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.

Leave requests

Updated: April 6, 2020

This guidance, effective , will remain in effect until non-critical business is authorized to resume, or as otherwise indicated by the Treasury Board Secretariat. This may occur at different times across the country, in accordance with instructions from public health authorities.

Employee leave policy

All employees who are in good health and able to work, including those required by a public health official to quarantine (self-isolate), should continue to work remotely, wherever and whenever possible. If it is not possible for you to do so, you may be granted ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’.

Managers may need to examine individual cases on their own merits (i.e. choosing to travel to affected areas contrary to public health advice, those who are at increased risk of more severe outcomes due to various factors, etc.).

If you are unable to work because of COVID-related illnesses, you will also be eligible for ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’. This means that you are:

  • diagnosed with COVID-19
  • experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as described by the Public Health Agency of Canada and cannot work remotely
  • living with someone that is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as described by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and cannot work remotely

If you are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, or living with someone who is, you are expected to be in regular contact with your manager, who will assess the need for continued leave. This assessment will take into account your working conditions, the protective measures in place at your work site, and the need of services for the safety and security of Canadians.

As a member of the federal public service, you are asked to adopt a good faith approach in using this leave, keeping in mind the need to provide critical services to Canadians at this time. Your manager will ask you to attest to the situation preventing you from working.

Vacation and other leave

Due to the present circumstances, if you have submitted leave but have not yet started vacation, or you have requested to shorten your vacation, you may request to cancel it and work instead. If remote work or other suitable arrangements are not possible, ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ may be used.

Similarly, if you are returning from other leave and suitable work arrangements cannot be made, you may be eligible for ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’.

In all circumstances, ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ should only be used in cases where an employee would be available for work if not for COVID-19. Employees who are unavailable because they are on vacation or other leave must continue to claim the appropriate leave credits.

If a family member becomes ill

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 conditional on the applicable provisions of your collective agreement or terms and conditions of employment.

Family related responsibilities related to daycare or school closures

If your children cannot attend school or daycare due to closures or because of attendance restrictions, you should:

  • attempt to make alternative care arrangements
  • if that is not possible, discuss with your manager the option to telework
  • if that is not possible, you may be granted ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’

Students, term and casual employees

Students, casual employees and term employees of less than three months are also impacted by the response to the pandemic, where they may be required to stay at home to telework, to self-isolate or are under quarantine. Accordingly, delegated managers are encouraged to use their discretion under the Directive on Leave and Special Working Arrangements to extend them paid leave in these circumstances. 

Under Section 2.2.2 of the Directive on Leave and Special Working Arrangements, managers have discretion to provide leave with pay to an individual who does not have the capacity to report for duty or remain on duty, due to environmental or climatic conditions. This provision is interpreted as encompassing pandemics.

Paid leave should only be provided to students, casuals and terms of less than three months whose work is determined by a schedule, and who are required to be absent for hours they otherwise would have worked. In no circumstance should paid leave be extended beyond the term of employment. 

Employees in these categories whose first day of work commenced on or after March 18, 2020 are not expected to be eligible for paid leave. 

Temporary Public Service Health Care Plan changes Updated

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 dependants access healthcare benefits, while at the same time, minimizing their social interaction with healthcare professionals as well as supporting the physical (social) 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 should call Allianz toll-free at 1-800-667-2883. Those in all other countries should call Allianz collect at 519-742-1342.
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