Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Employee illness and leave

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If you become ill

If you are ill or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, reduce your contact with others. If you live with others, stay in a separate room or keep a 2-metre distance, if possible. If you must visit a health care professional, call ahead or tell them when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness. You may be asked to wear a mask while waiting for or receiving treatment to prevent the spread of the illness.

If you were in the workplace while ill, public health authorities will engage in contact investigation and management. Contacts are identified and categorized based on the exposure risk level (high, medium or low/no risk). They will also conduct a variety of other procedures including facilitating laboratory testing, clinical treatment and management cases in a home setting. It is important for the employer and employees to follow the advice of the public health officials.

Under circumstances such as these, it is natural to experience anxiety. You may wish to speak to your manager/supervisor, who will be able to advise you on services available to help, including programs such as the Employee Assistance Program (available to federal employees and their families). 

For more information please consult the GC’s COVID-19 and mental health at work infographic.

Who to inform

If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing while working, you should

  • inform your manager
  • go home if you are working on-site (avoiding the use of public transportation)
  • follow the advice of the local public health authorities

If you are/were in the workplace and it is confirmed by a health care provider that you are/were infected with COVID-19, under the Canada Labour Code, this would constitute a workplace hazard. As such, you have a duty to report this hazard to management. This information helps the employer determine a time period when you were in the workplace before self-isolation and if other employees would have been exposed.

If you need to take time off because of COVID-19

Effective: November 9, 2020

All employees who are in good health and able to work, including those required by a public health official or medical practitioner to quarantine (self-isolate) or isolate, should continue to work remotely, wherever and whenever possible.

Managers will need to examine individual requests relating to ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ on a case‑by‑case basis, in consultation with their Labour Relations Advisor. Generally, ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ can be considered if:

The use of ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ by public servants during this pandemic has gradually decreased since the initial onset of remote work in March 2020. For details, you may refer to the summary dashboard.

Requesting leave

  • You have tested positive for COVID-19

    COVID-19 infection, described next.

    If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you must follow the guidance of your local public health authority. Do not report to a worksite; if possible, work remotely.

    If you are too ill to work some or all of your hours, you are expected to use your existing sick leave credits.

    If you do not have enough sick leave credits, you may be eligible for ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ to cover the infectious period as defined by the relevant public health authority.

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19 and/or are required to isolate

    COVID-19 symptoms and/or isolation requirement, described next.

    If you are experiencing symptoms and/or required to isolate or quarantine , you should arrange to be tested for COVID‑19 as soon as possible and in accordance with public health recommendations. You should not go to your worksite.

    You may be eligible for ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ if:

    • you require time off to get tested
    • your work requires you to be onsite, and
      • remote work is not possible, and
      • you have been instructed to isolate or quarantine by a medical practitioner or public health authority

    If you are too ill to work once your isolation period has ended, you are expected to use your existing sick leave credits.

    If eligible, ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ could be available unless

    • you make a personal choice to be tested, or
    • you have travelled against public health advice and Government of Canada travel advisories and are required to isolate or quarantine
  • You, or someone in your care, are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19

    High risk of experiencing severe symptoms from COVID-19, described next.

    If you work onsite, you may need to refrain from returning to the worksite (in accordance with public health advice) to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 because:

    • you are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as described by the Public Health Agency of Canada, or
    • someone for whom you have a duty of care is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as described by the Public Health Agency of Canada

    If your regular duties cannot be performed remotely, you should discuss with your manager the possibility of alternate remote work.

    If these options are not available, you should discuss your leave options with your manager. Paid leave options such as family-related (where applicable) should be used first. You should also schedule your vacation leave allotment that has been earned this year. It is important to remember that employees should take all their vacation leave in the year it is earned. Scheduling vacation leave in advance means it is set aside and used for that purpose.

    ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ could be granted, on a case‑by‑case basis, if the level of risk to you or someone in your care is significant, based on factors such as:

    • your working conditions and the protective measures in place at your worksite
    • the number of active COVID-19 cases in the community
    • how a return to the worksite increases your infection risk, in the context of the overall actions you take to limit your exposure to COVID-19
    • opportunities for you to manage the risk of transmission at home or to make alternate care arrangements
    • Note: you may be required to provide documentation from a medical practitioner in exceptional cases.
  • You have a family member who has tested positive for COVID-19

    Each situation should be evaluated on a case‑by‑case basis, and open communication with your manager is encouraged. Granting leave with pay for family-related responsibilities is subject to your manager’s approval and subject to the applicable provisions of your collective agreement or terms and conditions of employment.

  • You have family-related caregiving responsibilities

    COVID-19 and caregiving responsibilities, described next.

    There may still be employees who face caregiving challenges. You may find yourself in circumstances in which:

    • an unexpected loss of caregiving arrangements for a child, a family member or a dependent in your care has occurred
    • a child, family member or a dependent in your care is diagnosed with COVID-19, or is required to self-isolate
    • a child, family member or a dependent in your care is not attending school in person and their online education and learning activities requires your supervision
    • a child, family member or a dependent in your care is at high risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19, or lives with someone who is high risk

    To help manage these responsibilities, you should:  

    • attempt to make alternate care arrangements
    • discuss remote work or flexible/alternate work hours

    If you cannot make alternate arrangements, paid leave options such as family-related (where applicable) should be used first. You should also schedule your vacation leave allotment that has been earned this year. It is important to remember that employees should take all their vacation leave in the year it is earned. Scheduling vacation leave in advance means it is set aside and used for that purpose. You should discuss your leave options with your manager.

    ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ will not be available if you have access to school, daycare or community services for someone in your care, but have chosen to keep them home.

    It is generally expected that you would continue to work some hours during the week if you are granted ‘Other Leave With Pay (699).’

  • You are not equipped to work remotely, and your worksite has not opened

    Technological or work limitations due to COVID-19, described next.

    Increased network capacity to accommodate remote work has reduced the need for leave for these purposes.

    In limited situations, ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ could be granted if:

    • you do not have access to the tools (equipment, software, internet) to work remotely
    • your work requires you to be onsite, however
      • your building is closed, or 
      • there are restrictions on the number of employees that can be onsite at one time
    • alternate duties, or alternate work locations, are not available to you.
  • Students, term and casual employees

    While students, casual employees and term employees of less than three months are not eligible for ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’, they may be eligible for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit or Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

Benefit plans: Temporary changes

Public Service Health Care Plan

The Government of Canada has implemented temporary changes to the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP). These 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 physical distancing directive.

These measures include:

  1. Extending travel emergency benefits
  2. Accepting claims for social workers and psychotherapists as mental health professionals
  3. Removing the requirement for a prescription for mental health and physiotherapy services
  4. Honouring existing paramedical prescriptions that have recently expired

These temporary changes will be in effect until  non-critical business is authorized to resume or as indicated otherwise.

More information on these changes is available in the updated Public Service Health Care Plan - information notice.

Plan members who require assistance with travel-related medical emergencies:

  • In Canada and the United States - call Allianz toll-free at 1-800-667-2883
  • In all other countries -  call Allianz collect at 519-742-1342

Public Service Dental Care Plan and Pensioners’ Dental Services Plan

Temporary measures for the administration of the Public Service Dental Care Plan (PSDCP) and the Pensioners’ Dental Services Plan (PDSP) have been introduced 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.

For more information:

Disability Plans – Temporary Changes New

New guidance has been made available to managers to help them support employees who are returning to work after a period on Disability Insurance (DI) or Long-Term Disability (LTD), and who are submitting claims for benefits. These temporary measures will be in place until further notice.

  • To apply for DI Plan benefits, 4 forms (available on the Sun Life website) must be completed and sent to Sun Life:
    • Employee’s Statement
    • Attending Physician’s Statement
    • Employer’s Statement
    • Compensation Advisor’s Statement
  • To apply for LTD Plan benefits under the Public Service Management Insurance Plan, 2 forms (available on the Canada.ca/pension-benefits website) must be completed and sent to Industrial Alliance:
    • Member’s Statement 1 (form 5945) containing the Member’s Statement and the Attending Physician’s Statement
    • Member’s Statement 2 (form 5946) containing the Supervisor’s Statement, additional member information, and the Compensation Advisor’s Statement

      On a temporary basis, an employee’s more senior manager may instead complete and submit the Supervisor’s Statement form, provided they indicate that they are doing so due to the unavailability of the employee’s direct supervisor or manager.

For more information:

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