(Update) Local and federal occupational health guidance on masks

Message from the Chief Human Resources Officer: (Update) Local and federal occupational health guidance on masks

May 10, 2021

To: Deputy Heads, Heads of Agencies and separate Employers, Presidents of Regional Federal Councils, and Heads of Human Resources


Across the country, governments and public health authorities continue to respond to COVID-19 according to regional and local circumstances and needs. We continue to work together to manage a national workforce in conditions that vary across the country.

Most employees must continue working remotely, except when their tasks are deemed critical and require their presence in the workplace. In federal workplaces, we remain focused on applying the full range of public health measures and preventive practices.

As you know, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) issues public health guidance to provinces, territories and to all Canadians on how to protect themselves and others in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Provincial, territorial and local health agencies base their directives on those issued by PHAC, taking into account local considerations. 

Occupational health guidance from Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health program (PSOHP) indicates that non-medical masks should be worn in shared spaces indoors and outdoors as part of the preventive practices employees should follow (along with other public health measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing) to help prevent the introduction or spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These personal preventive practices are the most important measures for everyone to adopt at home, at work, and in the community. PSOHP’s guidance also notes that employees should follow local public health advice.

As the situation continues to evolve, it is important to ensure our practices continue to reflect PHAC and PSOHP guidance and local public health advice. With respect to face masks, federal departments and agencies should continue to work with their Occupational Health and Safety policy committees to adopt a tailored approach by workplace location, based on the local context for COVID-19, taking into account provincial, territorial, or local guidance on the use of medical and non-medical masks.
As we look ahead to better days, the President of the Treasury Board, on behalf of the Employer, has issued a statement urging all eligible federal employees to get vaccinated as the opportunity becomes available in their jurisdiction, and reminding them of leave available to them in support of vaccination.

Finally, as they continue to deliver the programs and services Canadians rely on, please remind employees and managers of the wide range of services and supports available, including the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program, the flexibilities introduced under the Public Service Health Care Plan, and the mental health resource hub.

Thank you for your ongoing support and collaboration.

Christine Donoghue
Chief Human Resources Officer
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

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