COVID-19: Information for Canada Revenue Agency employees

COVID-19 Update: Help us help Canadians! – March 27, 2020

The Agency is taking a people first approach in realigning its resources to ensure that all Canadians and businesses are supported if they are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Our guiding principles, notably being people centric, supportive, and one team, are fundamental in helping us do exactly that. 

In early April, Canadians will be able to apply to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).  The CERB is a historic initiative, aimed at providing financial assistance to an unprecedented amount of Canadians in a record amount of time, so they and their families can withstand the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the new benefit becomes available, we expect a surge in calls from Canadians eager to get access to financial relief.  We want our lines to be fully accessible and for callers to interact with a real person on the other end of the line.  We need your help to respond to general questions about the new benefit, so as to free up our call centre agents to respond to the more complex and account specific calls.

As public service employees, our duty and mission is to provide services to Canadians. As CRA employees, we have made a commitment to be fair, trusted and helpful by putting people first; standing firm behind our vision has never been more important.

If you are able to help, please reach out to your manager or visit Infozone by logging into the network before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. ET, before Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at noon.

Thank you.

Bob Hamilton
Commissioner

Christine Donoghue
Deputy Commissioner

Frank Vermaeten
Assistant Commissioner
Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch

Gillian Pranke
Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch

COVID-19 Update: Time reporting for employees who work irregular hours (7A) – March 27, 2020

Further to our message on March 18, and given the continued situation, we will continue to automatically pay employees who work irregular hours (7A) and are required to submit a time sheet to be paid, for the period of March 19, 2020 to April 1, 2020, payable on April 15, 2020. The hours paid will be the same as those hours reported for the pay period from March 5, 2020 to March 18, 2020. The payment will not include additional hours worked or overtime. You will be required to make any adjustments when you return to the office. This process will continue until normal operations resume.

If your schedule increased on or after March 19 and the automatic process will cause you financial hardship, or if you have not had any hours reported and paid, please send an email to the Compensation Client Service Centre at CCSC-CSCR@cra-arc.gc.ca to provide your schedule.

COVID-19 Update: Time reporting for employees who work irregular hours – March 18, 2020

Employees who work irregular hours and are required to submit a time sheet to be paid, will be automatically paid for the period of March 5, 2020 to March 18, 2020 payable on April 1, 2020. The hours reported will be the same as the hours you reported for the last pay period from February 20, 2020 to March 4, 2020. The payment will not include additional hours worked or overtime. Any adjustments can be made upon your return to the office. This process will continue for the following pay period, pay cheque dated April 15, 2020, if the situation does not change.

If you have not had any hours reported and paid on March 18, 2020, please send an email to the Compensation Client Service centre to provide your schedule effective February 20, 2020, onwards. If this results in a financial hardship, please contact the Compensation Client Service centre by email.

Message from the Chair of the Board of Management: COVID-19

I would like to take a few minutes of your valuable time to have a word with all of you. I do not often have the opportunity to talk with you directly, but I do so today on behalf of myself and the members of the Agency's Board of Management. The Board and I want to thank you for your efforts, your sacrifices, and the dedication you have shown over the past several days.

Did you know that the Board of Management Governance Manual tells us to encourage sound management and effective service delivery? Although these guidelines apply to the Board, it is clear they are at the heart of the work that you are doing to offer Canadians the best possible service, despite the situation in which we all find ourselves.

Our thanks go also to the employees we have asked to stay at home and put on hold the projects they were working on. To those of you who are not logging on so that your colleagues can access the network, please know that your actions have a positive impact on our daily lives.

I also want to highlight the seriousness with which you are adopting the many public health recommendations. I understand that for some of you social distancing may be an additional burden, but this measure is temporary. You are doing it in everyone's best interests, including your own.

Once again, the Board of Management and I thank you for the outstanding work that you are doing day after day.

Suzanne Gouin
Chair, Board of Management
Canada Revenue Agency

Temporary Public Service Health Care Plan changes

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

In summary, these measures include:

  • Extending travel emergency benefits
  • Relaxing the dispensing limit for maintenance medications and allow the pharmacist to exercise professional discretion whether to dispense the medication sooner
  • Accepting claims for social workers as mental health professionals
  • Removing the requirement for a prescription for mental health and physiotherapy services

These temporary changes will be in effect until April 24, 2020, with the possibility of being extended.

More information on these changes is available on Canada.ca. 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.

COVID-19 Update – March 23, 2020

Good evening,

Since last week, we all have been adapting to a rapidly changing environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that many of you across the organization and specifically on the front lines, have remained hard at work, in exceptional circumstances since the beginning of this crisis. We know that the last several weeks have meant long hours and constant efforts for those of you who, either remotely or on site, have been working to ensure that we can continue to deliver critical services for Canadians. We are deeply grateful for your ongoing dedication, understanding that it is stressful for both you and your families.

As a follow-up to our March 17, 2020 message, today we are sharing the Agency's National COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan, which has been created to provide national direction for coordinated implementation at the local level to ensure the continuity of:

  • Activities associated with the CRA's internal management of the organization's response to the pandemic as it relates to the health, safety, and security of our workforce;
  • Benefits payments to recipients, and associated functions, including, processing of returns, and responding to calls received in CRA's call centres in the hope of facilitating greater financial relief to Canadians;
  • Activities associated with the CRA's contribution to the Government of Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it relates to supporting Canada's economic resilience during the pandemic; and
  • Agency leadership through the mobilization of our key teams and stakeholders to oversee, manage and deliver the Agency's critical services and to support the Government of Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are continuing to implement an ambitious roll-out of measures and equipment to enable as many employees as possible to work remotely, including call centre agents. Nevertheless, as we prepare to launch the newly announced economic initiatives in early April, and as we continue to deliver benefits that are critical to many Canadians, we know that many of our clients will require our support, now more than ever. As a result, we anticipate that it will continue to be necessary for some of you to perform some work onsite, including in our call centres. The government and the Agency very much appreciate the efforts of employees who continue to deliver critical and important services from our office locations. Due to the current situation and as continued measures are taken to reduce exposure to the virus, the Agency will reimburse transportation costs (parking, taxis) for employees who provide critical services and who must report to their work location.

In collaboration with our union partners, managers at all levels continue to assess the situation as new information and guidance from public health authorities becomes available. We are continuing to implement measures to ensure the health and safety of all employees who support critical services in the workplace, including more stringent disinfection protocols and arrangements to enable social distancing.

Please visit the National COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan for more information on the critical services provided by each branch.

Our commitment is to be as agile and responsive as possible to issues that develop, and to always strive for clear communication. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, priorities will be reassessed and some activities currently not deemed critical may become critical. We will continue to share updates with you, and your manager will be in touch should these changes affect you directly.

As more critical services are brought online in our effort to deliver services to Canadians, we remind you that it is essential that all other employees not performing critical services stay home and respect the current guidance when logging into the CRA’s network using secure remote access.

Again we recognize this situation is stressful for you and your families, friends and communities. If you need support, please remember you and your family members can connect with the Employee Assistance Program.

We are working through this together with the best interest of Canadians and our employees at heart. Thank you for your continued efforts that are contributing to the Government of Canada’s wider pandemic effort.

Bob Hamilton
Commissioner

Christine Donoghue
Deputy Commissioner

COVID-19 Update – March 20, 2020

Good afternoon,

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the CRA has been working closely with government partners to establish measures to support Canadians who may have difficulties filing their income tax and benefit returns or with cash-flow in the coming months.

As the Prime Minister announced on Wednesday, fiscal measures are being implemented to help Canadians during this difficult period, some of which affect tax-filing and payment deadlines. The following changes are now in effect for this tax-filing season:

  • For individuals, the deadline to file 2019 income tax and benefit returns has been deferred until June 1, 2020. For trusts having a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019, the deadline to file returns has been deferred until May 1, 2020.
  • Taxpayers and businesses will be allowed to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18, 2020 and before September 2020. This applies to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part 1 of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
  • Electronic signatures will be temporarily recognized as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act for authorization forms T183 or T183CORP.
  • Outreach programs that support individuals will now be available over the phone and through webinar, where possible, rather than in person.
  • Small or medium (SME) businesses will not be contacted to initiate post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks. For the vast majority of businesses, audit interactions will be temporarily suspended.
  • The Liaison Officer service for owners of small businesses will now be available over the phone, rather than in person, and information will be customized to ensure small businesses are aware of any changes to deadlines, relief measures, etc.

The Government is also proposing to provide a one-time special payment to low- and modest-income families by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC) as well as to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year.

These measures will help Canadians meet their tax obligations while they may be experiencing hardships due to circumstances beyond their control.

Whether you are an employee providing critical services to Canadians or are currently at home, your efforts make a difference. With this in mind, the CRA has reduced staff, which is slowing down some of the services we still offer, such as at our call centres.

We invite you to stay informed not only through communications you will receive from your manager, but also through our social media channels. Subscribe to the CRA’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter, our RSS feed and visit the COVID-19: Information for Canada Revenue Agency employees page to find out about the latest developments.

We also encourage everyone to visit the CRA’s COVID-19 page on Canada.ca which has information on new measures put in place to help Canadians, important changes to deadlines, information on benefits, credits and support for individuals, and much more. 

We understand that these changes will greatly impact the Agency’s work and processes and we wish to thank all of you for your continued dedication to help Canadians during this difficult and challenging time.

Bob Hamilton
Commissioner

Christine Donoghue
Deputy Commissioner

Message from the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue: COVID-19

Hello everyone,

I wanted to take a few minutes to let you know that I’ve been thinking about all of you a lot lately. The measures announced by the government to date will be crucial to helping Canadians get through this difficult period, and their implementation will fall on your shoulders.

In addition to the CRA already being in the middle of tax season, we have now been tasked to implement additional measures to provide financial help to Canadians—all while having a reduced workforce. Most of the measures announced must be implemented by the CRA such as additional CCB and GSTC payments, as well as the new Emergency Care and Emergency Support Benefits.

I understand that this is putting additional pressure on the Agency’s employees. I really appreciate all the hard work you’re doing, whether from the call centre, your office or your home office. You are on the front lines, working to implement the measures that will help your family, friends and fellow citizens get through this situation.

At this time of crisis, it’s more important than ever to be kind and compassionate to one another and to take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

To each and every one of you working at the Agency, you have all my gratitude and appreciation. Thank you again for your dedication and hard work.

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Revenue

COVID-19 Update – Cancellation of mandatory cash-out of vacation and compensatory leave – March 17, 2020 

As the situation related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) evolves, the Canada Revenue Agency has decided to cancel the automatic mandatory cash-out of vacation and compensatory leave for fiscal year 2019/2020 for all employees. In other words, the vacation and compensatory leave payouts will not be automatically cashed-out this fiscal year. The next automatic cash-out date of excess leave will be, in most cases, on March 31, 2021.

Employees can still request a voluntary cash-out of these leaves as per the applicable collective agreement or terms of conditions of employment. Any voluntary cash-out requests submitted by employees prior to March 17, 2020, will be processed as planned.

Should employees have any questions related to this matter, they are encouraged to contact their manager.

Dan Couture
Assistant Commissioner
Human Resources Branch
and Chief Human Resources Officer

COVID-19 Update – March 17, 2020 

Good afternoon,

Like other departments and agencies across the federal government, the CRA has a fundamental responsibility to continue to provide certain critical services to Canadians, and to contribute to the wider Government of Canada pandemic effort. If some of us are being asked to continue reporting to work, either in the workplace or remotely, it is because we are providing critical services to Canadians. Your efforts during this difficult time are appreciated.

Since our last message, the situation has continued to evolve. Today, we are announcing further changes to workplace restrictions to ensure your health and safety, and to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Effective today, March 17, 2020, and until April 5, 2020:

  • We will continue to ensure the continuity of benefits payments to benefit recipients and associated functions, but will be proceeding with a more limited on site presence in HQ and the field.
  • We will respond to incoming calls received in CRA’s call centres, which will operate at a significantly reduced capacity by relying almost exclusively on our remote call centre workforce for the remainder of the week.
  • We continue to be in a position to support activities associated with the CRA’s contribution to the Government of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it relates to supporting Canada’s economic resilience during the pandemic. At this time, these activities mainly involve contributions from Headquarters personnel in the Assessment, Benefits and Services Branch (ABSB) and the Information Technology Branch (ITB) that can, for the most part, be performed remotely.
  • We will, of course, continue to support activities associated with the CRA’s internal management of our organization’s response to the pandemic, especially as it relates to the safety and security of our workforce, and that can, for the most part, be performed remotely.

As more remote working equipment becomes available, over the next 24 hours, managers will be reaching out to those of you who are impacted by these changes to ensure you are set up and able to work remotely. If you have any questions, please reach out to your manager.

This latest direction reflects our discussions with our union colleagues, who, together with CRA senior management, have been considering how best to implement increased measures to ensure the health and safety of those employees who need to perform critical functions in the workplace, while helping to minimize the spread of the virus. We are grateful for their ongoing collaboration.

Many of us have been continuing to work since COVID-19, some of us in the workplace, others remotely, and many at a more intense pace as we continue to monitor developments and manage the Agency’s response. We wish to thank you, our employees, for your understanding and your continued dedication to service to Canadians as we continue to adjust to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.

We recognize this situation is causing a great deal of stress for many of you and your friends and families. Please remember you and your family members can reach out to the Employee Assistance Program if you need support.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will share updates with you as information becomes available.

Bob Hamilton
Commissioner

Christine Donoghue
Deputy Commissioner

COVID-19 Update – March 15, 2020 

Good evening,

Since our last message on March 13, 2020 efforts to slow the spread of the infection have evolved significantly, as we continue to face a unique set of rapidly changing circumstances. You, our employees, are our priority as we continue to balance the need to deliver critical services to Canadian taxpayers and businesses, with the need to contribute to local, regional and national efforts to respond to public health authorities’ advice and direction.

This update reflects the latest guidance issued by TBS OCHRO since our last message of March 13, 2020, up to and including the message sent to Deputy Heads at 6:01 p.m. on March 15, 2020.

Critical Services

In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and reduce drain on critical resources, effective today, March 15, 2020, and until April 5, 2020, only CRA employees who perform critical services for Canadians will be required to continue to work, remotely if possible. Your manager will communicate with you if your role is considered a critical service.

All other CRA employees are asked to stay home in order to minimize the spread of illness, and are asked to refrain from logging onto the CRA network using secure remote access to minimize impact on our ability to deliver critical services to Canadians and in the community.

For the purposes of this communication, critical services are understood to include the following (please note that this list is not exhaustive, and may be subject to change as the situation continues to evolve and the Agency may be asked to contribute to the Government-wide response in new and different ways):

  • Ensuring the continuation of benefits payments to benefit recipients, and associated functions, including the processing of returns and responding to calls received in CRA’s Income Tax and Benefit Enquiries and Business Enquiries call centres;
  • Activities associated with the CRA’s contribution to the Government of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it relates to supporting Canada’s economic resilience during the pandemic;
  • Activities associated with the CRA’s internal management of our organization’s response to the pandemic, especially as it relates to the safety and security of our workforce.

Where possible, employees supporting critical services should perform these services remotely. If you are a CRA employee who performs critical services, your manager will communicate with you and determine whether you should work from home or come into a CRA office. Where these functions must be performed in the workplace, arrangements are being made to safeguard the health and safety of employees through appropriate cleaning and disinfection protocols.

Only CRA employees and contractors who support critical services will be allowed to access CRA buildings.

We will communicate in advance of April 6, 2020, should there be a requirement to extend or modify this work restriction.

Leave

In keeping with the guidance issued by OCHRO on March 13, 2020, the following will apply.

Employees that are required by public health officials to self-isolate: If in good health, identified as supporting a critical service, and able to work, employees will be asked to discuss with their managers the option to telework. If that is not possible, the employees will be granted “other leave with pay (6990 code)” as per their collective agreements.

Individual cases may have to be examined on their own merits (i.e. if an employee willingly chose to travel to affected areas contrary to public health advice.)

Employees who are identified as supporting a critical service and whose children cannot attend school or daycare due to a closure or because of attendance restrictions in place in relation to the coronavirus situation. Employees will:

  • Attempt to make alternative care arrangements.
  • If that is not possible, they discuss with their managers, the option to telework.
  • If that is not possible, they will be granted “other leave with pay” (6990 code).

The above provisions for disruption of school and daycare operations related to the coronavirus will remain available to employees and managers for the duration of the disruption in the respective jurisdictions but will be reassessed by the Employer on April 3, 2020.

If you have any questions, contact your manager. Only if you are faced with a no pay situation, please send an email to the CCSC-CSCR@cra-arc.gc.ca.

In keeping with public health authorities’ advice, medical certificates should not be required during the pandemic.

Travel

The Government of Canada has issued an Official Global Travel Advisory (external link), requesting that all Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. Anyone returning from travel abroad is required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. You should also inform your manager.

Meetings

Whenever possible, meetings should be conducted via teleconferencing. A reminder not to use web conferencing, in order to minimize burden on the network.

If you are an employee performing critical services and working in a CRA building, and you believe that you are confronted with a possible or confirmed COVID-19 case, please immediately contact your local Public Health Authority and your manager.

Public Health Guidance

Looking after our people is our priority. We must all follow the PHAC and Health Canada workplace-specific guidance on the new Canada.ca page for Government of Canada employees as well as the direction of local public health authorities when specific cases arise. The authoritative source of information for Canadians on COVID-19 is Canada.ca/coronavirus and the Information Line at 1 833-784-4397. Since this is an evolving situation, managers and employees must consult this site on a daily basis.

For questions about COVID-19 in the workplace, visit the Canada.ca page for Government of Canada employees. This page will be expanded in the coming days to include more guidance and frequently asked questions.

If you are concerned about your health and safety, you should discuss your concerns with your manager who can refer to labour relations for advice.

Business at the CRA

The CRA is well positioned to respond to the emergence of COVID-19. The agency has comprehensive business continuity plans in place and the Agency COVID-19 Task Force has been established. A number of other steps are being taken that will help the CRA continue to deliver services to Canadians in a healthy and safe environment.

We recognize that colleagues across the country are actively participating in the containment effort, or are themselves in self-isolation. We want to take this opportunity to signal our respect and support for them and for those working tirelessly across government to support and serve Canadians.

We know these times are stressful. Please remember you and your family members can reach out to the Employee Assistance Program if you need support.

Your health and safety is our top priority. We will continue to monitor the situation and will share updates with you as information becomes available.

Thank you for your continued cooperation.

Bob Hamilton
Commissioner

Christine Donoghue
Deputy Commissioner

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