Message from the Chief Human Resources Officer: COVID-19: situational update

Message from the Chief Human Resources Officer: COVID-19: situational update

October 6, 2020

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

As we have seen over the last few weeks, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Canada is rising. Governments and public health authorities are responding with measures according to regional and local circumstances and needs. As colleagues, we continue to work together to manage a national workforce in conditions that vary across the country.

We must do everything we can to limit further spread of the virus. Public health authorities have signaled that physical distancing requirements are more important than ever and must remain in place. This means that many public service employees will continue to work remotely, and effectively, for the foreseeable future.

Provinces and territories, most recently Ontario and Quebec, are issuing guidance in response to regional realities. You should continue to rely on the Guidebook issued by TBS, Health Canada, and PSPC to prioritize the health and safety of employees as we ensure the continued delivery of key programs and services to Canadians. The Guidebook is grounded in the latest science from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Chief Public Health Officer.

As a federal workforce, we will continue to be guided by Health Canada’s occupational health guidance, which includes wearing a non-medical mask and/or cloth face covering “when physical distancing is not possible or is unpredictable”, for example in worksite hallways and common areas.

I would like to acknowledge the tremendous ongoing work being undertaken across government to ensure that there are safe worksites available for those employees who absolutely cannot work remotely as a result of technical or operational limitations. I also commend managers and employees who are adapting to the context of COVID-19 by making use of flexible work arrangements, for example to allow employees with school-aged children at home to work outside of normal working hours. I would reiterate that ‘Other Leave with Pay (699)’ should be considered only after flexible or alternate work arrangements have been considered and on a case-by-case basis.

Exercising the full range of employment options and arrangements, in line with collective agreements, helps keep our employees safe, demonstrates our commitment to their careers and well-being, and ensures our capacity to continue delivering critical services to Canadians during these extraordinary times. I urge you to draw on the expertise of labour relations advisors to ensure coherence, fairness and transparency in this effort. Managers are encouraged to visit the Employee Illness and Leave page on

With the resurgence of positive COVID-19 cases in our communities and the tightening of some restrictions once again, employees and managers should be reminded of the wide range of services and supports available, including the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program, the Public Service Health Care Plan, and the mental health resource hub.

I have downloaded the COVID Alert app. I encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already. It is an important tool in our collective effort to protect our communities and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you for your ongoing collaboration.

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

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