platforms employees now rely on daily such as Microsoft Teams.

We would like to sincerely thank our IT on-site technicians for the amazing work they do to support all employees at ESDC. We couldn’t have done this without you!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons (She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

October 7 - #ThankYouThursday – Supporting ESDC's Grants and Contributions Program

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we want to highlight the professionalism and dedication of teams supporting ESDC’s Grants and Contributions (Gs&Cs) Program within the Programs Operations Branch (POB), who ensured throughout this pandemic that Gs&Cs support got into the hands of the Canadians, employers and communities who needed it most.

At the beginning of the pandemic, as ESDC shifted almost overnight to a remote work environment, staff across POB did not hesitate to step in to fill gaps and maintain their own workload to design, implement and manage Gs&Cs that help support jobs, training and social development. These teams supported the department’s existing agreements with various organizations that included added flexibilities, as well as new calls for proposals and temporary COVID-19 funding as part of our response and recovery efforts. In a matter of months, the Gs&Cs funding in 2020-21 increased from $1.8 billion to $3.2 billion – a record amount.

The diverse work undertaken to deliver this funding was remarkable and far-reaching. Critical new programs, such as the $350M Emergency Community Support Fund, helped charities and non-profits better support some of the most vulnerable Canadians adapt their services and respond in real-time. Existing departmental programs such as Canada Summer Jobs, Reaching Home (which supports people experiencing homelessness) and the New Horizons for Seniors Program were also adapted and enhanced to address immediate and evolving needs of Canadians, employers and communities.

Getting support into the hands of those who need it most is at the heart of much of what the teams involved in Gs&Cs do. Ensuring that ESDC does so in a fair, transparent and efficient way is also integral to the teams’ work. This is why, even during a crisis, POB undertook projects over the last year to improve the speed and way in which it serves Canadians, to analyze our processes for unconscious biases, enhance planning and program analytics capacity and explore how to integrate new automated solutions to enhance delivery for high volume operational activities.

Managing what amounted to double the workload over the last year was no small feat and the teamwork we witnessed has been incredible. Working closely with all Policy Branches, Regions and enabling partners including the Innovation, Information & Technology Branch, Citizen Service Branch and the Chief Financial Officer Branch, POB continued to manage and implement a robust Gs&Cs program. The support provided is an important contribution to communities’ recovery efforts and meeting the increased demands facing not-for-profit organizations, individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Each day we see you working together throughout the department, ready to support Canadians and communities to overcome the challenges we are all facing. We are as proud as ever of all you have achieved and will continue to achieve as the pandemic evolves – thank you!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons (She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

September 23 - #ThankYouThursday – Deputy Ministers Awards of Excellence: The Importance of Employee Recognition at ESDC

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to salute all ESDC employees for taking the time to recognize one another’s contributions.

We know that individuals appreciate when their work and contributions are noticed. Recognition for a job well done plays a vital role in putting a smile on your face, enhancing your overall well-being or giving a nice boost to employee morale. In challenging times like these, we are glad to know that so many of you have played a role in supporting each other.

Last spring, we invited you to shine a spotlight on your colleagues by submitting a nomination for a 2021 Deputy Ministers’ Awards of Excellence—the most prestigious form of formal recognition employees can receive at the departmental level—and did you ever deliver! We received a record number of nominations: 493 in total. Despite how busy everyone has been, we truly appreciate how many of you took the time to submit a nomination and recognize your colleagues for their contributions.

And now, the time is almost here to reveal this year’s recipients.

The Deputy Ministers’ Awards of Excellence recognizes ESDC employees across the country who have gone the extra mile in serving Canadians. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen staff do just that—deliver exceptional work, pivot to deliver new or revised programs, adapt to using new platforms, work with new tools, switch roles and so much more. This is a testament to the immense efforts and hard work of the entire Department.

The work that goes into the award nominations is extensive and it was challenging to narrow down the submissions, which is why, as the Deputy Ministers, we unanimously decided to make an exception and recognize more than 1,600 employees this year for their tremendous work and efforts here at ESDC.

When it comes to creating a safe, respectful, diverse and supportive workplace, every gesture counts. Knowing that someone made the effort to recognize our work formally with a Deputy Ministers’ Award of Excellence is a great feeling. We encourage you to recognize one another, formally or informally—be it on an MS Teams meeting with your group, by email, through virtual cards of recognition, or in another way. What matters most is that the recognition is sincere, timely and expressed in a way that is meaningful for the person who receives it.

In true #ThankYouThursday form, we also want to extend our sincere gratitude to the National Engagement and Recognition team, Branch and Regional Recognition Coordinators and members of employee engagement and communications teams throughout the country who have gone above and beyond so that we continue building a culture where recognition is one of the key drivers of our collective success. The Deputy Ministers’ Awards would not exist without you and the countless hours you spend ensuring recognition is at the forefront.

As a final thought, know that your positive efforts truly contribute to creating a healthy, dynamic and supportive work environment where people can thrive. This translates into opportunities where employees are able to give the best of themselves to help Canadians when they need it most.

Once again, thank you to everyone who took the time to submit nominations.

Mark your calendars to watch the celebration starting on October 13!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons (She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

September 16 - #ThankYouThursday – Multi-Benefits Delivery Service team

Dear colleagues,

We dedicate this week’s #ThankYouThursday to the Transformation Management Branch and the Benefits and Integrated Services Branch teams who swiftly established the Multi-Benefits Delivery Service (MBDS) platform within weeks. MBDS is an IT solution that helps more Canadians receive financial support to sustain them during this time of unprecedented need.

When the Government of Canada first introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, fish harvesters did not qualify for the benefit, nor were they eligible for financial support under the Employment Insurance program.

In addition, the Government recognized that persons with disabilities might have incurred additional expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as hiring personal support workers, purchasing personal protective equipment and medical supplies and paying for home delivery services for things like groceries and prescriptions.

The answer was creating an IT solution—MBDS—to provide benefits to these two groups quickly and easily.

The MBDS teams developed a solution to deliver the Fish Harvesters Benefit and Grant and the one-time payment for persons with disabilities.

The MBDS teams rapidly developed an easy-to-use system with cloud-based implementation for those applying for the Fish Harvesters Benefit and Grant. Using existing client data from Canada Pension Plan disability, Quebec Pension Plan disability, the Canada Revenue Agency’s Disability Credit and seven Veterans Affairs Canada programs, clients with disabilities did not have to apply for the benefit and were automatically issued a one-time payment of up to $600 to offset expenses.

To date, ESDC, on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, paid $130 million to 18,000 fish harvesters and issued $780 million in one-time payments to over 1.7 million recipients with disabilities.

The MBDS team demonstrated the kind of success you can achieve when you work in collaboration with partners across multiple levels of government. These partnerships, along with their tremendous skills and talent, allowed them to deploy multiple benefits quickly that align with the high service standards Canadians expect.

For this and everything you do to support Canadians and improve services, we are immensely proud of your accomplishments. Thank you and well done!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons (She/her/hers)
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development and Chief Operating Officer for Service Canada

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

September 9 - #ThankYouThursday – Harassment and Violence Centre of Expertise

At ESDC, we’re continuing our work to create a workplace that fosters respect and dignity for all employees, where you feel welcomed and safe. This includes a workplace that is free from bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and violence. Harassment of any kind is unacceptable, and no one should ever feel fear or apprehension in the workplace, whether remote or in-person.

That is why for this #ThankYouThursday we’d like to recognize the Harassment and Violence Centre of Expertise (HVCE) for leading the way in realizing our commitment to prevent harassment in the workplace.

The HVCE was established in 2018 to provide employees and managers with neutral services for the resolution of harassment-related issues to foster and maintain a healthy and respectful workplace. As of January 1, 2021, the HVCE oversees all notices and incidents of harassment and violence within ESDC. The team of dedicated advisors works with employees and managers in an effort to prevent and resolve these workplace issues.

The HVCE collaborated with Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and the College at ESDC to ensure training was ready and available to help employees and managers understand their rights and obligations. The new Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations and ESDC Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy came into effect in January 2021, giving employees a clear course of action to address allegations of harassment and violence. For information, head to the HVCE page on iService.

Furthermore, we’d like to recognize that all of you have a voice. Employees play a critical part in creating a healthy, inclusive and respectful workplace. Over the last six months, the number of consultation requests has doubled when compared with the same period in 2019 and 2020. This is a positive sign that more people feel comfortable reaching out to report these situations and know where to turn for help.

While our department is making progress towards providing all employees with a workplace where everyone feels respected, welcomed and safe, we all need to do our part to achieve our goal. Whether you are working remotely or in an office, please know that you are not alone. If you or anyone you know is experiencing harassment, bullying, discrimination or violence of any kind, please reach out to the HVCE.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)

Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)

Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)

Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)

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

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)

Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

September 2 - #ThankYouThursday – Western Canada and Territories Region Business Expertise Teams

Dear colleagues,

This week’s #ThankYouThursday recognizes the behind-the-scenes heroes who are part of Western Canada and Territories Region (W-T) Business Expertise teams from Integrity Services Branch, Citizen Services Branch, Program Delivery Branch, Benefits Delivery Services Branch and the Strategic Services Branch. While the Business Expertise teams have always provided critical operations support and leadership to the region, this group of employees rose to challenges presented by COVID-19 to ensure Canadians received the services they needed throughout the pandemic, when they were most vulnerable. For this, we celebrate your achievements.

When 59 percent of regional Integrity Services employees were reassigned to support critical benefit delivery work—while the remainder managed the critical workload for Temporary Foreign Workers, Employment Insurance and Pension files—this Business Expertise team banded together to coordinate employee workload and workforce re-alignment. This prompted the design of virtual training to assist employees in both their temporary new roles and virtual realities. As W-T Integrity Services employees return to their substantive roles, the team continues to innovate and find new ways to make every day better!

The Business Expertise team of Citizen Services Branch has been busy throughout the pandemic launching eServices, eSIN and the Outreach Support Centre, creating new databases and reports and managing office closures. The team even assisted Canadians directly with their eService enquiries, reached out to Guaranteed Income Supplement clients facing discontinued benefits, processed passport applications remotely, launched a new virtual passport office course and trained frontline staff working with clients in distress.

The Business Expertise team of Program Delivery Branch has been working hard to develop training and support to help employees navigate special pandemic funding measures. This effort requires the Business Expertise team to interpret, develop and monitor training to support quick learning and uptake.

Because of the unprecedented number of Canadians needing support during the pandemic, rapid changes to policies and regulations kept the Business Expertise team of Benefits Delivery Services Branch on their toes providing advice and guidance to frontline employees. At the helm of the rollout of critical emergency programs, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and a surge of Employment Insurance claims, they trained new employees and upskilled those re-tasked from other areas. They also provided direction and assistance as the Pensions program transitioned from a paper-based environment to a largely digital one.

Last, but not least, the Business Expertise team of Strategic Services Branch helped procure and distribute personal protective equipment; supported the renewal of commissionaire contracts, which made enhanced security and health screening possible as Service Canada Centres reopened; ensured colleagues had the tools and knowledge necessary for remote work (e.g. accessibility considerations, electronic signatures); and supported hiring and onboarding staff for critical service delivery. Strategic Services Branch also developed products and tools that helped with information sharing and evidence-based decision-making, all while continuing to support both internal and external communications!

The efforts of every Business Expertise team member across the country enabled us to meet the needs of Canadians during the pandemic. Their work is essential to service delivery every day—and the support they provided throughout the pandemic was truly remarkable. Mission accomplished!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)

Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)

Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)

Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)

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

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)

Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

August 26 - #ThankYouThursday – Visible Minorities Network

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to ESDC’s Visible Minorities Network, including its executive committee, for their dedication and advocacy work in representing the 7,000+ strong visible minority community of employees in our organization.

Building on the success of the Labour Program’s Visible Minorities Network, in 2018, ESDC launched its own Visible Minorities Network (VMN). The ESDC VMN was officially established nearly two years ago through an election process facilitated by Human Resources Services Branch (HRSB). Since 2019, the VMN has played an integral role in providing advice to HRSB and the Diversity Co-Champions and in bringing the voices and experiences of racialized employees to the senior management table.

In the past year, in response to the many tragic events that have taken place against Black, Indigenous and racialized people across the country and around the world, the VMN hosted events to advance dialogue among members and educate allies on the lived realities of employees due to systemic racism, unconscious bias and discrimination. The VMN also brought employees together in celebration of key commemorative dates such as Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month.

ESDC’s VMN Ambassador Program was launched in December 2020 to help build a more welcoming, inclusive and representative department. Ambassadors act as a representative of the VMN’s executive committee and provide a link between employees, management, the regions and the Ambassador Team. Also, the VMN is currently producing a series of awareness videos to help employees understand some of the challenges faced by racialized employees related to cultural differences, recruitment and advancement. Thanks to these important resources, we will all be better able to call out and respond to racism when we see it in our organization.

In addition to the numerous events and awareness-building activities led by the VMN, we would also like to recognize the “behind the scenes” work of the executive committee in providing advice and guidance on a variety of initiatives within ESDC. For example, they led working groups on anti-racism and prepared a report with recommended actions to improve recruitment, retention and advancement of employees belonging to visible minority groups.

As the current two-year term of the VMN’s executive committee comes to a close, we would like to once again say a big thank you to all who have put their time, effort and passion into building this network and supporting colleagues from coast to coast to coast. You have made a significant and permanent impact on our organization. Moreover, you have helped plant seeds for change that we know will assist the next executive committee in continuing to combat racism, discrimination and help all racialized employees flourish in their careers at ESDC.

With this in mind, we encourage all employees to join the VMN and consider applying, if eligible, for a position on the VMN executive committee in September. Stay tuned for more information in upcoming messages and other internal communications channels.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
(She/her/hers)

Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
(She/her/hers)

Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
(She/her/hers)

Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Lori MacDonald
(She/her/hers)

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

Graham Flack
(He/him/his)

Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

August 19 - #ThankYouThursday – Canada Pension Plan-Disability team

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to highlight the extraordinary efforts of employees who support the delivery of the Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D) Program for going above and beyond to ensure CPP-D beneficiaries receive the benefits and services they’re entitled to. CPP-D recipients are among the most vulnerable Canadians we serve and the supports you provide through the program make a real difference in their lives.

A team of dedicated employees has been laying the groundwork to improve service delivery for CPP-D beneficiaries for some time, before the pandemic was on the horizon. As regions went into lockdown across Canada, these efforts continued and have been key to ensuring the department was able to deliver critical pensions benefits to Canadians when they needed our help the most.

For example, the CPP-D team pivoted quickly to digitize the work that up until recently has been largely paper-based. The team was also able to carry out innovative solutions to adapt and minimize service disruptions for clients and make it easier for clients to access their benefits.

The team has also exceeded its service standard targets for processing regular applications, as well as applications for grave medical conditions and those who are deemed to be terminally ill. As a result of these and other concerted efforts, the CPP-D team was able to effectively support the special one-time payment to persons with disabilities during the pandemic.

The culmination of these efforts made prior to and throughout the pandemic are helping to improve the quality and timeliness of our services.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all of you and your teams across the country for your success in helping improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable Canadians. Your dedication and remarkable efforts ensure Canadians continue to receive their benefits when they need them.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

August 12 - #ThankYouThursday – The College@ESDC

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to thank the Human Resources Services Branch’s (HRSB) College@ESDC (the College), who provides departmental learning services to support ESDC employees in gaining the skills and knowledge they need to best serve Canadians.

As COVID-19 changed the way we work, it was essential for the College to change the way we learn as well. During the pandemic, the College worked in collaboration with branches and regions to pivot and adapt quickly to the changing landscape. Here is a sample of the accomplishments the College was able to achieve:

  • Redesigned existing Employment Insurance curricula and created new content to support the implementation of the Government of Canada’s growing list of emergency benefits.
  • Supported regions by quickly adapting existing training packages for emergency virtual delivery and supporting crisis workload management.
  • Updated and redesigned Citizen Services training to support the reactivation of Service Canada Centres.
  • Converted Official Languages learning from in-person offerings to virtual delivery, including coaching sessions.
  • Making accessibility a priority through new and existing training resources, designing courses and delivery practices that are accessible, and providing courses in alternate accessible formats. 
  • Introduced the short-term eLearning Bulletin to encourage employees to upskill and prepare for the future workplace (now a permanent monthly learning bulletin called Connexion Corner).
  • Updated ESDC Mandatory Training Curricula—now known as the ESDC Essential Training Curricula (ETC)—to emphasize our departmental role in, and commitment to, serving Canadians with excellence.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the College for their strategic and innovative learning leadership. Well done!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

August 5 - #ThankYouThursday – ESDC’s nurses

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize the nurses working at ESDC who volunteered to be deployed to hospitals increasing their surge capacity in Toronto, Nunavut and Northern Manitoba at the peak of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last spring, the Province of Ontario asked federal organizations employing nurses for volunteers to provide primary health care in hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). While deploying personnel during a crisis is “business as usual” for the Canadian Armed Forces, it is not quite the same for a national program, service and benefit delivery organization such as ours. At ESDC, nurses review benefit applications, namely the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit, a job completely different from working in intensive care units and emergency rooms.

In response to the request, four ESDC nurses from Ontario Region were deployed to hospitals in the GTA after a thorough selection process. Our nursing staff overwhelmingly answered the call for help and this is a testament to their skills, work experience and dedication to serving Canadians.

Employees from the regions, National Headquarters and the Human Resources Services Branch (HRSB) also mobilized to make this happen. They provided these ESDC nurses with the information they needed, assisted them with the application process, handled all the logistics and collaborated with federal and provincial partners, including the Privy Council Office, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health and hospitals in the GTA.

When Manitoba and Nunavut also called for emergency relief, ESDC’s nurses and employees were as eager to help in whatever way they could. As we are writing this note, three Western Canada and Territories nurses are working in Nunavut and we’re in the process of having more deployed in First Nations and Metis communities in Manitoba. It is worth noting that colleagues across the Service Canada regions unanimously agreed to manage the extra workload so that our nurses could help Canadians when they needed it most.

ESDC’s nurses who volunteered for deployment in active COVID-19 areas in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut chose to leave the security of telework for the frontlines because they felt it was the right thing to do. In true ESDC fashion, their teammates and managers jumped at this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Canadians. Thank you all for making us so proud to be working at ESDC!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 29 - #ThankYouThursday – Indigenous Employees’ Circle

Dear colleagues,

Across ESDC, employee networks provide a safe forum for their members and allies to connect and share stories. They play leadership roles as models of diversity and inclusion, helping the department develop and maintain a safe and inclusive work environment.

This #ThankYouThursday, we want to recognize the ESDC Indigenous Employees’ Circle (IEC), a network of over 400 members.  

Last year the IEC celebrated its 10-year anniversary. What started as a vision to create an environment where First Nations, Inuit and Métis employees felt welcomed and could share their cultures and stories has evolved tremendously. Their work over the last year demonstrates just how much the network and its leaders contribute to our workplace and the department as a whole.   

After the pandemic began, members across the country recognized the need to find new ways to communicate and support each other. The virtual community that emerged connected members through a wide variety of cultural and learning activities. In the last year, the IEC established a Facebook page, a book club, a Beading Group and lunch and learn sessions. The IEC also organized regular virtual drop-in sessions for those who need a mental health break, support or simply miss coffee breaks where they could connect with colleagues.

The IEC national and regional executive committees and chairs are invaluable partners in the department’s reconciliation and awareness efforts, often doing this work “off the side of their desks.” They are true leaders, regularly engaging with and advocating for the interests of their members, while providing advice to senior leaders on important policy and program issues. This past year, the IEC has worked with partners on Indigenous recruitment initiatives and helped update staffing processes to be culturally safe and free from bias and discrimination.

The Circle has also been a notable champion of the department’s commitment to cultivate a workforce that is knowledgeable, sensitive and responsive to the history and realities of Indigenous communities. This work includes advising on the development of training and courses for all employees, a new Indigenous essential learning opportunities menu and hosting learning events which engage staff from across the country.

This #ThankYouThursday follows National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day that took place in June, since we want to continue to encourage everyone to learn more about the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences and histories of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. There is also no better time to join the IEC, described by one employee as a “life-changing experience.” It’s a tremendous opportunity for Indigenous employees and non-Indigenous allies alike to learn from, share with and be supported by your colleagues.

To the IEC chairs, executives and members across the national and regional IEC networks, thank you! To the incoming IEC national executive members who started their tenure in June, we look forward to working with you.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch. Qujannamiik / ᖁᔭᓐᓇᒦᒃ. Maarsi.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 22 - #ThankYouThursday – The HR teams supporting our staffing

Dear colleagues,

This #ThankYouThursday we want to recognize employees within the Human Resources Services Branch’s (HRSB) Workforce Management team for their outstanding work in managing an unprecedented number of staffing actions with more than double the volume as in previous years to directly enable the hiring of over seven thousand new employees in record time to support business priorities that evolved with the department’s pandemic response.

During this past year, HRSB employees went above and beyond their regular contributions and collaborated on many innovative tools, resources and services to support new colleagues during the pandemic. This included the creation of new positions for hiring, improving the efficiency of employee onboarding steps and coordinating the timely processing of an unprecedented number of staffing actions.

Employees across the branch simplified and reimagined key business processes for classification and staffing, introduced new measures such as electronic signatures, reduced the HR process burden by updating departmental staffing policies and launched simplified tools and services to support managers to hire staff in a virtual environment. Additionally, HRSB designed a temporary departmental approach for alternative Second Language Evaluation testing for reading and writing to ensure business continuity and improve hiring efficiencies during the pandemic.

HRSB employees are the foundation that enables many critical departmental initiatives including the delivery of programs and services to Canadians. We’re glad to shine a spotlight on your team and the innovation, dedication and professionalism you put into your work on a daily basis.

Our sincere thanks goes out to everyone. We are all very proud of you and grateful for the work you are doing and for your excellence in service delivery. 

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 15 - #ThankYouThursday – Regional and Branch Management Services

Do you remember your first day of work with the influx of new information, paperwork and team members to meet? Chances are your main points of contact when you joined the department were members of Regional or Branch Management Services (R/BMS). No doubt, your R/BMS colleagues have since been reliable sources of support along the way. That is why for this #ThankYouThursday we would like to recognize all individuals on R/BMS teams across ESDC.

The names of these teams may vary across the organization, but from coast-to-coast-to-coast, these invaluable colleagues have a pulse on the workforce and workplace. Their depth of knowledge allows them to provide horizontal leadership and strategic advice on program governance and accountability. Whether it be your needs related to human resources, finance, accommodation, information technology or information management, R/BMS is here to support you.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, R/BMS learned how to pivot in this new reality, paving the way for their branches and regions to pivot with them. By liaising with various departmental services teams, they found ways to integrate new staff seamlessly, keeping us connected virtually and providing you with the support you need to serve Canadians on a daily basis.

Additionally, R/BMS team members have worked diligently to keep our physical workspaces safe, including the ones created at home. Key highlights of their accomplishments include:

  • Implementing occupational health and safety guidance and preventive measures in a timely manner through the purchasing and distribution of personal preventive measures (e.g., non-medical masks and hand sanitizer) and personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves and eye protection)
  • Helping to communicate critical health and safety information to employees
  • Re-establishing First Aid Attendant training in workplaces
  • Procuring and distributing ergonomic equipment (e.g., keyboards, mice, footrests, document holders, and Duty to Accommodate purchases authorized by management) to employees working remotely and in the physical workplace

With these changes, and more underway, R/BMS teams are playing – and will to continue to play – a critical role in the future of work. We appreciate the dedication and professionalism that all R/BMS members have provided to our employees and managers across the department. We thank you above all for ensuring that all employees feel comfortable and supported in their work environment.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

July 8 - #ThankYouThursday – Office of Indigenous Initiatives

Dear colleagues,

The annual Association of Public Sector Information Professionals and Treasury Board Secretariat’s Digital Community Awards recently recognized exemplary work undertaken across the public service to benefit Canadians.

This #ThankYouThursday, we are delighted to congratulate one of the award recipients: our colleagues in the Office of Indigenous Initiatives in the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB)!

Led by Executive Director James Heffernan, the Office of Indigenous Initiatives received the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion award for its efforts to identify and remove barriers that hinder recruitment of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. By deconstructing job posters to remove unnecessary jargon and embracing the remote working environment long before circumstances made it necessary, the team has become an industry leader.

Recent news has brought the dark legacy of Canada’s residential schools back to the forefront, reminding us of the harms Indigenous people have suffered and continue to suffer. This underscores the need to take real action toward reconciliation, which is the driving force behind the team’s work.

Since 2018, the team has helped to hire more than 80 First Nations, Inuit and Métis people to work in IITB. Last year, they launched an innovative two-year apprenticeship program to open doors for employment-ready individuals who are passionate about technology.

The team’s success with Indigenous recruitment is now a model for not only our department but also the wider Government of Canada community. To date, 19 other departments and agencies have begun working collaboratively with James and his team to expand on their blueprint to help strengthen diversity across the public service. Additionally, the team is receiving interest from the private sector, opening even more opportunities for Indigenous communities.

Please join us in congratulating the winners and all those across the department who contributed to this effort to ensure that Indigenous communities have increased opportunities to engage and succeed in the field of information management and information technology.

To learn more about the Office of Indigenous Initiatives’ award-winning work, we invite you to view the team’s award-acceptance video. You make us proud, James and team. Well done and continued success!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 17 - #ThankYouThursday – 2021 National Public Service Week!

Dear colleagues,

Happy National Public Service Week! We hope that you had time over the week to partake in a few of the activities.

Naturally, this week’s #ThankYouThursday is dedicated to all of you! It’s quite fitting that ESDC’s theme for this year’s National Public Service Week is “Thank You!” Recognition takes many forms and it is important that we all take the time to recognize our colleagues; even the smallest gestures matter and are appreciated.

We want to begin by thanking all of you who are working directly with Canadians, such as our front-line employees. We also want to thank those employees who are sitting or standing in front of their computers, delivering programs and services and providing the necessary resources and information to Canadians. And thank you to the employees working behind the scenes to ensure that the day-to-day needs and demands within the Department are met. Your perseverance and dedication to carry on with the work at hand is recognized and appreciated.

We could not be prouder of our ESDC, Labour Program and Service Canada colleagues, who have continued to get the job done during this challenging time. Together and apart, we have kept on delivering information, advice, programs and services to Canadians across our great and vast country.

For the past 15 months, we have shared weekly #ThankYouThursday messages, because it is extremely important to us to take the time to recognize and highlight the tremendous work and contributions that are happening across our department. Thousands in our organization have stepped up in a big way to put in place important new programs while others kept up the momentum on delivering day-to-day responsibilities during these challenging times.

Your can-do attitude during this period has been nothing short of inspiring. We are humbled to work alongside such a dedicated crew, and we appreciate your continued commitment to serve Canadians. Thank you!

Enjoy the rest of National Public Service Week!

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 10 - #ThankYouThursday – ESDC Employee Pride Network

Dear colleagues,

At ESDC, we’ve achieved countless successes as we continue to deliver services to Canadians, but we couldn’t have done it without the dedicated people who work hard to ensure that no one gets left behind.

June is Pride Month, when we celebrate and show our alliance and advocacy for the LGBTQ2+ community. Recent events in our society have highlighted that Canada and our organization are not immune to acts of discrimination and intolerance. On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to thank the members of the ESDC Employee Pride Network who have dedicated their time and energy to support our employees by creating awareness, promoting inclusivity and establishing safe spaces for LGBTQ2+ employees and Canadians nationwide. The members of the Network tackle this important work, in addition to their daily tasks, to ensure that we provide inclusive services to Canadians and internal support for our employees

As a department, diversity is one of our greatest assets. Only by encouraging the many unique perspectives from our employees can we maintain our collective leadership in federal policy and program development.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the ESDC Employee Pride Network and the Human Resources Services Branch (HRSB), LGBTQ2+ employees will be able to self-identify, in addition to visible minority groups, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and women. HRSB recently launched the annual Self-Identification Campaign, which provides ESDC employees with the opportunity to voluntarily self-identify as a member of one or more of the four designated employment equity groups and/or as a member of the LGBTQ2+ community. This campaign provides our department with the information we need to continue raising awareness, support employee communities, target recruitment and create career advancement programs

The ESDC Employee Pride Network has also played an active role supporting HRSB in the upcoming launch of the Guide for Transitioning Employees, Their Co-Workers and Managers. The Guide offers a comprehensive look at what it means to be transgender or non-binary at ESDC, and provides guidance and solutions to various situations that may arise when transitioning as a federal public servant. Thanks to the courage shown by the trans and non-binary members of the Employee Pride Network, the Guide reflects the real-life experiences of employees who are in the process of transitioning or coming out.

In addition, the Employee Pride Network collaborated with the National Real Property Management (NRPM) team of ESDC’s Chief Financial Officer Branch to establish 365 gender-neutral washrooms in ESDC offices across Canada. Each of these facilities is wheelchair-accessible. Despite the fact that many staff are still working remotely, the Employee Pride Network continues to consider the future state of the workplace and is working toward creating inclusive physical workspaces for our employees’ eventual return

As we continue to foster inclusive workplaces, the support of the ESDC Employee Pride Network has enabled us to address and deconstruct the mental and physical systemic barriers that LGBTQ2+ employees face and that remain unaddressed due to fear of discrimination. The Employee Pride Network has demonstrated what it is to be universally inclusive, by providing support not only to LGBTQ2+ employees, but to all employees in general. Their strategic recommendations have led to the formation of all-encompassing solutions that accommodate everyone.

We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the members of the ESDC Employee Pride Network for their support.

For more information related to the ESDC Employee Pride Network or to become a member, contact the ESDC Employee Pride Network.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Developmen

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

June 3 - #ThankYouThursday – Temporary Foreign Worker Program Tiger Team

Dear colleagues,

Every spring, temporary foreign workers come to Canada to provide essential labour to key sectors of our economy such as agriculture and the agri-food industry. Any delay in the arrival of workers to farms, fish and seafood and other food processors disrupts Canada’s food supply and food chain.

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize the extraordinary contributions of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Tiger Team who are helping to safeguard Canada’s food chain and protect the health and safety of temporary foreign workers and Canadians during the pandemic.

While the complexity of the TFW Program cannot be understated, the COVID-19 pandemic has come with its own set of challenges. The team was established last February to provide additional support to workers, employers and stakeholders to quickly adapt to a number of successive changes to Canada’s border measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. This meant limited international flights and new quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements for workers.

The TFW Tiger Team established coordinating bodies across federal partners and with provinces and territories to enable the timely and safe arrival of workers. This included a process to support charter flights to destinations outside the four designated international airports. It also meant working with provinces and territories to facilitate the development of alternative COVID-19 testing protocols and working with federal partners and service providers to improve the delivery model for the 10-day test to avoid delays in receiving results. The Tiger Team also worked directly with migrant worker support organizations to stand-up new services to assist workers through the arrival process and collaborated with employers to ensure they had plans to safely quarantine and isolate workers throughout the season.

The TFW Program Tiger Team personifies the saying, “we’re stronger by working together.” In this particular instance, “stronger” means being more creative, proactive and efficient at solving problems by bringing everyone to the table. This is a tour de force given the number of key players involved in the TFW Program—from multiple branches and regions across the Department who worked tirelessly to support the Tiger Team, to other federal departments and agencies, provincial ministries, municipalities, source countries, stakeholder associations and external service providers for COVID-19 tests and vaccines.

The TFW Program Tiger Team deserves our deep gratitude for all their hard work helping Canadians in a very complex ecosystem. They are a prime example of what true integrated, inclusive and collaborative leadership can look like in a remote work environment. For that and more, a big “thank you” to the TFW Program Tiger Team!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 27 - #ThankYouThursday – The teams behind the National Roll-Out of Robotic Process Automation

Dear Colleagues,

We’d like to dedicate this week’s #ThankYouThursday message to the teams behind a tool that is improving how we serve Canadians.

When the pandemic made its way into our lives, the department anticipated Canadians would need critical support.

Robotic Process Automations (RPA) are robots (or “bots”) programmed to complete repetitive and manual tasks, such as data entry, allowing agents to focus on work that is more complex and value-added for clients, ultimately serving more Canadians better and faster.

Thanks to the Benefits and Integrated Services Branch (BISB) Pensions, EI Operations and EI Call Centre Program Delivery teams, the Transformation EI RPA team, the Innovation Information Technology Branch and employees from regional call centres and processing centres, RPA was delivered in Call Centres and Processing Centres across Canada.

In a few short months, EI RPA went from a pilot to a full national roll-out. In May, it reached a major milestone of over 140,000 transactions that were processed to completion by these bots – this is a huge win for the Department and Canadians.

We would also like to thank the Pensions Operations Team who has acted as a pathfinder and has been running RPA for two years now. Since inception, an incredible 870,000 transactions have been either partially or fully automated. So far, RPA has been used to automatically enroll over 70,000 clients in the first month they are entitled to receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), cutting processing speed by five minutes on average.

Close collaboration between groups has been key to the successful implementation of RPA, including agents across regions who played an integral part in its evolution by providing feedback throughout its various releases.

Together, these teams pulled off remarkable feats to make RPA happen. As a result of their hard work, we are serving more clients and getting support payments into the hands of Canadians faster—offering some relief during a very challenging time.

We cannot overstate how important that is. Thank you for being instrumental in that success.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 20 - #ThankYouThursday – the New Horizons for Seniors Program

Dear colleagues,

While the COVID‑19 pandemic has been extremely difficult for all of us, it has been seniors who have been particularly affected.

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to thank Program Operations Branch, Income Security and Social Development Branch, regional employees at Service Canada and multiple branches across the Department who have been involved in delivering the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP). The Program offers seniors a place to maintain a sense of community.

The need for this program and its projects, which connect seniors to each other and to their communities, became even stronger during the pandemic. Within a few short weeks of the pandemic being declared, the Department set up an agreement with United Way Centraide Canada to deliver $9 million worth of NHSP funding for programs and services related to COVID-19. Soon thereafter, the Department worked to set up more than 1,000 new NHSP community-based projects worth $20 million. This work was done over the course of a few weeks last summer. The projects were related to COVID‑19 and focused on activities such as promoting computer literacy and virtual activities, supporting the delivery of food and medication and assisting seniors with essential activities like visits to the doctor.

The planning for the next cycle of projects came hot on the heels of signing the NHSP projects related to COVID‑19. By September, a new call for proposals was launched. This one focused on helping organizations offering activities via virtual technology, such as digital literacy classes and fitness workshops, to support seniors and address the barriers introduced by the pandemic.

Increased funding and improvements to the program in 2021, along with a successful outreach plan, resulted in the highest number of applications ever received — more than 5,000. The Program Operations Branch and the Regions had to work quickly and efficiently to sift through the many project proposals, collaborate with regional committees and prepare thousands of agreements for final signature. It has been a Herculean task to deliver funding for more than 3,600 projects this spring.

Those who have worked on getting all these projects signed and delivered over the past year should be celebrated. Their work is ensuring that there are projects in place to serve and connect an estimated half a million seniors across the country!

To those who have contributed to the NHSP, your efforts are making a real difference in the lives of seniors in Canada. Today, we salute you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 13 - #ThankYouThursday – the Canada Summer Jobs Program

Dear colleagues,

Young people across the country have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, Labour Force Survey data for April 2021 demonstrates that pandemic restrictions and lockdowns have caused a decline in both full- and part-time work across the country—particularly hurting young workers.

As we work through the economic recovery stage, it is crucial that we empower youth with quality employment opportunities. With the hiring season now underway, the 2021 edition of Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) is hard at work helping both youth and employers by providing thousands of quality part-time and full-time job opportunities. . CSJ is helping young Canadians between the ages of 15 and 30 gain quality work experience in safe and inclusive work environments while providing opportunities to develop and improve their skills. The program also helps youth—including those who face barriers—gain access to the labour market.

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to congratulate the employees from Program Operations Branch, Service Canada across all regions, Skills and Employment Branch, Innovation, Information and Technology Branch, Chief Financial Officer Branch, Legal Services and Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch who have all have dedicated tremendous effort to ensure young Canadians have access to paid work this summer.

Rolling out the CSJ every year involves a lot of people working tirelessly to deliver this incredibly important program. From streamlining the application form for employers to assessing more than 50,000 employer applications representing more than 240,000 potential jobs; from automating parts of the screening and assessment process to fully automating the data entry of the Employee and Employer Declaration form. This year especially has been a united effort by so many across the Department who have been working in lockstep to make it a resounding success.

This is a banner year for the program, with more than 160,000 summer job opportunities available for youth posted on Job Bank—around double the 80,000 opportunities offered in 2020—from a wide variety of fields including community and charity work, food industries, recreation and fitness, marketing and public relations, landscaping, farm labour, and many others.

We would like to take the opportunity to extend our sincerest gratitude to the employees who have supported the program. Thank you for your tremendous achievements in assisting young Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The commitment you have shown supporting the next generation is truly inspiring.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

May 6 - #ThankYouThursday – the teams that moved the BDM Programme into the implementation phase

This #ThankYouThursday, we are celebrating the teams that have worked long and hard to get the authority to move the Benefits Delivery Modernization (BDM) Programme from the planning to the implementation phase.

BDM has embarked on a department-wide transformation to improve the client experience during their journey with the Employment Insurance, Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan programs.

After years of planning, the department can now transition from the planning phase to the implementation phase, which is divided into four tranches starting wisth the Foundations phase of Tranche 1. BDM will establish a Common Benefits Delivery Platform (CBD) for the EI, OAS and CPP programs.

This move to implementation signifies a long-term commitment to modernizing services and supports ESDC to continue to deliver on our important mandate into the future. It means we will deliver an outstanding experience for clients, delivering benefits and services when they need them. It also means that we will adapt rapidly to the changing needs and priorities of Canadians and that our workforce will have the authority, skills, tools and training to make it all happen.

While there were many teams from across the BDM Programme that came together to make this important milestone possible, we would like to recognize the significant efforts of the following BDM teams: Authorities, Procurement, Costing and Benefits Realization, Governance, Change Management, Design Authority, Workstreams and the leadership teams. As well, teams from the Chief Financial Officer Branch, Legal Services, Shared Services Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat and Public Services and Procurement Canada all played a vital role. Together, these teams worked tirelessly on the requirements to move the BDM Programme forward.

Thank you for your dedication, hard work and collaboration that has led to this moment in our transformation journey. We look forward to the great things ahead for the BDM Programme.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 29 - #ThankYouThursday – Communications Awards of Excellence – congratulations PASRB!

Dear colleagues,

This afternoon during a virtual ceremony, the Communications Community Office (CCO) and senior leadership of the Government of Canada communications community will gather to honour the best in the field over the past year. The annual Communications Awards of Excellence recognizes communications excellence in the federal public service and celebrates their achievements by highlighting high impact initiatives, exceptional contributions, as well as best practices.

This #ThankYouThursday, we're delighted to congratulate one of the reward recipients - our colleagues in Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch (PASRB) – who, for the second time in three years, are being honoured with one of these prestigious awards.

Employees across PASRB are being presented with the Platinum Award for their work to support the roll-out of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada recovery benefits.

The effort that went into getting clear, concise and accurate information out to Canadians exemplifies the very definition of teamwork. Across the branch – from the account managers who are responsible for overall strategy, to media relations, social media, creative services and advertising and marketing – colleagues delivered high impact tactics over the past year. Collectively, and working with partners in the NCR and regions, they worked diligently to develop and disseminate communications materials by translating complex information about CERB and recovery benefits eligibility into content Canadians could easily understand, and through the most effective channels.

The tangible results of this work are impressive. As of the end of 2020, some 580 media enquiries had been responded to and 1,000 social media updates posted across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, which garnered tens of millions of impressions. During this time, PASRB also answered 1,200 questions about CERB and recovery benefits from Canadians submitted via social media channels. There was also an unprecedented number of videos deployed, with more than 200,000 views of this content by Canadians. ESDC and Service Canada social media channels grew by over 140,000 new followers thanks in large part to these activities.

Please join us in congratulating the winners and all those across the department who contributed to this award-winning effort, and who continue to give their all each day to ensure Canadians receive the information they need during this exceptional time.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 22 - #ThankYouThursday – 2021 Budget

Dear colleagues,

On April 19, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, presented Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience in Parliament. Building on the September 2020 Speech from the Throne and the November 2020 Fall Economic Statement, Budget 2021 provides a path for Canada to a post-pandemic recovery that keeps Canadians safe and establishes long-term economic growth for the country.

In light of your tremendous efforts to help Canadians since the onset of the pandemic, it is no surprise that ESDC featured prominently in Budget 2021. It contains many measures related to our programs, benefits and services, including:

  • Establishing a Canada-wide early learning and child care system, in partnership with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners;
  • Extending the number of weeks available for important income support for Canadians such as the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit;
  • Enhancing Employment Insurance sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks;
  • Increasing Old Age Security for seniors age 75 and older;
  • Creating nearly 500,000 new training and work experience opportunities for Canadians, including 215,000 new opportunities for youth;
  • Making post-secondary education more accessible and affordable;
  • Establishing a $15 federal minimum wage;
  • Enriching the Canada Workers Benefit;
  • Helping to build, repair and support 35,000 affordable housing units for vulnerable Canadians; and,
  • Investing in making our communities and workplaces more accessible and inclusive.

This is why, for this #ThankYouThursday, we are highlighting the hard work and dedication of all employees who had a hand in preparing the more than 75 proposals for Budget 2021. Over 180 briefing notes were prepared for Ministers to support their many discussions at Cabinet. Numerous Treasury Board submissions have been prepared – many of which will need to be quickly adjusted. Hundreds of employees in literally every sector of the department were involved in this process. Strategic and Service Policy Branch staff managed the coordination of this massive body of work while employees in the Chief Financial Officer Branch ensured our credibility on costing and will help us secure funds through Treasury Board. Consistent with our approach during the crisis, there has been unprecedented coordination between policy, enabling and operational branches in the department to ensure we will be well positioned to implement these decisions effectively. This was a whole of ESDC undertaking of remarkable proportions. Our success is thanks to the impressive behind-the-scenes work from employees in all branches and regions across the organization.

We would be remiss if we didn’t also thank assistant deputy ministers and other senior managers throughout the department who actively participated at weekly meetings to coordinate the Budget proposals and keep the forward momentum. To advance this work, directors general from across the organization also collaborated through a special working group that ensured deadlines were respected and approaches were consolidated.

Our important contributions to Budget 2021 are a testament to the importance of all your work in supporting Canadians, not only through these challenging times, but also to help ensure the country’s post-COVID-19 recovery is robust, inclusive and sustainable.

We are grateful for your continued professionalism, excellence and creativity as we deliver on the Government’s priorities. We thank you for all the great work you do for Canada and Canadians.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 15 - #ThankYouThursday – All Administrative Professionals

Next week on Wednesday, April 21, employers across Canada are marking Administrative Professionals Day to salute those who dedicate themselves to the administrative profession. On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to celebrate and recognize executive assistants and administrative assistants throughout the department who have time and again proven they are invaluable members of our team.

Day in and day out, your commitment, reliability and team spirit keep our workplaces running smoothly, especially as we work remotely and help Canadians during these difficult times. We want you to know how much we appreciate the tremendous work you do. From the outside, it may seem effortless but behind the scenes you work tirelessly to ensure that all our work is realized and moves along seamlessly.

Your ability to adapt to all situations, answer questions, solve problems and keep everyone organized are just some of traits we admire.

Your contributions during this past year have only further illuminated your dedication, professionalism and incredible value. For example, you have played and continue to play a critical role coordinating and distributing technologies to employees across the department so that they can carry out their duties to help Canada and Canadians as they work remotely. Your invaluable contributions also include providing clarity on departmental policies during these uncertain times and ensuring we all remain connected despite our physical distances. We really cannot do it without you!

For all staff, although it may not be possible to stop by the desks of your administrative professional colleagues, we encourage you to reach out on Wednesday and throughout the year to pass along your own gratitude. Now more than ever, it is important to recognize others for the contributions they make to help the department and Canadians alike. Today, and every day, we see and recognize the tremendous contributions you provide – thank you!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 8 - #ThankYouThursday – A Year of Achievements

On this #ThankYouThursday, we are marking one year of messages that have highlighted countless remarkable accomplishments throughout the Department.

We have now shared almost 50 #ThankYouThursday messages since April of last year, shining a light on our branches, teams, groups, regions and programs.

You have shown unmatched dedication to Canadians. From our policy shops, legal teams, operations staff, service delivery network, finance and human resources specialists, corporate services, information technology experts and communications colleagues, everyone has played a critical role this year.

We know this because we see the abundance of #ThankYouThursday story ideas and requests that you have shared with us personally. You have shattered benchmarks and broken records. For that, we are immensely proud!

Our intention when we started with this series was to capture, share and celebrate important moments as they happened. What we discovered along the way, however, is just how much all employees are inspired by their colleagues’ hard work, dedication and accomplishments, which they read about each week, transpiring from coast-to-coast-to-coast during the pandemic.

Now more than ever, we need to recognize accomplishments and highlight the people throughout this organization that make us great. We are nothing without one another and together we are stronger. Nor can we underestimate the value of encouragement, finding positivity in the small things and sticking together as we soldier on through these tough times.

We hope these weekly notes lift your spirits and brighten your day.

If you have story ideas, please reply to this email and submit them to our internal communications team.

Stay tuned for many more #ThankYouThursdays to come!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

April 1 - #ThankYouThursday – the teams behind the EI Document Upload Project

Every year, the Employment Insurance (EI) program receives millions of paper documents to support EI applications. Mailing documents or visiting a Service Canada Centre to submit them is a cumbersome step for Canadians—not to mention for our staff, who need to review, sort and mail them back to clients.

The department has long set its sights on addressing this issue and the pandemic accelerated the work towards a solution, as the department rapidly expanded its digital services for clients.

This #ThankYouThursday, we are turning the spotlight on three branches that have gone above and beyond expectations to make the EI application process easier for Canadians: the Transformation Management Branch (TMB), the Benefits and Integrated Services Branch (BISB) and the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch (IITB). It is thanks to their efforts that the EI Document Upload project has kicked off.

The enterprise-wide solution builds upon the Document Upload Service (DUS) that was developed through the Service Transformation Plan. DUS is a platform that any ESDC program can use to receive and store electronic documents, which means individual programs can go digital without starting from square one. While programs across the department already use DUS (including Job Bank, Apprenticeship Grants and the Canada Pension Plan), the EI program has the largest volume of documents. Thanks to great collaboration with other programs, the EI program was able to leverage lessons learned.

This solution provides Canadians with the option to either submit EI documents online while completing the application or via their My Service Canada Account. March 6, 2021 marked the first phase, aimed at supporting vulnerable Canadians by allowing them to upload medical documentation. The department is aiming for full functionality by fall 2021, at which point Canadians will be able to upload other EI documents, such as proof of employment, insurance papers and more.

The teams behind this project already had their hands full with the launch of modified automation processes to support the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and staying on top of legislation changes to support the EI program.

For some, knitting a new system component into the existing systems that make up the EI program was a new experience—but the teams persevered, challenging themselves and each other to re-imagine the best product possible from the perspectives of both a client and an agent.

Our sincere thanks to everyone, including the various groups that shared their lessons learned and allowed TMB, BISB and IITB to build on their experience.

We’d like to underscore the importance of your extraordinary efforts. Now Canadians will have a far more seamless experience in getting the support they need.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 25 - #ThankYouThursday – Support to CERB, EI and Pensions Call Centres

On this day one year ago, Bill C-13 (an Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19) received Royal Assent, paving the way for the creation of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). A short time later, the CERB would of course become just the first in a series of critical benefits for Canadians that would be delivered over the course of the pandemic.

This #ThankYouThursday, we’re paying tribute to an extraordinary group of people in our department who stepped out of their usual roles and into a critical service as we rolled out these benefits.

Employees from across the department, including some colleagues from the Canada Revenue Agency, moved from their regular tasks to pitch in at the Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security (Pensions) Call Centres. As demand for benefits like the CERB, the One-time Payment for Seniors and the One-time Payment for Persons with Disabilities surged, the need to support Canadians through Call Centres was crucial.

For anyone new to a call centre job, there would be a learning curve—but these folks had to become virtual Call Centre employees overnight, with no ability to pop their head over the cubicle wall to see how others were responding. They had to hone unfamiliar skills within the four walls of their own homes, while also adapting to the new world of virtual support from their team leaders, trainers, and advisors.

In one case, these employees staffed a completely new Call Centre to answer enquiries about CERB. In other cases, they answered calls from new menu options in the EI and Pensions Call Centre networks. Some employees were trained by Service Delivery Experts in more detail in order to answer more complex enquiries about EI regular benefits and Pensions benefits.

We also need to acknowledge and thank those team leaders, trainers and advisors – they took on new roles themselves, in support of employees. They too had to learn new processes and systems, build new relationships, and find new ways to assist those employees transitioning into Call Centre roles, all while learning their own jobs.

For all employees involved, it was a new way of operating, with a very different kind of workload—Call Centre employees can’t anticipate what questions a client will ask when they call, and tasks can’t be deferred for later in the day. Every client interaction is immediate and different.

The flexibility of our employees, and their remarkable ability to hit the ground running in just days, is something worth recognizing today.

While some of these employees have since transitioned to other work, the invaluable learning experience for our department in responding to emergencies and handling a massive surge in call volumes, remains.

Not only have these Call Centre employees supported Canadians when they needed it most, but like the other teams featured in our #ThankYouThursdays, they created the momentum that pulled this department through the greatest challenge it has ever faced.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 18 - #ThankYouThursday – International Day of La Francophonie

Dear colleagues,

International Day of La Francophonie is celebrated on March 20. On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to acknowledge the extraordinary dedication of all employees who support bilingualism, linguistic duality and the French language and culture in the department.

Since the pandemic began, you have been working hard to ensure that Canadians across the country have access to quality information and services in the official language of their choice. In these times of crisis, you all play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19 by helping Canadians make informed decisions about their health and safety, and the supports they need.

We would like to extend our special thanks to those of you who serve the public directly and who support our front-line staff behind the scenes across many business areas. This includes translators, editors and coordinators of our linguistic services, as well as all employees who support our offer of bilingual services, and, of course, our official languages champions. Over the past few months, our champions have stepped up their efforts to ensure that employees feel comfortable exercising their right to work in the official language of their choice. Thank you for being role models for all of us!

We would also like to express our profound gratitude to employees who are working hard in our three centres of expertise on official languages, within our Human Resources Services Branch, Citizen Services Branch and Strategic and Service Policy Branch. Their efforts continue to ensure that the rights and obligations of the department’s employees and clients are respected and that the needs of official language minority communities are recognized in the programs and services we offer. We invite you to take a look at the Official Languages Lens, an innovative tool for measuring the impact of our programs on official language minority communities.

Finally, the language learning specialists at College@ESDC have demonstrated dedication throughout the pandemic to ensure that employees have access to remote second official language learning opportunities to maintain and improve their knowledge.

Since ESDC is the largest provider of government benefits and services to Canadians, official languages are an integral part of our mandate, and we reiterate our commitment to always improve in this area. But we can’t do it without you! Whether you’re a language expert, an enthusiastic ambassador for bilingualism, an executive who leads by example, or an employee who simply cares about using their second language, thank you!

Happy International Day of La Francophonie to everyone!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 11 - #ThankYouThursday – One Year Later

Dear colleagues,

One year ago, everything changed because of COVID-19. All but our critical staff, including on the front line, began working from home, and our department pivoted to meet the urgent and unforeseen needs of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Today, the Government of Canada designated March 11, 2021, the anniversary of the declaration of a global pandemic, as a National Day of Observance to honour the memory of those we have lost, and the people they left behind. This Day also recognizes everyone who has been impacted by COVID-19 and pays tribute to those who continue working hard and making incredible sacrifices in our fight against the pandemic.

All 30,000 of our employees have shown unmatched dedication to Canada and Canadians this past year, even as about 90 percent of us are now working from home while juggling a myriad of competing demands - both professional and personal.

Indeed, you have given the best of yourselves to your country and fellow Canadians while managing your own personal and professional lives under the pressures of these trying circumstances. Whether you're caring for loved ones, coping with the challenges of living alone, or struggling with the overall stress of the pandemic, we know it has not been easy.

We also know too well that it is difficult to work from home, balancing other new roles such as teacher and caregiver, blurring the line between work and home, work-week and weekend. We understand the immense pressures of balancing family life with work demands, especially as you've been asked to help Canadians during an incredibly challenging time.

That is why, for this #ThankYouThursday, today we are thanking the families and loved ones who have steadfastly supported our employees and made sacrifices this past year as many of you worked long days and nights, and continue to do so.

Now more than ever, it is so important for all of us to heed and act upon the words of our family members and loved ones when they tell us it's time to take a break. We are asking the senior management team to lead by example by recharging their batteries when they feel they need some time away, and we are asking the same of you. Take a day off. Tell your colleagues the same. Start planning now for leave this summer.

As we've discussed before, your mental health should be the highest priority. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please do not hesitate to ask for help.  We know it takes courage to do so. It has been a trying year and there is a wide range of supports available for you.

It's impossible to thank everyone who has contributed to the last year's work and successes, but know that you all have our continued deep appreciation for all that you've done, and continue doing.

On this National Day of Observance, please convey our thanks and gratitude to your families and loved ones for their critical support to allow you to do what you do. Our successes over the past year would not have been possible without them.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Sandra Hassan
Deputy Minister of Labour and Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Annette Gibbons
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate 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

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

March 04 - #ThankYouThursday – International Women's Day

Dear colleagues,

March 8 is International Women's Day (IWD). First introduced to the world in 1911, this day celebrates women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements in pursuit of fostering an equal and inclusive world.

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize, celebrate and thank all ESDC women—from those working on the front line to our senior leaders, and everyone in between. In this message, we are using an inclusive definition of “women” that includes cis-women, trans women, two spirit, genderqueer women and non-binary people who are significantly female-oriented.

During these past several months, we've witnessed ESDC's women leaders, at all levels within our organization, continue delivering our programs and services to Canadians—all while balancing the unexpected demands the pandemic imposed on our personal lives.

Overnight, our homes became our offices, which meant some of you had to pause your careers while you became the primary caregiver or took on the role of teacher. Many have had to home school in between work meetings or help your aging parents.

Canada's IWD 2021 theme is #FeministRecovery. For many women, they have faced steep job losses or shouldered the burden of unpaid care, work at home and bravely served on the front lines throughout the crisis. This is why the Government of Canada is focusing its attention on assisting marginalized, vulnerable or struggling women whose careers and livelihood have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

History has proven that we need women to be active members of our workplace and economy. That is why ESDC is committed to continuing to promote an equal and inclusive workplace that recruits and retains women of all backgrounds—and one that ultimately supports all employees—to ensure that women have meaningful and effective professional growth opportunities.

As an organization, we are committed in our responsibility to actively #ChooseToChallenge stereotypes, fight unconscious bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements. One way we are responding is by commencing work on the establishment of an ESDC Women's Network. More information will be provided in the near future.

So on Monday, please take the time to celebrate and thank the wonderful women in your life for their tremendous contribution during this particularly challenging time.

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

Tina Namiesniowski
Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

February 25 - #ThankYouThursday – Supporting Black History Month

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday message, we would like to acknowledge employees who took time to mark and celebrate Black History Month. Whether you led a panel discussion, attended an event, or simply made mention of this important month in your everyday interactions, we thank you for actions to make ESDC a more respectful, diverse and inclusive workplace.

Black History Month provides us all with an opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contributions that Black Canadians and their communities have made, and continue to make, in all sectors of society.  While the Government of Canada is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Black History Month, a milestone achieved thanks to the efforts of the first Black female Member of Parliament and first Black female federal Minister, the Honourable Jean Augustine, Black people and their communities have been a part of shaping communities across Canada – way before this land was even called Canada.

As we set our sights to March and beyond, we must all be reminded of our collective duty to continue our efforts to combat racism in all of its forms in a way that is informed by Black history, Black voices, and Black lived experiences.

We encourage all employees to reflect on actions they can take to gain more perspective and contribute to a racism-free workplace. One way to get involved is to become a part of the safe space initiative led by ESDC’s new Black Engagement and Advancement Team (BEAT). BEAT has created two safe spaces, the first for Black employees to engage and share lived experiences, and the second for allies to provide them with tools and resources to help build understanding and support for Black employees. We strongly encourage you to get involved: Email BEAT to learn more about the team and become a part of the safe spaces.

If you missed out, it’s not too late to check out Andrew Brown, ESDC Visible Minorities Champion’s blog posts on the Bravery of Viola Desmond and the Razing of Africville.

Lastly, we hope everyone will take some time to read the Clerk of the Privy Council’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion, which sets common expectations for leaders across the Public Service to take practical actions that will be the basis for systemic change.

Happy Black History Month, and thank you to those who are leaders for change, and allies in our efforts to eliminate barriers and support inclusion for all.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay connected.

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

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

February 18 - #ThankYouThursday for EI Call Centres employees

Dear colleagues,

This week, we want to recognize a group of employees who have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis, helping the department serve Canadians since the very beginning.

This week’s #ThankYouThursday message goes out to staff working at Employment Insurance Call Centres across the country, for their amazing ability to adapt and for their commitment to supporting Canadians at a time in their lives when they needed our help the most.

As the primary point of contact for Canadians with questions related to EI, these dedicated employees hear directly from Canadians about how the pandemic is affecting them and their families. These are real, personal stories.

When the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) launched in April 2020, EI Call Centres’ staff demonstrated their commitment to ensuring Canadians would have access to this critical support as quickly as possible. As the number of calls jumped, staff started working nights and offering Saturday service to resolve enquiries from Canadians who were in the queue. They adapted to a virtual environment, and a newly launched technology platform with modified EI automation processes, while staying aware of important legislative changes made to the program. Moreover, in spite of the heavier workload, service delivery expertise staff were training and mentoring new colleagues who were hired to meet the incredible increase in claims.

The EI program is highly complex. Telephone enquiries cannot be handled in just a few minutes – they are as multifaceted as the world we live in today. As well, supporting people who may be feeling anxious during difficult times adds another level of pressure to the job. The human factor cannot be overstated.

For their amazing dedication, perseverance and willingness to embrace change, EI Call Centres staff deserve our sincere thanks and admiration. We could not end this note without also recognizing the dedication of the entire departmental network, including Pensions and Employer Call Centres, as well as employees who came to work in call centres temporarily, for their outstanding contributions to supporting Canadians during the pandemic.

This level of collaboration and devotion to serving Canadians is unparalleled. Keep up the extraordinary work!

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay connected.

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

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

February 11 - #ThankYouThursday: Digital Service Directorate

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to extend our gratitude to the Digital Service Directorate (DSD) in Service Canada's Citizen Services Branch (CSB) for their sustained hard work in providing digital solutions to keep Canadians up to date during the pandemic with the information they need about benefits and services.

From the onset of the pandemic, the DSD Web team worked around the clock, in collaboration with various ESDC programs and other federal departments and agencies, to help millions of Canadians access and learn about the full range of supports available to them via Canada.ca. Early on, the team also introduced an innovative user-friendly chatbot on the My Service Canada Account (MSCA) platform to help Canadians find information easily and register for financial support.

When Service Canada Centres physically closed their doors to the public in March, they also worked closely with Citizen Services Branch's In-Person Operations, the Strategies Directorate and the regions to quickly transition to e-services for Canadians. Through the creation of the eServiceCanada channel, Canadians who needed help applying for benefits could reach in-person staff and receive a call back from Service Canada staff within two business days. This included efforts from the DSD Integrated Management Team to adjust procedures to support eService.

Meanwhile, the 1 800 O Canada contact centre provided support to Canadians, which included responding to snowballing demands, and reorganising operations for telework to ensure uninterrupted delivery of essential services to Canadians. The contact centre also launched new high-profile Customized Information Services, such as the Heath Canada COVID-19 information line (open seven days a week until midnight since January 2020), and support for both the COVID Alert and ArriveCAN apps.

Early on in the pandemic, the Web team also partnered with the Department of Finance and Health Canada to develop a virtual assistant. This innovative tool has had one million visits to date and helped Canada.ca users find answers to key questions, including information from Health Canada on COVID-19 and how to apply for ESDC's programs, benefits and services. As a result, wait times in the 1 800 O Canada contact centre were reduced from hours to minutes, which helped alleviate the contact centre workload.

Since then, the Web team has successfully implemented innovative solutions and automated, real-time technology to keep Canadians accurately informed about the pandemic. In collaboration with Health Canada, DSD integrated new technology on Canada.ca to display near real-time COVID 19 case updates. By cleverly using the same technology, they were able to provide regular updates to advise travelling Canadians of any possible exposure to COVID 19. Along with TBS partners, the team also introduced a “Get Updates on COVID 19” email function to which Canadians could subscribe.

In addition to these successes, this team has created a COVID 19 announcements platform on Canada.ca that is populated by COVID 19 news products that the Privy Council Office publishes on behalf of the Prime Minister's Office, along with all news material from federal departments and Health Canada's COVID 19 related recalls and safety alerts.

DSD also helped launch the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) on the web in partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency, which received 2.55 million visits and contributed to the 1.4 million visits on MSCA on the April 6 launch date. They maintained their momentum by introducing improvements on MSCA in July, working closely with their colleagues in the Integrity Services Branch and Innovation, Information and Technology Branch.

All of this was accomplished while maintaining regular digital operations, such as platform updates and training activities. The Canada.ca content management system, used by over 75 departments, even underwent a major upgrade during the pandemic, which has facilitated the implementation of these web solutions.

The DSD team, like many teams throughout our department, has helped Canadians stay informed and safe, and made a tremendous contribution to the future of service delivery. For that, we are very grateful and very proud.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay connected.

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

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

February 4 - #ThankYouThursday: eServiceCanada Reaches 2.3 Million Canadians

On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to celebrate the Service Canada staff who have reached more than 2.3 million Canadians through eServiceCanada, a new service channel available to serve the public during the pandemic.

When lockdowns became a key way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Canadians felt the impact. They needed support and our employees continued delivering critical services to Canadians when they needed it most.

Overnight, citizen service officers went from working at more than 300 in-person Service Canada Centres across the country to delivering services through the eServiceCanada channel.

A full network of staff who deal with millions of requests every year had to be able to perform their day-to-day activities from home, while adapting to Microsoft Dynamics 365, the new service delivery tool.

The Innovation Information and Technology Branch deployed laptops and phones across the country and staff received training on the new procedures.

Behind this work was another mammoth task: the creation of an online eServiceCanada request and callback system where Canadians identify what service they need help with (pensions, EI, SINs, passports), and a citizen service officer reaches out to them within two business days to resolve the issue.

Because the queue was full, the citizen service officers at the Welcome Zone put client transaction requests into eServiceCanada rather than make them wait. One citizen service officer said, “I just put one in for a gentleman and he received a call when walking out of the door—it was us!!! When he hung up, he said, “I will always be putting an eService request from now on, that's GREAT service.”

Today, the majority of Service Canada Centres have been able to safely re-open, but citizen service officers continue to support clients both in-person and through eServiceCanada.

While a multi-channel service delivery model was always part of the Department's vision, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of innovative ways to deliver critical services.

Thanks to our remarkable employees, both on the front lines and behind the scenes, eServiceCanada was able to help Canadians pay their bills and make ends meet.

It's an impressive number: 2.3 million. Behind every call was a Canadian we helped during a difficult time. It's what we do.

The contributions you make every single day matter—and we sincerely appreciate all that you do.

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

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

January 28 - #ThankYouThursday: a very special mention and anniversary

Dear colleagues,

For this week's special #ThankYouThursday, we would like to celebrate a special leader in our organization. She won't be happy we are doing this as she always wants to give credit to others.

In early 2020 when it became clear the pandemic was going to have a dramatic impact on Canadians and place demands on our organization like never before, our leadership team at all levels quickly sprang into action to prepare for what was to come. Of course, at the time, we didn't know quite what to expect. Nobody did.

What we did know, is that the department would have to mobilize and re-align benefits, programs, personnel and resources to ensure Canadians received urgently needed assistance, all the while transitioning the vast majority of our staff to work remotely.

We have answered millions of calls, re-aligned staff to critical services at the onset of the pandemic, accelerated our efforts to digitize our services to Canadians, and supported our temporary workforce like temporary foreign workers and students through various programs.

As we have said many times, this seemed like an impossible task a year ago. However, as we reflect on our recent accomplishments, we can see that billions of dollars of supports have been paid out to Canadians and well over 20,000 employees are now working remotely. We did it! You did it!

For those at the senior management table, this meant many meetings with our branch and regional leaders, our colleagues from other government departments and officials in central agencies. It also meant multiple ministerial briefings and trips to Cabinet, appearances before Parliamentary committees, and discussions with the most senior officials in government including the Clerk and the Prime Minister.

These countless meetings, long days and late nights are not easy. It's hard to sustain this pace and it can be exhausting, especially with the stresses of everyday life. Indeed, we have all been busy and we have all struggled in our personal lives. Many say it is during the most challenging of times that leaders emerge. This is no exception here at ESDC and Service Canada.

The late, great American poet, Maya Angelou, once said the following about leadership:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." – Maya Angelou

With this in mind, Gary and I speak for our entire senior management team when we say there is one person in particular who made us feel supported, motivated, and valued throughout this crisis. Someone who is thoughtful, optimistic and empathetic, and whose perspective is singularly guided by the best interests of Canadians. Someone who possesses the attributes of a natural leader, with these qualities engrained in their very being and who generously nurtures them within others.

And that person is our Chief Operating Officer, Lori MacDonald. 

So, on the one-year anniversary of your arrival at ESDC and Service Canada, it is only fitting that this special #ThankYouThursday should go out to you, Lori. It is hard to articulate the profound impact that you have had on our organization over the past twelve extraordinary months. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, humour and humanity, and above all, thank you for inspiring us. Every day of the past year has been another occasion for you to show us all what it means to provide exceptional leadership in unprecedented times.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

January 21 - #ThankYouThursday: PHAC call centre serves 1 million people

This #ThankYouThursday, we are celebrating an incredible milestone: in January 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) call centre, supported by ESDC employees, served its one-millionth person since the start of the pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the PHAC call centre was conceptualized and set up in record time to help travellers (Canadian citizens and non-citizens) and Canadian public health authorities manage the 14-day quarantine and isolation period in the safest way possible.

In addition to the initial call centre, the service delivery partnership between Service Canada and PHAC has resulted in other new services, such as an automated survey for travellers to report their symptoms and a survey that validates travellers’ compliance.

The willingness of many employees throughout the Department to step up and support this new endeavour with PHAC demonstrates your remarkable dedication to serving Canadians.

This milestone was made possible by exceptional individuals from branches and regions across our organization who are unwavering in their commitment to serve the needs of Canadians. Through your important work, you are keeping Canadians safe and supporting the enforcement of the Quarantine Act, designed to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19.

It truly was a department-wide effort. During initial lockdowns, employees from across the country were reassigned to help out. Today, the call centre is supported by employees from the Benefits and Integrated Services Branch; the Citizen Service Branch; the Innovation, Information and Technology Branch; the Chief Financial Officer Branch; Legal Services; the Privacy Management Division; and the Transformation Management Branch, among others.

We want to take a moment to congratulate every one of you who has worked and continues to work on this initiative, and to celebrate this tremendous milestone with you. Your contribution is what makes this a success.

We look forward to hearing more about your important work in the coming months.

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

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

January 18 - COVID-19: Update

As we all know, 2020 was a trying year for all of us and for our communities across the country. We expect the coming year will be a busy one, but one that also shows promise for the future. Thank you once again for your contribution to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and to Canadians.

As many parts of the country are seeing alarming increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, a number of provinces have adopted new COVID-19 measures, including quarantine guidelines, temporary shutdowns, curfews, stay-at-home orders for employees not performing critical functions, school changes/interruptions, and limiting movement of people within or across their boundaries.

We all have a social responsibility to adhere to public health advice and recommendations in our respective jurisdictions. However, certain employees will continue to report to the physical workplace so that we can continue to offer critical services to Canadians in person, online, and by phone.

These elevated restrictions or changes in COVID-19 zones may impact our workplaces or how certain work is performed. We want to remind you about the measures ESDC,  Service Canada and the Labour Program have in place regarding access to the workplace, Leave with Pay for Other Reasons (699), foreign telework and international travel.

Access to the Workplace

To protect the health and safety of our employees, and follow the guidelines of municipal and provincial health authorities, access to our workplaces will continue to be restricted to employees providing critical services who are not able to carry out their work remotely and are approved to be in the physical workplace.

As we have indicated in prior messages, employees who do not provide critical services should not be accessing the workplace at this time.

Employees who perform critical services in the physical workplace, regardless of the province or territory in which they work, should always carry government identification and other photo identification when moving between territorial and provincial boundaries to go to work.

When and if required, managers may wish to equip their critical employees with a letter confirming that they are employed in a critical service capacity, which is available through their Branch Management Services representative.

Employees who continue to report to the workplace are to follow the protocols and procedures established in the workplace via the Toolkit for Employees: Currently in the Workplace. It is essential that employees and managers are aware of their obligations and follow these protocols to ensure the health and safety of each other.

In cases where employees are required to carry out specialized fieldwork functions, such as investigations, additional business line protocols must be in place, reviewed in advance and carefully followed.

Remember, for those who continue to access the workplace or perform field work, you must stay home if you are showing COVID-19 symptoms, are awaiting a COVID-19 test result, or were instructed to do so by your local public health authority. Employees must immediately report a suspected or confirmed case to their manager so the manager can take the appropriate action.

Leave with Pay for Other Reasons (699)

It is important to note that the guidelines issued on November 9, 2020 by the Treasury Board Secretariat are still valid (Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Employee illness and leave).

Before employees are granted Leave with Pay for Other Reasons (699) by their managers, employees and managers are encouraged to have a discussion and review the employee’s individual circumstances, in order to explore the available options.

Managers should consult Labour Relations by submitting a request through the Human Resources Service Centre prior to approving or denying a request for Leave with Pay for Other Reasons (699).

Telework

For those requesting to work remotely outside of Canada, you must first discuss your request with your immediate supervisor who will coordinate with the appropriate departmental authority (e.g. security, HRSB, IITB), including seeking your Assistant Deputy Minister’s final decision.

International travel

We remind all employees that the Public Health Agency of Canada is continuing to advise Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada. We strongly encourage you to respect this advice.

Mental Health Resources

We understand and recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone. As such, please remember there are a wide range of services and supports available to you to support your mental wellbeing, including the Employee Assistance Program. This program is available to employees and their family members 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether you are in distress or need mental health support during the pandemic. The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate help to all Indigenous people across Canada and is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition, numerous tools and resources can be found on the departmental Workplace Mental Health page, and in the recently launched My Wellbeing – An Employee Guide During COVID-19. Finally, the Government of Canada Mental Health Tips for Working from Home During COVID-19 also contains a number of resources.

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

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

January 14 - #ThankYouThursday: CPP and OAS Operations; and the Pensions Network

Dear colleagues,

We want to take the opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year and welcome you back. We hope you all spent quality time during the holiday season to rest and connect safely with your loved ones. For many of us, that meant gathering virtually.

Throughout the pandemic, ESDC employees have demonstrated they have an aptitude for finding innovative solutions to provide a high level of service to Canadians.

On this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to shine a light on the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) operations, as well as the Pensions Network for their dedication and remarkable efforts to ensure Canadians continue to receive their pension benefits.

Last March, over 3,600 employees in 13 offices across Canada adapted to remote working, which meant incorporating digital solutions to continue to provide critical services to Canadians.

The group undertook a massive effort to digitize pension applications, which were mostly paper-based and manually administered. They also implemented several temporary client-focused operational policy and process improvements, which ensured a seamless and uninterrupted delivery of pension benefits. In 2020, they delivered an impressive $100 billion in benefits to about 8 million beneficiaries!

Despite the pressure to maintain ongoing operations, the group also implemented CPP Proactive Enrollment—a 2019 Federal Budget commitment. As a result, eligible seniors who are 70 years or older but have not applied for their CPP retirement pension are now getting the benefits they are entitled to receive. To date, over $55 million in CPP retirement pension has been paid out.

To add to their list of successes, this group supported the delivery of the newly introduced financial aid payments to eligible Canadians.

By collaborating with the Innovation and Information Technology Branch (IITB) and Common Systems for Grants and Contributions (CSGC), the group succeeded in tapping into other digital systems to deliver the one-time payment to about 6.7 million Canadian seniors in eight weeks. An additional 67,000 seniors received the one-time payment and nearly 75% of these beneficiaries are now receiving payments for either Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) or Allowances, which are available to low-income OAS seniors.

The group also continues to collaborate to support the one-time payment to Persons with Disabilities by processing as many Canada Pension Plan Disability applications as possible.

We’d like to extend our sincerest gratitude to these teams working across the country for their recent successes in contributing to the quality of life for the most vulnerable Canadians. Thank you!

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

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

December 17 - #ThankYouThursday: Thank you to all ESDC staff

Dear colleagues,

Over the past several months, we have been sharing weekly #ThankYouThursday messages with you to express our gratitude for the tremendous work across the organization to help Canadians get through this difficult period. Your dedication and compassion are reflected in the benefits, programs and services we deliver at a time when they are needed most.

You have given the best of yourselves to Canada and to Canadians while managing your own personal lives under the pressures of the pandemic. Whether you are coping with the challenges of living alone, caring for loved ones or struggling with the overall stress of uncertainty, we know it has not been easy.

While we normally thank a branch, a group or a team, this week we are thanking each and every one of you – the almost 30,000 staff across the country, working in our regional offices and at national headquarters – for the remarkable contribution to our organization.

From our policy shops, legal teams, operations staff, inspectors, 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 MS Teams or helping vulnerable clients over the phone, you are all heroes.

As the year comes to a close, we encourage you to reflect on all that we have achieved by working together in the face of adversity; and how we have turned our challenges into opportunities as we look ahead. 

And, as a small token to mark your achievements, each of you will receive, if not already, a Deputy Ministers’ certificate of recognition and appreciation from your manager or supervisor in the coming days. 

Please accept our warmest wishes to you and your loved ones during the upcoming holiday season.

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

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

December 10 - #ThankYouThursday: Insurance Payment Operational Centres

If there’s something strange in the EI Benefit Payment System, who you gonna call?

If an EI claim needs special work to be processed correctly, who you gonna call?

Just like the Ghostbusters who tackle strange phenomena, when claims need special attention to solve out of the ordinary occurrences, we call on the Insurance Payment Operational Centres, or IPOCs, as they are affectionately known.

On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to thank this small but mighty group of specialized Employment Insurance Processing Agents across Canada who are responsible for a wide variety of tasks that support the critical delivery of the Employment Insurance program.

Since the start of the COVID‑19 pandemic and the implementation of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), there has been immense pressure on IPOCs for specialized work related to EI to ensure Canadians are supported during this very difficult period.

IPOC’s accomplishments include the processing of 172,000 returned payments since March 15. This is six-times the normal yearly volume of returned payments they action. It was imperative that this group came together in order to replace these payments as quickly as possible, as the COVID‑19 virus shocked the economy and more importantly, Canadians, in ways that have never been seen before.

Millions of Canadians were unemployed and had their main sources of income interrupted. Ensuring Canadians received income assistance without delay was essential. In addition, IPOCs have also been responsible for the correction of thousands of EI claims with blocked claimant reports, which require manual intervention in order for Canadians to receive the correct payment, and the efficient conversion of CERB to special benefits.

Currently, the regional IPOC units are heavily involved in the correction of thousands of high priority claims related to the Work-Sharing Program that is being closely monitored by Parliament, as it aids greatly in getting the economy back on track during and after the pandemic.

Through the past months, IPOCs have been steadfast in working as hard as they can with the resources available to them. Like any Ghostbuster, staff and management go about their day tackling the work that needs to be done, while consistently providing the highest quality client service, for which Service Canada is known.

Moreover, when times get tough, they tirelessly go that extra mile to support Canadians when they need it the most. Additionally, while the transition to working remotely has had its challenges due to program and system complexities, they have successfully made the transition with grace and professionalism.

So at this time of year, when we are thankful for so many things, let us thank the management and staff of IPOCs for all they do each day. As they say, there is no “I” in team. We are proud to have IPOCs on our team.

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

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

December 3 - #ThankYouThursday: Fall Economic Statement

Dear colleagues,

Earlier this week, the 2020 Fall Economic Statement was presented in Parliament, providing an update on the Government 's plan to continue to support Canadians through the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure a strong economic recovery.

In light of your tremendous efforts to help Canadians during the pandemic, it 's no surprise that employees across the Department stepped up once again to provide Finance Canada with input that truly shaped this year 's Fall Economic Statement. As you may have heard, this plan contains many measures involving our programs, benefits and services, including:

  • laying the foundations for a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system;
  • helping young people (through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy and Canada Summer Jobs, by eliminating interest on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans);
  • investing in training and skills (through Indigenous Skills and Employment Training, the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, the Foreign Credential Recognition Program, and the Women 's Employment Readiness Pilot);
  • addressing homelessness; and
  • supporting a task force on modernizing the Employment Equity Act.

This is why, for this #ThankYouThursday, we would like to highlight the hard work and dedication of employees with the Strategic and Service Policy Branch, who coordinated more than 20 proposals on behalf of our Department for the Fall Economic Statement, and the Chief Financial Officer Branch to track and cost the financial aspects of those proposals. The success of your impressive behind-the-scenes work was also made possible by invaluable support from employees in branches and regions across the organization.

Assistant Deputy Ministers from branches and regions participated unfailingly to weekly meetings to coordinate the Department 's proposals and keep the train on track. To support and complement this work, Directors General from across the organization collaborated together through a special working group.

As the Fall Economic Statement was being prepared, the global pandemic continued to create uncertainty. Teams who were involved in this process had to be especially nimble, by adapting quickly and constantly adjusting our proposals to ensure they respond to the present challenges faced by Canadians.

Our important contributions to this year 's Fall Economic Statement are a testament to the importance of your work in supporting Canadians, not only through these challenging times, but also to help ensure the country 's post-COVID-19 recovery is robust, inclusive and sustainable.

We are grateful for your professionalism, excellence and creativity as we deliver on the Government 's priorities. And we thank you for all the great work you do for Canada and Canadians.

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

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

November 26 - ESDC Charitable Campaign: #ThankYouThursday

Dear colleagues,

On this week's #ThankYouThursday, we want to shine a light on the many employees who are the driving force behind fundraising for the annual ESDC Charitable Campaign, and, more broadly, on all those of you who have embodied the spirit of giving.

We'd like to start by giving a special mention to ESDC's Charitable Campaign Champion, Catherine Demers, who has graciously accepted the role for the second year in a row, and to Chen Han (Hank) Ko, the campaign's Youth Champion from YMAGIN. Thank you for your leadership and for helping to bring some bright ideas to life in this unprecedented year.

We'd also like to shine the spotlight on the Branch Champions and Coordinators who have been finding creative solutions to motivate a spirit of giving during uncertain times. As well, we couldn't do it without the volunteer Ambassadors who personally connect with employees, provide help and support, and give their time to making fundraising activities special. The Campaign would not be the success that it is without your dedication and commitment.

Importantly, we want to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to you, our ESDC employees, for generously giving to the campaign year after year. Without your contributions, those in need would continue to suffer and go without, and charitable partners would not be able to advance their critical work.

As you know, ESDC is in the people business. We administer services and programs that affect people's daily lives, probably more than any other department or organization in Canada. And that's true now more than ever.

Our staff care about their fellow Canadians and take pride in working for an organization that helps people, often during very trying times in their lives.

So, in addition to thanking you today for your past campaign contributions, we would like to encourage you to once again open your hearts and donate generously to the campaign—if you can—and demonstrate that caring nature you are known for.

November 30 is the last day to use ePledge to donate using payroll deductions, which is one of the easiest ways to support the ESDC Charitable Campaign. To date, we have raised 77% percent of our overall target department-wide! You can contribute by clicking here. A few dollars can go a long way.

Thanks again to all our generous staff and to those behind the ESDC Charitable Campaign.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

November 20 - Mega-ConnEX 2020: A Government-Wide Young Professionals & Senior Executives Networking Event

Hello young professionals,

Tickets for Mega-ConnEX 2020 are now on sale!

The HC/PHAC Young Professionals Network hopes you can join us from home for our largest, most anticipated annual networking event.

Due to COVID-19, Mega-ConnEX 2020 will be making its virtual debut and will feature three virtual speed-networking sessions. Mega-ConnEX is an exciting opportunity for young and young-at-heart professionals from across the Government of Canada to connect with senior executives and fellow colleagues.

Whether you decide to attend one session or all three, don't miss your chance to buy your tickets as spaces are limited. 

Buy your tickets here, for any of the following sessions below:

#MegaConnEX2020 Speed-Networking Sessions
Tuesday November 24 Wednesday November 25 Thursday November 26
Speed Networking 1 5-6:30 p.m. (EST) Speed Networking 2 12-1:30 p.m. (EST) Speed Networking 3 7-8:30 p.m. (EST)

*Please note all ticket sales are final.

All proceeds from Mega-ConnEX will go directly to the 2020 Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC).

Each session will consist of four rounds of speed networking, where groups of 4 to 6 young professionals will meet with one executive at a time in a Zoom breakout room for 10-15 minute intervals. This will allow participants to meet with approximately four executives during the session to discuss issues and ask questions related to career development, work-life balance, and the inner workings of the Government of Canada. As part of Mega-ConnEX, young professionals will also have the opportunity to bid on mentoring sessions with executives to support the GCWCC during our Silent Auction.

For more information on this year's activities, including the list of participating executives and the Silent Auction, please visit the Mega-ConnEX 2020 GCpedia page.

Don't forget to follow the YPN on Instagram and Twitter for the latest on all things #MegaConnEX2020.

Thank you,

Your HC/PHAC Young Professionals Network Executive Team

November 19 - #ThankYouThursday: A word of congratulations from our Ministers

For this #ThankYouThursday, our Ministers would like to congratulate all employees for making ESDC one of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers for a second year in a row! Play video here.

November 12 - #ThankYouThursday: Chief Financial Officer Branch

Dear colleagues,

For this week’s #ThankYouThursday, we would like to acknowledge the remarkable work of employees in the Chief Financial Officer Branch (CFOB). They have played a key role during this pandemic by providing financial and administrative support throughout the department to ensure we continue delivering the programs and services Canadians need.

This pandemic created a situation where ESDC had to respond and adapt quickly to unforeseen challenges. CFOB demonstrated flexibility and innovation by working side by side with program and service delivery leads to redesign our financial, procurement and project management processes and systems. They needed to do this to secure the necessary funds for our programs and ensure payments could flow to Canadians and organizations across the country – working closely with colleagues at the Department of Finance, the Treasury Board Secretariat and Public Services and Procurement Canada. They also proactively developed a risk mitigation strategy to address overpayment issues related to our benefits and services, helping to ensure a balance between delivering much-needed support to Canadians while maintaining the integrity of our financial resources and ensuring sound stewardship of government funds.

For example, their invaluable advice and support were needed when the Canada Student Loans Program helped reduce financial hardships for students and not-for-profit organizations during the pandemic. To help support the Learning Branch in these efforts, our colleagues in CFOB developed creative and flexible options regarding the suspension of debt and interest collection.

As well, with the reopening of many Service Canada Centres, CFOB helped ensure our workspaces were safe by purchasing and installing Plexiglas, signage, floor and wall markers as well as personal protective equipment for employees. CFOB continues to work diligently to ensure our multiple office locations are safe and ready for when employees return.

CFOB was also a key partner in enabling employees to work from home and continue delivering services and benefits to Canadians. They worked closely with Shared Services Canada and IITB to purchase laptops, tablets, software, cell phones and headsets, quickly realigning funds to ensure we could achieve this in the required timeframes.

Our CFOB colleagues continue to provide procurement and financial management services as well as advice and guidance to support the department’s due diligence obligations during these challenging times, in areas such as financial and costing controls, project management controls, budget allocation, and internal and government-wide financial reporting. This included working very closely with programs and representatives of the Office of the Auditor General to ensure the successful delivery of the department’s financial statements during the pandemic.

We would like to extend our thanks to all CFOB employees for their passionate commitment to support employees across the organization and helping them deliver the programs and services Canadians count on. We are incredibly impressed and proud of your work.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

November 5 - #ThankYouThursday – Support for Canadians with Disabilities

We’d like to dedicate this week’s #ThankYouThursday to our employees who diligently worked to ensure that persons with disabilities across the country were supported through the department’s policies, programs, and services during the pandemic.

First, we want to recognize the employees from IITB, CFOB, Canada Pension Plan Disability program, and the Service Canada One-time Payment implementation team who have been working around the clock to ensure the smooth delivery of the one-time payment to persons with disabilities.

While the vast majority of eligible Canadians – approximately 1.6 million people – began receiving their payment on October 30, 2020, the work continues to prepare to deliver more one-time payments in January and spring 2021.

For several years, ESDC has been at the forefront of developing accessibility policy, programming and legislation, including leading on the Accessible Canada Act, which became law in July 2019. The Act also led to the creation of Accessibility Standards Canada, which creates and reviews accessibility standards for federally regulated organizations. This incredible accomplishment benefits all Canadians, especially persons with disabilities, by helping to create a barrier-free Canada.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, persons with disabilities have faced new and heightened challenges in how they live and work. Equipped with the Accessible Canada Act, staff across many branches and regions rose to the challenge to ensure persons with disabilities would get the help they needed. Employees from across the department worked tirelessly to ensure a disability lens was applied to decision-making on supports such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (including a top up for students with disabilities), the GST credit and the OAS/GIS top-up.

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) demonstrated its ability to act swiftly, leading to the creation of Minister Qualtrough’s COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group. Through their agile and quick actions, employees in ODI and Program Operations Branch added measures to existing programs while continuing to deliver on their ongoing work, which included ensuring that funding flowed to organizations in half the time compared to previous years.

To further support the department’s efforts, Skills and Employment Branch staff supported the creation of a National Workplace Accessibility Stream within the Opportunities Fund and provided enhanced funding under the Workforce Development Agreements, Canada’s largest investment in employment programming for persons with disabilities. In addition, Strategic and Service Policy Branch’s Social Policy team, ODI and Statistics Canada collaborated on the successful design of a crowdsource survey for persons with disabilities, engaging them to share their experiences during the pandemic.

All the while, Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch’s Accessibility Communications team has been working hand-in-hand with policy and program partners and Ministers’ offices, to ensure important messages on available programs and services reach the people who need to know.

There is so much important work ahead, including the development of Canada’s first ever Disability Inclusion Plan. Thanks to our dedicated and devoted employees, Canadians with disabilities will have greater and better opportunities than ever before. Enabling everyone to participate fully in our communities and workplaces without barriers helps make our country stronger, more inclusive and more prosperous. And because of that, we all win.

Thank you for your dedication and keep up the great work.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

October 29 - #ThankYouThursday – Job Bank Team

Dear colleagues,

We’d like to dedicate this week’s #ThankYouThursday to the Job Bank team in recognition of their outstanding work to enhance job search and career planning tools to help Canadians find and maintain work in this drastically altered labour market.

When it became clear the pandemic was going to have a significant impact on employment opportunities, the Job Bank team sprang into action to support Canadians and the economy through these uncertain times. The team worked long hours, including weekends and holidays, to create new resources for workers and employers, all the while maintaining Job Bank’s regular operations and responding to unprecedented volumes of enquiries.

At the onset of the pandemic, the Job Bank team looked for ways to mobilize recently laid off workers to fill vacant positions in key industries like healthcare or agri-food and agriculture. The team members began tracking new jobs in essential services early on, and quickly started working with their provincial and territorial partners to ensure these opportunities reached available workers. Within a few weeks, they sent nearly 1.5 million emails to Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) applicants all over the country, connecting them with important jobs in their communities.

Over the course of the following months, the team continued to adapt to keep up with the fast-evolving situation of the labour market. With help from the Innovation Information and Technology Branch (IITB), they introduced new features allowing employers to advertise virtual jobs and remote work opportunities, and job seekers to track their search activity for easy reporting. They also established connections with other job boards to help job seekers find everything in one place.

The team stood ready to support shifting priorities on short notice, pulling together many new initiatives in record time. For example, when the Government turned to Job Bank to help youth look for work — as a requirement for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) — the team built a new page full of job search advice within two weeks of the new benefit’s launch. The page has since been visited over 300,000 times.

As Canada enters a new phase of its economic recovery and EI-CERB claimants have been transitioning to a simplified and more accessible Employment Insurance (EI) program, Job Bank is already helping them get to the next step: successfully re-integrating into the workforce. By automatically notifying every EI applicant when new jobs matching their experience and location are posted, Job Bank can help some of them find work before they even have to claim benefits.

As Canada’s national employment service, Job Bank has long proven it plays a vital role in helping job seekers find work and employers recruit for their businesses across the country. But with an innovative response to unprecedented labour market shifts, the team has also demonstrated its dedication to providing Canadians with world-class digital services at a time when they need it the most. Thank you and job well done!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack

Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

October 28 -Pay Bulletin from ESDC’s Compensation Services Directorate

This bulletin will provide you with information on compensation and benefits and the resources available to you regarding the Phoenix pay system, including important information and tips to avoid pay issues.

In this Issue:

What’s New:

Spotlight On:

Actions required in myEMS (PeopleSoft)

As part of the upgrade from version 9.1 to version 9.2 of myEMS (PeopleSoft), which is scheduled for release on November 16, 2020, all ESDC managers must action requests for Leave with pay, Leave without pay (LWOP) for 5 days or less, and Overtime (Compensatory leave) that are pending approval in myEMS (PeopleSoft) by November 10, 2020. After this date, all previously identified leave requests that have not been processed by management will be automatically approved by the myEMS (PeopleSoft) system.

Your Pension and Insurance Benefits Statement

The Pension and Insurance Benefits Statement, which provides personal information about your entitlements and options, will not be issued this year due to ongoing pay system issues. The issuance of this statement will remain on hold until these issues have stabilized.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has published an Information Notice to remind you of other sources of reference for pension and insurance benefits information.

Pension legislation

The President of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat made a series of orders that extend certain time limits found in federal public sector pension legislation. These orders help to lessen the risk that a public sector pension plan member misses an opportunity or choice related to their pension benefit, because of deadlines that they were unable to meet during the pandemic.

Refer to the Information Notice for details on the specific changes to the orders, and their impact for pension plan members.

Employees concerned that they may have missed certain pension deadlines are invited to contact the Government of Canada Pension Centre for information regarding their particular case.

Requesting a Confirmation of Employment

Did you know that you can obtain a Confirmation of Employment letter in MyGCPay? The Confirmation of Employment letter will confirm the length of time you have been employed by the Government of Canada, as well as your current annual salary.

Employees can print the Confirmation of Employment letter once logged into MyGCPay, and provide it to their manager for signature. Refer to the Digital and Electronic Signatures infographic for more information regarding e-signatures.

In the event that an employee does not have access to MyGCPay, they may request a Confirmation of Employment letter directly from their manager. When filling out a request, employees are encouraged to follow the instructions outlined on the iService Confirmation of employment letter page.

SPOTLIGHT ON…

Timeliness of HR request submissions

In order to process HR and staffing requests in a timely manner, all ready for pay documentation (including the signed letter of offer and any supporting pay forms) must be submitted to the Human Resources Service Centre at least 15 business days in advance of an effective date. This will ensure that HR and the Pay Centre receive the required documents on time to help prevent pay issues. For more information regarding HR Action timelines, please consult the Staffing Timeliness infographic.

Compensation Services Directorate

Human Resources Services Branch

Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

October 22 -#ThankYouThursday – Human Resources Services Branch

Dear colleagues,

Today, we’d like to dedicate this #ThankYouThursday to the Human Resources Services Branch (HRSB) in recognition of the outstanding work you are doing to help support employees and managers during the pandemic – through every aspect of the workday – by providing world-class workforce and workplace policies, programs and services.

When COVID-19 began to spread, HRSB worked in collaboration with branches and regions to develop the Manager's Guide on Human Resources Issues during a Pandemic. The Guide provides managers with the information needed to help them support their employees, and to maintain a safe and healthy workplace environment. Employees in the Branch then developed a COVID-19 Hub page on iService that offered additional tools, resources and reference guides on managing HR issues such as working from home, staying connected, mental health and wellbeing, and health and safety.

The work didn’t stop there.

HRSB employees went above and beyond their regular contributions and collaborated across the department on many innovative tools, resources and services to support colleagues during the pandemic. For example, the Branch developed a Talent Marketplace tool to facilitate current and future reassignment efforts, and created a knowledge repository questionnaire in Saba to quickly identify employees who could be temporarily reallocated to our critical programs.

The HRSB team also introduced new measures such as electronic signatures, and an alternative approach to second language testing to ensure that HR actions could be streamlined. They launched the “Together, We Are Stronger” Awards and the Staying Connected Strategy to engage, mobilize and empower employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

To further advance learning across the department during these challenging times, the Branch developed virtual training and development opportunities on many topics, including Canada Summer Jobs and CERB for new call centre employees, and coordinated the latest Leadership Forum for ESDC’s executives. Additionally, the Branch continues to ensure that HR and training information are accessible to employees and managers through the HR info RH bulletin and the College@ESDC’s Connexion Corner bulletin.

These resources are in place to ensure our managers and employees are engaged and supported, and have the most timely guides and tools available. Please don’t just take our word for it. In the most recent Pulse Survey, 86% of the over 11,000 respondents indicated they feel supported by their immediate supervisor during the pandemic. Additionally, 87% of staff who took the survey indicated their immediate supervisor has shown flexibility, helping them balance their work and personal situation. The tools, resources and guides developed by HRSB contributed to supporting managers and supervisors in achieving these results.

HRSB employees are the foundation of many critical departmental initiatives. We’re glad to shine a spotlight on your team and the innovation, dedication and professionalism you put into your work. We are all very proud of you and grateful for the work you are doing.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

October 15 -#ThankYouThursday – Corporate Secretariat

Dear colleagues,

This #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of our colleagues working behind the scenes in the Corporate Secretariat. This team continues to rise to the occasion in providing their colleagues across the department and the Ministers' Offices with sound advice, guidance and expertise.

When Parliament suspended its activities on March 13, 2020, the Parliamentary Affairs team did not slow down—rather, they ramped up support as the department advanced legislation and regulations to help Canadians in need.

As some Parliamentary activities continued during the pandemic, the team organized briefings, coordinated briefing materials, and reported back to the department on the participation of our officials and Ministers at Parliamentary committees, all the while providing quality and prompt services.

Our outstanding Access to Information and Privacy Team has also been working day and night (literally) to review, coordinate and ensure quality control of all documents requested from committees, in record time. This work involved covering tens of thousands of pages, which was an unprecedented volume. They carried out these responsibilities in addition to their regular business of responding to access to information and personal information requests.

The Corporate Secretariat's Executive Committees team continued to support program delivery branches in helping to secure approvals for the highest recorded number of Work-Sharing Agreements. The team also supported the National Emergency Operations Centre with documenting the Record of Decisions for the Departmental Crisis Management Team meeting (which includes the Deputies and Assistant Deputy Ministers) with innovative approaches and at lightening pace.

Energetic privacy advisors within the Corporate Secretariat have worked hand in hand with program areas as the department introduced new programs and measures related to COVID-19, by providing privacy advice and guidance.

During the pandemic, the volume of correspondence and routing of briefing material to Ministers increased considerably. The Ministerial and Executive Correspondence unit (MEC) handled over 25,000 pieces of correspondence, compared to 9,574 for the same period last year. To expedite the process and create efficiencies, both MEC and the Ministerial Services Briefing Unit developed a paperless process with the offices of our four Ministers, the Deputy Ministers and the Chief Operating Officer.

The important work of the Corporate Secretariat is typically done behind the scenes, but today we are shining a spotlight on them. During these unprecedented times they have shown tremendous leadership and support to our department.

Thank you for your dedication to supporting your colleagues, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast, as we move through this difficult time together.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

October 8 -#ThankYouThursday – Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Dear colleagues,

This #ThankYouThursday, we would like to recognize the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) team for their resilience, creativity, empathy and sheer hard work in supporting Canada’s food supply and economy, while safeguarding the health and safety of Canadians and temporary foreign workers.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the TFWP multidisciplinary team of employees in regions and branches across Canada, including Integrity Services, Program Operations and Skills and Employment, have been mobilizing efforts to support Canada’s economy, particularly the agriculture industry. On one hand they fast-tracked the implementation of ongoing policy, regulatory and operational changes to modernize the Program, while at the same time, they implemented innovative measures to respond to the needs of Canadians and temporary foreign workers during the pandemic.

The list of TFWP accomplishments is long and keeps expanding, as the TFWP team continues working with partners across the federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as stakeholders such as source countries, private employers and migrant worker support organizations. Through their impressive collaborative efforts with branches and regions throughout the department to develop sound policy and robust planning, and working with external partners at the local, national and international levels, the TFWP team has gone above and beyond to support workers and employers during the pandemic.

A few of their important achievements include: working closely with border and immigration partners to enable the timely entry of temporary foreign workers into Canada; managing regulatory and policy reforms to safeguard public health and protect workers from COVID-19; conducting inspections; working collaboratively with other government organizations to keep Canadians and temporary foreign workers safe; and adjusting program rules in the context of rising unemployment, to ensure Canadians are given first consideration before approving employers’ applications.

We also want to recognize the work of employees within the Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch for their ongoing support to the Program by communicating critical information to Canadian employers and foreign workers to help them safeguard their health and navigate through this crisis.

Last but not least, we want to thank the employees who work in Legal Services for their important contributions to the TFWP. The incredible support that ESDC has received from these legal experts since the onset of the pandemic has been truly remarkable. Their advice and guidance in the drafting of legislation has been essential to our ability to deliver critical social programs.

Thank you for all your work as we continue to meet the challenges of the pandemic and move forward beyond. You make us proud.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

October 1 -#ThankYouThursday – Transition from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to Employment Insurance

Dear colleagues,

We’d like to dedicate this #ThankYouThursday to all employees who worked tirelessly to prepare for the transition of Canadians receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to a simplified Employment Insurance (EI) program on September 27.

As the CERB winds down, some 2.8 million Canadian workers impacted by the pandemic will now have access to the simplified EI program – including some 400,000 individuals who would not have qualified for EI in the past. Subject to receiving Royal Assent, new benefits would also provide Canadians with access to additional income supports, including the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

Helping Canadians pay their bills as they continue to look for work during this challenging time simply would not be possible without the sustained efforts of our highly knowledgeable, innovative and dedicated employees.

Our colleagues in Employment Insurance Benefits Processing, Employment Insurance Policy, the Call Centres Directorate, and Business Solutions Innovation were among the first teams at the onset of the pandemic who helped set up the CERB for success. Over the course of the spring and summer, you have been working long and intense hours to plan and prepare this transition for Canadians, all the while managing and responding to unprecedented volumes of inquiries from Canadians on our front lines.

Your planning efforts, and those of Strategic and Service Policy Branch, included forward-looking analysis, modelling and data mining, so that decision makers could fully understand the roll out and the resources required for returning to EI and setting it up to become the sole delivery system for employment benefits. As part of this planning work, employees from the Chief Financial Officer Branch worked tirelessly with departmental partners to help ensure the department has the financial resources needed to administer this monumental change.

You have continued to dedicate your efforts to ensure the process is as streamlined and straightforward as possible for Canadians to receive support and benefits. Always on hand to troubleshoot issues Canadians are facing and working to help those who need it the most, your teams epitomize the hard work and commitment we have seen from employees across the department, time and time again.

The Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations Branch and Digital Services team at Citizen Service Branch also worked around the clock to prepare for the transition in order to be ready to communicate critical information to Canadians through a variety of channels such as Canada.ca, social media and mainstream media. The work of both of these teams, along with regional colleagues, helps the department connect with millions of Canadians to ensure they are aware of and understand the full range of COVID-19 supports available to them.

Lastly, the important work that Legal Services continues to do during the pandemic is so important to emphasize. ESDC has been delivering critical social programs since the onset of COVID-19, made only possible with a great deal of legal advice and guidance in ensuring all legislative requirements were met. The support that ESDC has received from these experts in the drafting of Interim Orders and our most recent Bills C-2 and C-4 for Parliament has been nothing short of remarkable.

Going forward, we will continue working together to help Canadians get through the immense challenges many are experiencing. Your tremendous expertise and compassion make us proud to be a part of such a talented department. You are what makes everything possible, and we can’t express our gratitude enough.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

September 28 - Orange Shirt Day

Please join us September 30th to honour and recognize Orange Shirt Day.

This important day is a result of the experiences of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who was one of approximately 150,000 Indigenous children removed from their families over the course of 130 years to attend residential schools. On her first day at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in British Columbia, Phyllis’ new orange shirt, given to her by her grandmother, was taken away and never returned. The colour orange forever reminded her of that experience and “how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing.” 

Orange Shirt Day has become an important part of ESDC’s reconciliation efforts. This includes our commitment to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action # 57 to support employees in learning about the history and intergenerational impacts of Canada’s Indian Residential School policy on Indigenous peoples, their families and communities. Education and awareness are key ingredients to reconciliation and this day provides an opportunity for us to come together to acknowledge children who went to residential schools, and affirm that Every Child Matters.

This year is unlike any other, with many of us working virtually and spending more time with our families and in our communities. Although we may be marking the day differently, there are many virtual learning events taking place regionally and nationally. On October 2, we are honoured to welcome Phyllis to ESDC for a virtual presentation and for the reading of her children’s book, a powerful opportunity to hear her story first-hand, and share it with younger family members. Whether participating in a special event or registering for a course listed on the College@ESDC Indigenous Awareness page, there are many ways to learn more about this chapter in Canada’s history. Joining ESDC’s Indigenous Employees’ Circle, open to all employees, can also be an impactful way to learn and connect with your colleagues.

We are proud to witness the growing individual and collective commitment throughout ESDC to advance reconciliation. Certainly, this is a process and does not happen in one day, but each action we take brings us closer to understanding the impacts of the present and past, and contributes to positive steps forward. This journey can also be very personal; for us, participating in the Kairos Blanket Exercise, which used interactive storytelling and blankets to tell the history of Indigenous peoples and the injustices they suffered, was powerful and moving. It allowed us to reflect in a deeply personal way on how we can all do our part towards reconciliation and fueled our desire to learn more. We encourage you to continue in your path to learning and explore what reconciliation means for you. 

With the Government of Canada’s recent announcement recognizing the Residential School System as a National Historic event, and designating two former schools as national historic sites, this year’s commemoration carries extra significance. On Wednesday, please join us and your fellow public servants, schools and communities across the country to honour Indigenous peoples who attended residential schools and their families. We encourage you to wear orange on September 30th and take time on this day to learn, understand and demonstrate that our shared history is a vital part of working towards reconciliation.

Sylvie Bérubé
National Indigenous Perspectives Co-champion and Assistant Deputy Minister, Western Canada and Territories Region

Karl Carisse
National Indigenous Perspectives Co-champion and Director General, Strategic Directions, Citizen Service Branch

September 24 - #ThankYouThursday – Quebec Region

Dear colleagues,

We’re dedicating this week’s #ThankYouThursday to our colleagues in the Quebec Region who continued to work on site during the pandemic, especially IT technicians and those working in document management, the mailroom, and purchasing and procurement. Their work, often behind the scenes, was crucial to our mission.

At the beginning of the pandemic, as the entire country prepared to respond to the crisis, the expression “building an airplane in mid-air” was often heard. The employees we are thanking today are the engine of that plane. Without them and their hard work, many Canadians simply would not have received the help they needed to make ends meet during the crisis.

To gain a better understanding of just how important their work has been during the pandemic, just think of all the EI claims, passport applications, Old Age Security applications and Guaranteed Income Supplement applications that arrive regularly in the mail. People needed to be on site to sort the mail, process the documentation received from each client, and forward applications electronically to agents working from home. It was also necessary to order, prepare and deliver materials in preparation for the reopening of Service Canada Centres in Quebec, all while there was a shortage of non-medical masks and hand sanitizer. And let’s not forget thousands of laptops needed to be purchased and set up, and computer equipment needed to be bundled and distributed to staff, while also providing technical support. And it was all done in record time!

We would like to recognize the courage of these teams and the speed with which they organized themselves to support their departmental clients, all while having to modify their tools and processes. They had to overcome legitimate fears—remember that the majority of the population was in lockdown at the time—to go into work. They were motivated by a common goal: to enable their colleagues to serve Canadians safely, whether from home or from one of our offices. Today, we salute their dedication and determination. It is their turn to receive our well-deserved praise!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

September 24 - Pay Bulletin from ESDC’s Compensation Services Directorate

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

This bulletin will provide you with information on compensation and benefits and the resources available to you regarding the Phoenix pay system, including important information and tips to avoid pay issues.

In This Issue:

What’s New:

Spotlight On:

COVID-19 – Guidance for managers: Disability Insurance Plan and Long Term Disability Insurance under the Public Service Management Insurance Plan

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has posted two Information Notices to provide guidance to managers on supporting employees who are returning to work after a period on Disability Insurance (DI) or Long-Term Disability (LTD), or who are submitting disability applications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information Notices:

Of note, the Disability Management iService page and its associated Road Map provide valuable information on our departmental Disability Management program and the appropriate actions to follow.

Should you or your management team require additional information or are seeking advice and guidance on a specific sick leave situation, please submit a request through the Human Resources Service Centre (General HR Enquiry Form > Disability Management).

New public service pay calendar

Employees are encouraged to reference the 2020 pay calendar to find paydays by month for federal public service employees. The calendar includes:

  • Information on how paydays and pay periods work.
  • Information on your first pay.
  • Additional resources about three pay period months, deductions, etc.

Employees can visit the Pay highlights webpage for more pay-related information and Public Service Pay Centre updates.

Temporary change in process: Group insurance benefit plans administration

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has provided an updated Information Notice on the temporary process changes for the administration of the group insurance benefit plans due to the implementation of the Phoenix pay system. The process changes have been extended until further notice, specifically until the Phoenix pay system is stabilized.

Spotlight on…

Timeliness of HR Request Submissions

In order to process your HR and staffing requests in a timely manner, all ready for pay documentation (including the signed letter of offer and any supporting pay forms) must be submitted to the Human Resources Service Centre at least 15 business days in advance. This will ensure that HR and the Pay Centre receive the required documents on time and will help prevent pay issues.

For more information regarding HR Action Timelines, please consult the Staffing Timeliness Infographic.

Compensation Services Directorate
Human Resources Services Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

September 18 - Multi-Benefits Delivery Service a.k.a. MBDS

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced many Canadians to unforeseen financial hardships. ESDC was here for them, providing financial support as millions adjusted to a new reality.

Measures included the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a supplement for eligible Canadians who were unable to work due to the unprecedented circumstances.

While many working Canadians received the CERB or Employment Insurance (EI), some were ineligible. One group includes fish harvesters. Many fishers unexpectedly lost income because of a decline in demand and lower market prices. The Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO) created a Grant Program to support self-employed fish harvesters in Canada affected by COVID-19, which includes two streams of payments:

  • The Fish Harvester Benefit provides income support to self-employed commercial fish harvesters, commercial freshwater fish harvesters and Indigenous fish harvesters;
  • The Fish Harvester Grant provides income support to offset business costs for self-employed commercial fish harvesters, self-employed commercial freshwater fish harvesters and Indigenous fish harvesters designated as equivalent to an enterprise head.

The challenge was to provide a mechanism to deliver the grant, which was new and outside of the regular Employment Insurance regime. And that’s where Service Canada came in.

The Benefits Delivery Modernization Programme’s Technology Platform team, led by Director General Andy Ladouceur, was tasked with developing the Multi-Benefits Delivery Service (MBDS) based on Cúram technology, a social program management platform new to ESDC, but used around the world.

The advantages of the platform include full end-to-end digital enablement with an easy-to-use online application, efficient claims management and complete support by virtual agents. The new MBDS proved to be an excellent solution to deliver the DFO grant, according to Andy.

“Using the Cúram technology offered by IBM Watson Health and engaging our trusted partners sped things up,” said Andy. “We moved from design to implementation in record time.” Since the DFO launch day of August 24, 2020, and at the time of this article, over 6,000 applications were received and over $47 million processed for payment through the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program to support Canada’s self-employed in the fishing industry. It’s an example of working together to achieve success.

“Months of work happened fast and collapsed into weeks for the delivery of payments using the MBDS,” said Andy. “It took a village to make this happen, including many of our own ESDC employees in service transformation, service delivery, partnerships, information technology and finance. Shared Services Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and private sector partners also contributed to the success of the MBDS.”

Still to come, using the MBDS, is the one-time payment for Persons with many of whom encountered challenges during the pandemic confinement.

Intrigued? Watch the WebEx on Multi-Benefits Delivery Service (MBDS).

Get in touch with us and join the journey.

September 18 - Robotics Process Automation a.k.a. RPA

As a result of COVID-19, millions of Canadians were suddenly out of work, forcing many to apply for benefits over a short period of time.

EI processing was put under pressure by such sudden volumes, leading some of the department’s top transformation minds to explore ways to reduce workloads related to processing. From there, bright ideas emerged and were put it into action, including automation through robotics.

The result is Robotics Process Automation or RPA. More importantly, it is a turning point and game-changer for how Canada is supporting Canadians to access government services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. RPA is innovative and uses programmed bots to automate the routine, repetitive and operational tasks. Better yet, it achieves this across multiple systems in record time, freeing up Service Canada Agents so that they can concentrate on more critical work that requires human intelligence and decision-making. With assistance offered from the bots, Agents can more rapidly provide Canadians with timely support and personalized services, for example, by phone--a communications channel often required by vulnerable groups and those living in remote communities who may have less access to digital services.

The advantages of RPA are numerous. Processing EI claims is complex for the service agent and there are many steps involved. RPA serves as their assistant. It can complete multiple logins simultaneously; it copies text from an email to a spreadsheet eliminating the more time consuming steps for the agent. While it seems straightforward, this saves the agent from having to do manual data entry, making way for faster connections that get social support payments into Canadians' hands. From a Service Canada Agent perspective, it means they can respond more rapidly to issues and focus on moving forward more claims in record time, improving the overall experience for both Agents and Canadians.

Employment and Social Development Canada EI Programs are piloting RPA with five processes involving 240 Service Canada Agents. It is an essential first step helping us to understand and solve potential problems and support the transition Canadians will have to EI from the winding down of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Lessons learned from the pilot will be implemented into future automation releases. Further, our Frontline Agents are a crucial partner for feedback, which is informing optimum design.

As we continue on the RPA journey, and rolling it out nationally, we are committed to keeping you informed about the next steps and how you get involved.

Intrigued? Watch the WebEx on Robotics Process Automation (RPA).

Get in touch with us and join the journey.

September 17 - #ThankYouThursday: W-T Citizen Service Branch

Dear colleagues,

Over the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communities across the country, including thousands of rural and remote communities. This week, we want to recognize the Citizen Service Branch (CSB) outreach teams from the Western Canada and Territories (W-T) Region, who realized early on the significant effects the pandemic would have on these communities, and quickly implemented innovative strategies to reach and support them.

Many CSB outreach employees have deep roots in the communities they serve and are intimately familiar with the unique challenges of rural life. Together with their colleagues from the In-Person Operations and Strategies directorate, the W-T Region leveraged this on-the-ground knowledge and piloted a new call centre specifically for vulnerable Canadians. Since April, a team of 30 W-T CSB employees supported this new Outreach Support Centre and addressed over 10,000 service requests. The team also proactively contacted all 512 of the Indigenous communities in the W-T Region in a matter of weeks - a tremendous effort to connect directly and ensure critical information reached these communities as soon as possible.

In addition to general outreach services, the CSB team worked closely with several communities undergoing hardships, such as the Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella, B.C., who made the difficult decision to suspend their annual Spawn on Kelp herring egg fishery. Of great financial and cultural importance to the Heiltsuk Nation, up to 700 band members typically participate in the harvest that was expected to generate $6 million in revenue. To help these community members access a variety of income support benefits, Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) partnered over several months to deliver telephone outreach services, including: taking EI and CERB applications; assisting with complex enquiries regarding previous fishing claims; OAS and CPP questions; as well as providing information to support tax filing.

The partnerships the region has formed have been instrumental in meeting Canadians’ and communities’ needs. For example, in hearing about the outstanding support provided in Heiltsuk, other First Nation communities contacted Service Canada and additional telephone information sessions were held in collaboration with the CRA and Indigenous Services Canada. In a different initiative, CSB worked closely with their provincial counterpart to establish a transfer service and call back appointments to quickly assist clients mistakenly calling Service BC.

We’re incredibly proud of the W-T employees who have stepped up to serve communities across the W-T Region, some of which are among the most remote and vulnerable in Canada. You have faced significant challenges during this time -- your work and that of your colleagues throughout the region has not gone unnoticed.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment and dedication.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

September 17 - 4,000 followers and counting: ESDC’s Twitter for employees is making strides

In October 2018, ESDC set its sights on something rather new to government: an open Twitter account for its employees—with the added benefit of telling the Department’s story to stakeholders, clients and Canadians.

For a department that is quickly becoming known for its transformation activities, perhaps it is no surprise that ESDC leveraged this tool unconventionally—but the channel’s popularity was something no one expected: @STP_PTS has just surpassed the 4,000-follower mark!

When working from home became necessary, @STP_PTS became an ideal (and critical) tool for communicating messages to staff who were experiencing network issues.

The channel continues to post content related to the pandemic, as well as success stories of all the great work ESDC staff are achieving, often from a distance.

If you don’t already, follow us! @STP_PTS can keep you informed on the latest COVID-19-related developments and important information for employees. We engage with followers via podcasts, photos, videos, infographics, blogs and appreciation posts. And if you tweet about us, remember to include our Twitter handle and the hashtag #ESDC.

Please like, comment, share and follow so we can reach our next big milestone!

Septemeber 3 - #ThankYouThursday: Labour Day 2020

Dear colleagues,

With Labour Day approaching, we want to take the opportunity on this #ThankYouThursday to thank you all for your tremendous hard work and commitment you have shown to ensure Canadians continue receiving benefits and services during this challenging period.

Each Labour Day we celebrate Canada’s workers and the major achievements of our country’s labour movement. This year, Canadians are particularly grateful for the tremendous work you have done to support them at a time when they need us most.

During these unprecedented circumstances, you are playing a critical role in Canada’s response to COVID-19. In every province and territory, from coast to coast to coast, you have stepped up to serve and support countless Canadians with professionalism and dedication.

We know these past several months have been difficult, and we recognize you have made sacrifices at work and at home. Whether adapting to working remotely, juggling family responsibilities, or taking on new roles in the department, you have not let your commitment to Canada and Canadians waver, and we could not be more proud. It’s because of your work that so many Canadians have been able to pay their bills and make ends meet during the pandemic.

In the spirit of Labour Day, we offer you all our sincere appreciation and admiration. You continue to make a difference. And for that, we thank you.

Happy Labour Day weekend!

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

August 27 - #ThankYouThursday: Legal Services

Dear colleagues,

On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to highlight the important role Legal Services has played during the difficult months of the pandemic.

Legal Services provides advice and support on issues that flow from policies and operations managed by ESDC, including legislative and regulatory initiatives.

Earlier this year, as our country struggled to quickly put in place measures to support Canadians affected by COVID-19, it became clear that ESDC would have an important role to play as we deliver some of the most critical social programs.

A great deal of legal advice and guidance was required from the outset and our friends in Legal Services have been providing valuable direction.

The list is long but today we would like to highlight the role Legal Services played in the urgent development, drafting and enactment of the legislative authorities required – including the interim orders - to formally launch the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and begin processing new claims in early April. It was a truly historic occasion in our organization, and a moment of great pride, when Ministers Duclos and Qualtrough announced that ESDC and its partner the Canada Revenue Agency would be rolling out a vital program that is simple, quick and easy to access for all Canadian workers.

It took a staggering amount of work to design and deliver the CERB. The success of that endeavour would not have been possible without the long hours and dedication that our Legal Services colleagues have put into responding to every critical legal request.

Legal Services are often the unsung heroes of many a departmental initiative. We’re glad to shed a spotlight on your team and the passion and professionalism you put into your work. On behalf of all of us here at ESDC, and the Canadians who ultimately benefit from your advice, we thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Anthony Giles
Acting 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

August 20 - #TYT: Reaching Home National Team

Dear colleagues,

The health and safety of all Canadians is always our government’s top priority. That’s why, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we asked Canadians to self-isolate and stay at home as one of the necessary measures to help curb the spread of this virus.

But what about those of us who don’t currently have a safe and secure place to call home? People experiencing homelessness are at particular risk of contracting COVID-19.  

On this #ThankYouThursday, we want to highlight the critically important work undertaken by our colleagues in the Homelessness Policy Directorate, Income Security and Social Development (ISSD) in NHQ; the Program Operations Branch (POB) Reaching Home Team in NHQ and all of the Labour Market and Social Development Programs (LMSDP) officials in the Western-Territories, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Regions.

Your compassion and commitment in developing supports for those who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness is integral to keeping all Canadians safe. Your tireless efforts ensured that the homeless-serving sector was prioritized and supported in the national response to COVID-19.

For example, when the federal government invested an additional $157.5 million in Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, Reaching Home, on March 18, 2020, you collaborated with your colleagues and community organizations across the country so that they could quickly purchase beds and physical barriers for social distancing and secure accommodations to reduce overcrowding in shelters.  You worked with the Public Health Agency of Canada to ensure that up-to-date guidelines for the homeless-serving sector were made available nationally. The Reaching Home team from coast to coast to coast was mobilized quickly, and as we have seen, very few communities experienced outbreaks in their local homeless shelter systems. Your dedication to this work helped communities across the country avoid a disaster. 

This is another amazing example of how ESDC employees – even while grappling with your own personal and professional COVID-19 related challenges – have put those struggles aside to ensure that those among us who are most at-risk are supported and kept safe.

We are all very proud of you and grateful for the work you are doing.

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

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Anthony Giles
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

August 13 - #ThankYouThursday – Learning Branch

Dear colleagues,

Today, we’d like to dedicate this #ThankYouThursday message to the Learning Branch in recognition of the outstanding work they are doing to help support students during this extraordinary time.

Millions of Canadians each year rely on the Government of Canada to help them on their educational journey. Without support, thousands of disadvantaged high school students would not consider a post-secondary education. Millions of Canadians would be unable to afford it. Thanks to Government of Canada programs, these individuals are building better futures and forging a stronger country.

When COVID-19 began to spread, one of the first steps taken was to freeze repayment of all student loans, effective immediately, to help Canadians keep their incomes for immediate needs. This was quickly followed by a brand new statutory program; the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. The Benefit has provided much needed income support to over 680,000 students who were unable to find work they traditionally rely on to help finance their studies. The Learning Branch has also provided rapid support to community organizations that need to digitize their services to disadvantaged youth; introduced enhancements to the Canada Student Loans Program that will expand benefits to students this fall; and plotted a new way forward for the Outbound Student Mobility pilot.

These considerable changes to our student programming occurred while the Learning Branch has continued to transform Canada Student Loans Program services and maintain its key corporate and program services, including both of its call centres.

As we celebrate the hard work and passion of Learning Branch employees, let’s pause and take time to reflect on the breadth of what we do for Canadians here at ESDC. We are here for Canadians at every important step of their lives, and the Learning Branch is no exception to that. Learning Branch employees are helping students prepare for a bright future amid these unprecedented circumstances and, for that, we all say a big thank you.

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

Benoît Robidoux
Associate Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting Deputy Minister of Labour

August 13 - Pay Bulletin from ESDC’s Compensation Services Directorate

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

This bulletin will provide you with information on compensation and benefits and the resources available to you regarding the Phoenix pay system, including important information and tips to avoid pay issues.

In ThIS Issue:

What’s New:

Great-West Life is now Canada Life

Your dental care plan has a new name ! Great-West Life, the administrator for the Public Service Dental Care Plan (PSDCP), is now the Canada Life Assurance Company (Canada Life). You will continue to have access to your personal PSDCP information through the unique GroupNet website, which has been changed to include Canada Life . Your login ID and password remain the same.

Additionally, GroupNet has introduced an upload function. You can now upload a photocopy, scanned document or a picture of your claim directly. To find this feature, login to your GroupNet account, go to Make a claim and then select Upload documents.

If you have not yet registered with GroupNet, you can visit the GroupNet website and log in as a new user by clicking “Register Here” at the bottom of the page and follow the steps to create your profile. Visit Canada.ca for more information on how to register.

Public Service Dental Care Plan (PSDCP): Temporary Extension of Dependent Children’s Eligibility

The Government of Canada recognizes that coverage for some dependent children may expire during the suspension of non-emergency dental services preventing them from receiving required dental services or treatments. Therefore, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada is implementing temporary measures for the administration of the Public Service Dental Care Plan (PSDCP) and the Pensioners’ Dental Services Plan (PDSP).

These measures are designed to help lessen the impact of the suspension of non-emergency dental services and support the recommendations of public health authorities for physical distancing. These measures will be in effect for one year from a date determined by the Government of Canada once non-emergency dental services are again available. This date will be communicated once determined.

Visit Canada.ca for more details on eligibility and instructions on how to submit a claim.

Province of Work for Taxation Purposes Will Remain the Same during COVID-19 Pandemic

For employees working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec have confirmed that the province of work for taxation purposes will not change.

This means that if you are currently teleworking from your home in one province, and you normally report to an office located in a different province, the province used to calculate your payroll deductions at source continues to be your normal work office location. These deductions include Federal and Provincial/Territorial income taxes, Employment Insurance (EI), Québec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Québec Pension Plan (QPP).

The same policy applies to designated paid holidays. Designated paid holiday entitlements are based on the location of work indicated on the employees’ letter of offer and the applicable collective agreement. Employees remain entitled to a provincial/civic holiday recognized in the province where their position is located (their office location). Refer to the collective agreements for public service for more information on designated paid holidays.

For managers receiving questions from employees on this matter, please refer to the Manager's Guide on Human Resources Issues during a COVID-19 Pandemic.

Compensation Services Directorate
Human Resources Services Branch
Employment and Social Development Canada / Government of Canada

August 6 - #ThankYouThursday – Ontario Region

Dear colleagues,

Without the hard work and dedication of our regional employees, our department would not have been able to help as many Canadians as we have during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why this week, we want to extend a special thank you to our colleagues in Ontario Region.

We would like to highlight the exceptional work completed by Ontario’s Communications and Marketing team. In January, when COVID-19 was known simply as “the coronavirus,” the impending impact on Canadians was still unknown. But, true to form, the Communications and Marketing team of the Strategic Services Branch in Ontario Region demonstrated real leadership by proactively coming up with innovative strategies to keep Service Canada employees and visitors safe.

Their mission was clear: keep senior managers informed on the impacts of the pandemic, ensure that senior managers stay connected with employees virtually, fill any communications gaps and promote digital platforms so that Canadians can access the benefits and services they need.

To that end, the team engaged with Health Canada to gather content for the Ontario Region’s intranet, and facilitated the connection between Health Canada and the national Digital Display Network to broadcast videos about reducing the spread of infection. To further support national efforts, they offered their creative talents to the Citizen Services Branch at national headquarters to create signage informing Canadians that Service Canada Centres were closed. They also recommended content for Service Canada’s Twitter account to help promote the use of online and digital services.

They supported internal activities as well, developing a new internal COVID-19 resources page, an Appreciation Corner to thank employees for helping Canadians, and weekly corporate messages to help senior regional management communicate with more than 6,000 Ontario Region staff members.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Communications and Marketing team for their tremendous intuitive and innovative work to promptly support, inform and reach as many employees and Canadians as possible during the pandemic. While we shine the spotlight on them today, we want to thank all employees in Ontario Region for their devotion and commitment, and for bringing their very best to help Canadians during this difficult time, whether they are working to deliver services directly or providing a supporting role. We thank you. 

Stay well. Stay safe.

Graham Flack
Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development

Gary Robertson
Acting 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

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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