COVID-19 response: appearance before the Standing Committee (March 10, 2021)

ECCC’s COVID-19 response


What has been the impact of COVID-19 on ECCC operations and what have you done to prepare the workplace for the safe return of employees? How much has it cost?

Background/current status

ECCC has implemented flexible work options and new strategies to support employee health and wellbeing and maintain departmental operations throughout the pandemic. For ECCC employees that are required to access the workplace, measures are in place to ensure their health and safety. The department’s risk-based approach includes a comprehensive COVID-19 response framework and algorithm to guide decision-making regarding the return of employees to the workplace. Task Hazard Analysis and Safe Work Procedures were developed, implemented and updated for field work, laboratory operations and office work.

Only a subset of ECCC employees are expected to access the workplace during the pandemic. To ensure the health and safety of ECCC employees, maximum occupancy will be managed via the mandatory use of a booking through the Return to Workplace Application. Maximum occupancy by building and floor have been determined based on criteria such as occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations, National Building Code requirements and physical distancing measures. In addition, all employees and managers accessing the worksite had to take the “Access to the Worksite” mandatory training and awareness session.

The Department-wide launch of the Return to the Workplace Application (RTW App) took place on November 18, 2020 and as of mid-February over 25,000 requests have been submitted in the RTW App.

In addition, the Department has installed COVID-19 prevention measures in all ECCC facilities in consultation with our various bargaining agents and OHS committees throughout the Department. ECCC has installed TBS approved signage and floor markers throughout our buildings to require staff to maintain minimum physical distancing. Prevention measures in effect are in-line with guidance from health authorities and central agencies. These measures include mask wearing, enhanced cleaning measures, hand cleaning and disinfection stations and training for all employees working on site.

Up to 96% of the workforce is operational despite challenges related to COVID-19.

The Department has completed a planning and preparation exercise to guide the eventual return to the workplace for ECCC employees. The departmental plan outlines a gradual and phased approach to the return to the workplace. The phased approach is based on federal, provincial and local public health measures and advice. The movement between phases, and gradually increase of the number of employees onsite, is dependent on the various public health emergency measures in effect across Canada.

From a financial perspective, how is ECCC impacted by the COVID-19?

In terms of expenditures related to COVID-19, ECCC has incurred a total of $15.9M as of January 2021. These expenses are mostly related to the statutory authority for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, representing $11.3M and the remaining expenses of $4.6M were absorbed within the Department’s existing reference levels.

In early June 2020, new funding to support ESDC-led Youth Employment and Skills Strategy was announced including $11.4M in 2020-21 for ECCC, primarily within grants and contributions. This funding supports the government’s announcement for ‘’Supporting Students during COVID-19 through Youth Employment and Job Skills Programming” and is mainly provided through a statutory appropriation contained under the Public Health Events of National Concern Payment Act. This additional funding was presented in the 2020-21 Supplementary Estimates B. Of the $11.4M in funding received, $11.3M was spent.

As of January 2021, ECCC absorbed $4.6M in Operating expenditures for:

- Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Other expenses (masks, goggles, hand sanitizer, protective equipment, task team, etc) Total
Funding approved $11.4M - $11.4M
Department existing funding used - $4.6M $4.6M
Expenses as of Jan 31st $11.3M $4.6M $15.9M

How many employees are currently using code 699?

What is the total accumulated cost to the Department of employees using code 699?

How many employees are working remotely?

How many employees are working from the office?

How much has the Department spent to equip a remote workforce?

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