Easing of COVID-related restrictions at worksites and 2019 Mental Health Checklist

Message from the Chief Human Resources Officer: Easing of COVID-related restrictions at worksites and 2019 Mental Health Checklist

May 8, 2020

To: Deputy Heads, Heads of Agencies (including separate Employers), Presidents of Regional Federal Councils, Heads of Human Resources


Further to discussions among deputies in recent days, and while we continue to manage the implementation of exceptional measures in response to the pandemic,  I would like to give all of you a sense of the work we have begun in preparation for the easing of COVID-related restrictions at worksites. As Mental Health Week draws to a close, I would also like to thank you for your ongoing support to your employees in this difficult time and draw your attention to the results of our 2019 mental health checklist.

Easing of COVID-related restrictions at worksites

As recent data points to some flattening of the epidemiological curve in jurisdictions across Canada, a number of provinces are announcing their plans to begin easing restrictions and gradually re-open economies. On April 28, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a First Ministers’ statement on a shared public health approach to support restarting the economy. The principles agreed to in that statement, including coordination, collaboration and transparency, will guide both provincial and federal planning.

In anticipation of an easing of restrictions, representatives from departments and centres of expertise including PHAC, Health, PSPC, SSC, OCHRO and others have joined forces to develop integrated practical guidance that could be adapted by Deputy Heads in a range of circumstances across the public service. This guidance is based on a set of principles that will protect the health, safety and wellness of employees while also ensuring that programs and services which Canadians rely on will be maintained. Following consultations with bargaining agents, this guidance should be provided in the coming days to support deputy heads in exercising their accountabilities.

Public health authorities have signalled that social distancing requirements will remain; it is therefore expected that some combination of remote work and work in the traditional worksites will become the norm for the foreseeable future. Investments in technology, tools and digital skills will serve to maximize flexibility and productivity. Sector-specific guidelines (e.g., field work, natural resources or laboratories) under development by clusters of organizations and Health Canada will be provided, as applicable.

As departments begin to plan for an eventual return to worksites, the Government of Canada will continue to carefully follow public health guidance, including from Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the direction of provinces and territories as restrictions are eased and authorities advise that employees can safely return to their worksite. This planning will take into account the local situation, the priority of the work, and the safety of employees. 

2019 Federal Workplace Mental Health Checklist

This week is a fitting time to release the Federal Workplace Mental Health Checklist results.

The Checklist measures how federal organizations are adopting the Federal Public Service Workplace Mental Health Strategy and aligning to the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The report shows that years of making this a priority for the Public Service and part of the Management Accountability Framework have generated real progress in changing the culture, more specifically, raising awareness of psychological health and safety in the workplace and reducing stigma. It also points to areas that would benefit from additional efforts, such as developing first aid for mental health, peer support networks, or data collection. 

The 2019 Checklist report and dashboard will help support informed, evidence-based decision-making for improved workplace mental health and well-being. Individualized dashboards will be provided to your Head of HR in coming days and will be a particularly useful tool in your efforts to support employee mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results will also guide and direct the work of OCHRO’s Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the workplace to ensure we are meeting the needs of federal organizations and our key stakeholders. The Centre is a joint union-management initiative established in 2017. 

Questions or comments about the Checklist, or inquiries about how our Centre of Expertise can support your organization, can be emailed to GCMentalHealth@tbs-sct.gc.ca, and you can follow their work on Twitter.

Nancy Chahwan
Chief Human Resources Officer
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat / Government of Canada

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