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

Updated: June 30, 2020

This guidance remains in effect until 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, leave provisions are available to you depending on your circumstances. In some cases, you may be granted ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’.

In all circumstances:

  • You would otherwise be available for work if not for COVID-19.
  • You should discuss options for flexible work arrangements and/or working remotely with your manager before making leave requests.
  • Managers will need to examine individual cases on their own merits (i.e. choosing to travel to affected areas contrary to public health advice or government travel advisories, those who are at increased risk of more severe outcomes due to various factors, etc.).

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.

For more details on the use of ‘Other Leave with Pay’ (699) by the public service during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may refer to the summary dashboard.

Requesting leave

  • You have COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive

    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

    If you think you might have symptoms, take a self-assessment.

  • You, or someone you live with, are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19

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

    • at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as described by the Public Health Agency of Canada and cannot work remotely, or
    • 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 worksite, and the need of services for the safety and security of Canadians.

  • A family member has tested positive with 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 conditional on the applicable provisions of your collective agreement or terms and conditions of employment.

  • Family-related responsibilities related to childcare Updated

    As daycare and summer camp programs are gradually being put into place, we expect that employees who previously could not work due to childcare obligations will be able to return to work.

    If you remain unable to work your full hours due to childcare responsibilities, you should attempt to make alternative care arrangements. If that is not possible, discuss flexible work hours and/or remote work options with your manager. If that is not possible, you may be granted ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’

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

    ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ can continue to be applied in situations where employees are not equipped to work remotely and their worksite remains closed, although with increased network capacity and departmental resumption plans in development, we expect the use of this leave for these purposes will diminish over the coming weeks and months.

  • Vacation and other leave Updated

    You are encouraged to plan and take vacation leave, despite the current circumstances.  Planning and scheduling time away from work is important in supporting your well-being and mental health.

    Generally, you are expected to use your vacation leave credits in the year that they are earned.  ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ should not be used in place of annual vacation leave.

    Managers should continue to have regular discussions with their employees on scheduling vacation leave.

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

    Please note that if you choose to travel to affected areas contrary to public health advice or government travel advisories while on vacation leave, you may not be entitled to ‘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.

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 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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