Tag Archives: COVID-19

COVID-19: Contact tracing

Image of border crossing with the words "COVID-19"

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Provincial Health Authorities are failing to conduct proper contact tracing. People continue to test positive after having travelled abroad and the CBSA is not always notified.

Although we are working with the CBSA on having these lapses rectified, members continue to process COVID-19 positive travellers without ever knowing they have.

The following page will help those working air, rail and marine modes to identify possible exposure.

Should you have any concerns, contact your Provincial Public Health Authority immediately.

COVID-19: Guidebook on Easing Restrictions on Federal Worksites

The following message was sent by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Chief Human Resources Officer.

We are clearly entering a new phase in our country’s efforts to fight the new coronavirus. As recent data shows a flattening of the curve of new COVID-19 infections in multiple jurisdictions across Canada, provinces and territories are announcing plans to ease restrictions and gradually re-open economies.

To guide your organizations’ plans in response to this easing of restrictions, OCHRO, Health Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada have assembled guidance in the form of a Guidebook for Easing Restrictions: A guide to support a gradual, safe and sustainable easing of COVID-19 restrictions at federal worksites. It has benefited from contributions from a cross-section of deputy colleagues and members of the National Joint Council. Essential excerpts can be accessed here; for your convenience, I am providing direct links to OCHRO’s guidance, PSPC’s guidance and Health Canada’s occupational health tool kit.

Your organizations’ plans will need to be consistent with the same principles that have guided our collective response to the pandemic to date: being informed by the decisions of public health authorities, the direction of provinces and territories, and the local public health situation; putting the physical and psychological health of our employees first; and, preserving the delivery of services and programs.

As you adapt your plans to the particular circumstances of our diverse workforce, your worksites, your partners’ and stakeholders’ needs, and to the nature of your work, I invite you to continue to involve bargaining agent representatives in your planning through your respective Occupational Health and Safety tables.

This unprecedented situation will challenge the public service on all levels for some time, and we will continue to seize this unique opportunity for us to shape the future of our work. For example, employees of all levels will be able to continue working from home as we maximize the contribution of all members of our workforce through new telework collaboration tools and an expanded onsite presence.

I would like to thank you for your ongoing efforts towards a successful and sustainable transition, most recently through the participation of your designated lead planners to ensure a coherent approach in this significant government-wide transition exercise. This is a time for leadership at all levels to shine.

Guidance – Non-Medical Masks and Screening

The following message was sent by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Chief Human Resources Officer.

In advance of sharing a more comprehensive guide and occupational health advice to assist you in your planning for easing of COVID-19 restrictions and possible increased access at your federal worksites, we have some important information to share on the use of non-medical masks or face coverings, and screening. This information may assist you in preparing plans for your organizations.

During this transition period, we know that employees will have many questions and concerns. Organizations should assure employees that the government is working on guidance to reduce the risk of transmission at worksites, including supporting employees in continuing to work remotely, ensuring physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing workspaces frequently and installing engineering controls, such as physical barriers, where feasible. Encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick and following public health guidance continue to be crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

It is important to remind employees that good hygiene practices (hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette) and physical distancing remain the most important measures they can take to protect their health and the health of others.

Your organization will need to update and review your hazard prevention programs based on the latest risk-mitigation advice. You should also consult Health Canada’s updated general occupational health advice, which will be available on canada.ca in the coming days. You can tailor this advice to your specific workplace needs by working with your occupational health and safety committee to review procedures and programs as necessary.

Non-Medical Masks or Face Coverings

When all other measures are exhausted, impractical or not feasible, Non-Medical Masks (NMMs) or cloth face coverings are an additional measure that can be used to protect others around them. They are to be worn for short periods of time where physical distancing is not possible or is unpredictable.

The purpose of non-medical masks (NMM) or face coverings should be clearly communicated to employees.

NMM or face coverings:

  • are generally recommended as an additional public health measure, when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded settings
  • are meant to contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets to protect others – they do not protect the wearer
  • are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) because they do not meet the requirements under the Canada Labour Code

The latest occupational health advice points to key factors that you will need to consider when updating your procedures:

  • Occupational requirements of workers and their specific workplace configuration. For example, there could be instances where an employee’s face covering could become lodged in a piece of equipment
  • Inclusion and accessibility issues, such as allowing lip reading (translucid panel masks can be procured) and interference with cultural or religious headdresses
  • Some employees may want to wear NMM even when it is not recommended for added protection; consider allowing this within acceptable parameters of life cycle management and security considerations
  • Others may refuse to do so even when distancing cannot be maintained. Safety of workers must prevail; involve your OHS Committee and Labour Relations as may be required
  • Consider the local context for COVID-19 regarding community transmission in each location.

Recognizing the challenges in maintaining a two-metre distance at all times, departments will provide NMMs and/or cloth face coverings and instructions about their appropriate use and disposal.

PSPC has launched an online catalogue through which departments and agencies can purchase necessary supplies to help keep employees safe. The catalogue includes items like hand sanitizer, wipes and non-medical masks, which may be purchased in preparation for employees’ return to the workplace. Departments and agencies can request access to the online catalogue via email.

The use of protective equipment is only one tool in a broader strategy for a safe return to the workplace, and given the market realities for the goods, requests should be based on a careful review of departmental needs.


Employees should be encouraged to self-assess for symptoms of COVID-19. Health Canada’s online self-assessment tool helps employees complete a self-assessment. Employees can also access the tool through the free Canada COVID-19 app, which also provides access to useful resources and information.

Passive screening should be implemented and supported through signage and other information material.

In some locations, especially where services to the public are provided, organizations might consider active screening as described by Health Canada.

Public health authorities have signaled that physical distancing requirements will remain in place and many employees will find themselves continuing to work from home for some time to come. The easing of restrictions will bring a new phase for Canadians and for all of us in the public service. We will continue to work together and with you as we move forward.

6990 Leave and Family-Related Responsibilities

Photo of CIU flag

CBSA is using the 6990 leave code to cover employees who are unable to work for various COVID-related reasons including the closure of schools and daycares (Note: “Other Leave with Pay” is coded as 699 within the core Treasury Board units).

Where telework is available, parents with young children at home have not been expected to put in the same number of working hours as members who do not have childcare responsibilities. Some parents have been putting in a few hours a day and some haven’t been working at all. Generally speaking, the availability of 6990 to cover non-working hours has been assessed on a case-by-case basis and, for the most part, our members haven’t had too many problems accessing this leave with pay.

In May, some provinces and territories began to talk about re-opening schools and daycares. The decision on what, when and how to reopen has varied widely across the country. Some provinces have chosen to not to reopen until the Fall, while others have limited childcare spaces to parents who work in essential services. Even where schools have reopened, many parents have chosen not to send their children back because of safety concerns.

On May 10, 2020 Treasury Board sent an email to all of its Heads of Human Resources regarding 699 leave and childcare. It contained the following:

As schools and daycares are re-opened, we expect that employees who could not work due to childcare obligations will be able to return to work. We recognize, however, that there will be some instances where employees may be unable to work their full hours if their children are unable to return to school or daycare due to health reasons, limited availability of spaces or other restrictions put in place by provincial or territorial authorities. In these cases, employees may use ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ for hours not worked, if they are unable to make alternate childcare arrangements.

The email goes on to encourage managers to “have a conversation” with employees on 699 about the possibility of taking on flexible working arrangements as an alternative to staying on leave.

Policy Grievance

On 13 May 2020, the PSAC filed a policy grievance regarding the employer’s email. The union is concerned that parents who choose not to return their children to school or daycare will be involuntarily taken off the 699 leave with pay. Some children live in households with vulnerable family members, and many parents do not feel comfortable sending their children back to school or daycare with inadequate social distancing measures in place. Whatever the reason, we need to ensure that members with childcare obligations are not forced to choose between a pay cheque and the wellbeing of their families.

We expect to receive the employer’s final level reply on this policy grievance within the next few weeks.

Individual Grievances

In the event that we are unsuccessful in resolving the problem with a policy grievance, we need to be prepared to file individual grievances for any members who are forced off 6990 but still have childcare responsibilities. These are members who:

  • Currently care for children at home
  • Are currently on 6990 Leave with Pay
  • Live in a province/territory where childcare facilities have not reopened OR cannot get a childcare space due to limited reopening OR have safety concerns for their children or other vulnerable family members
  • Have been advised by the employer that they are no longer eligible for 6990 Leave with Pay

The grievance language is as follows:


I grieve the Employer’s refusal to grant me “6990 leave” with pay, requested on [insert request date] and denied on [insert refusal date], when I was unable to work regular hours due to childcare responsibilities related to COVID-19.

(If you are under the Program and Administrative Services (PA) collective agreement, insert:)

This is a violation of Article 53.01 – leave with or without pay for other reasons and Article 19 – no discrimination of the collective agreement; section 7 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; and all other relevant articles.

(If you are under the Border Services (FB) collective agreement, insert:)

This is a violation of Article 52.01 – leave with or without pay for other reasons and Article 19 – no discrimination of the collective agreement; section 7 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; and all other relevant articles.

(If you are under the Operational Services (SV) collective agreement, insert:)

This is a violation of Article 56.01 – leave with or without pay for other reasons and Article 19 – no discrimination of the collective agreement; section 7 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; and all other relevant articles.

(If you are under the Technical Services (TC) collective agreement, insert:)

This is a violation of Article 55.01 – leave with or without pay for other reasons and Article 19 – no discrimination of the collective agreement; section 7 of the Canadian Human Rights Act; and all other relevant articles.

Corrective Action Requested:

A declaration that the Employer has breached the collective agreement;

That I be granted leave with pay when I am unable to work regular hours due to childcare responsibilities related to COVID-19;

That I be compensated for all losses, including lost wages and benefits, that resulted from the Employer’s refusal to grant me paid leave;

That the Employer ceases this discriminatory refusal and take measures to redress the practice and/or to prevent the same or similar refusal from occurring in the future;

That the Employer makes available to me the rights, opportunities, and privileges that are being or were denied as a result of the refusal;

That I be compensated $20,000 for pain and suffering experienced as a result of the discrimination;

That I be compensated $20,000 for the Employer’s willful and reckless engagement in the discriminatory practice;

That the filing of this grievance not prejudice me in any future dealings with the Employer;

That I be made whole;

Any other redress deemed appropriate.

Union representatives who receive a concern from a member with childcare responsibilities who has been refused 6990 leave are asked to assist the grievor in completing their grievance form as outlined above. Do not submit the grievance to the employer until after the employer’s final level reply to the policy grievance has been issued unless you need to protect the 25-day timeline.

We will advise the NBoD of the decision as soon as it is available and (if necessary) give the green light for the submission of any grievances you have received to date.

General 6990 Issues

We expect that the employer will wait until a decision on the policy grievance is issued prior to attempting to remove some employees from 6990 leave. Members may be approached in the meantime, however, to “have a conversation” about their childcare needs. In particular, the employer may inquire as to whether these members are able to complete a certain number of hours a week rather than remain full-time on leave with pay (6990).

Our members have an obligation to answer the employer’s questions truthfully and to the best of their ability. The bottom line, however, is that if a member can’t work due to their childcare responsibilities they should be allowed to remain on leave with pay.

The transition back to work will not be an easy one, and it is still too early to know exactly what “normal” will look like. It will be easier to implement social distancing requirements for front-line workers, even though we don’t anticipate that the borders will reopen for at least another month. There is still no clear indication of how social distancing will be accomplished for office workers. When Treasury Board refers to “returning to work”, therefore, we believe that in most instances they are referring to employees formerly on 6990 starting to work from home, not returning to a physical work location.

To date, we do not have any indication that the employer intends to cut 6990 leave for members whose vulnerability makes them unable to work. The Treasury Board email deals solely with 6990 leave and childcare.

Update (July 13, 2020)

As some of you are undoubtedly aware, the employer is taking steps towards bringing members off 6990 as things slowly begin to return to “normal”. Part of this initiative has included drafting a new document entitled “Attestation for High Risk for Severe Illness from Covid-19 Pandemic Form”.

This is a form our members are being asked to sign if they can’t resume their normal duties for Covid-related reasons. Unfortunately, it only covers two different circumstances: members who are high risk and members living under the same roof as people who are at high risk.

These are not the only reasons a member might need to remain on other leave with pay. For instance, securing childcare continues to be a challenge and the PSAC has filed a policy grievance on this issue. CIU is ready to respond with grievance language if the employer tries to force a member back to work who doesn’t have adequate child care, but we are continuing to ask that these grievances not be filed until after a decision is rendered on the policy grievance.

The employer’s new form needs to allow not only for child care issues, but for members who may not be able to work because they are caring for family members who don’t necessarily live with them. Changes also need to be made to other clauses, including one that asks members to accept that the employer may be assigning them work – even though this is supposed to be a leave form. Finally, we can’t support our members signing a form that basically acknowledges the employer can ask them for additional medical information at a later date – with no limits on what that may involve.

Brother Fortin sent a message to Julie Burke outlining our concerns and the fact that the form needs to be amended.  He also also stated our expectation that members will remain on 6990 leave in the meantime and should not be made to exhaust their personal leave banks if they refuse to sign.

An update on the situation will be provided as soon as we have a response from the employer.

Update (July 23, 2020)

In response to the CIU’s concerns regarding the CBSA Attestation form, we were provided the following responses:

CIU concern (1):  The form only contemplates two reasons for which employees may be prevented from returning to the workplace. Either they are at high risk or are living with someone who is at high risk of severe illness.

CBSA response (1)All leave with pay for other reasons will be reviewed on a case by case basis, this includes situations related to childcare or family care, as well as leave due to a work or technology limitation. Managers have been asked to engage in discussions with employees on leave with pay for other reasons related to the Pandemic about their individual circumstances and remain flexible. Employees will be asked to provide information regarding attempts made to secure childcare as they would in any duty to accommodate situation, the CBSA is not looking a creating a form at this time for the purpose of childcare/family care.

 The attestation form is only for employees who are at high risk or living with someone who is at high risk (leave Code 6916 or 6924).

CIU concern (2)Part III of the form asks employees to acknowledge that they may be assigned work when they are making a request for leave. 

CBSA response (2)The statement in PART III uses the word “may”, as the employer will make an effort to provide employees with work if and where possible, including any training and learning opportunities that employees who are working may have access to.

CIU concern (3):  The form specifically asks employees not to disclose a medical diagnosis.  Part III, however, anticipates that additional information may be required in order to approve the request for leave. 

CBSA response (3)These situations will be treated the same as any request for accommodation, should managers require more information they may seek a medical note from the treating physician. To be clear, we are not looking for any medical diagnosis.  Rather, we are looking for any limitations and restrictions that the employee may have or we want to confirm that despite all the measures put in place in the workplace, these are insufficient and the employee remains unable to report to the workplace.

CIU concern (4):  We have heard that our members are being asked to take their own leave pending approval of this new leave request.

CBSA response (4)Should there be specific examples of cases that you wish to provide us, we will look into them. Each situation is unique and while the guidance and application should be consistent, we need be mindful of the individual circumstances.

Should you wish to discuss any issues related to this leave or have specific questions related to concern (4), please contact your Branch President.