Messages for employees only – Employment and Social Development Canada

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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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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