OTTAWA — Some federal government workers will be able to continue remote work for another year, as most face a March 31 deadline to return to the office at least two days a week.
A spokesperson for Treasury Board President Mona Fortier says the government will take another year to “assess the benefits” of remote work for call centres at the Canada Revenue Agency and the departments of Immigration and Employment and Social Development.
The Procurement Department’s pay centre will also work from home for another year, along with adjudicators for the Immigration and Refugee Board.
In December, Fortier announced that all departments would be mandated back to the office at least two days a week to address inconsistencies across the public service.
But since the early days of the announcement, certain exemptions have been granted.
In a memo, Catherine Luelo, the chief information officer of Canada, said that up to 20% of IT workers would not have to return to in-office work.
“We have identified high-priority IT exceptions to the common approach to hybrid work applicable across the public service,” the memo said.
The memo also noted that the need to find and retain digital talent was a factor in the exception.
The Treasury Board said Wednesday that departments will assess requests for accommodation on a case-by-case basis.
“Managers should proactively discuss with employees any barriers to hybrid work they may encounter and define solutions that will help address them in the hybrid workplace,” said Monica Granados, a spokeswoman for Fortier, in a written statement.
A union representing more than 72,000 public servants said Treasury Board acknowledged recruitment and retention were considered in issuing the extensions.
Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service, said she doesn’t see a hybrid model being fully implemented any time soon.
Carr said the exemptions are only leading to more chaos around an already contentious issue.
“We don’t have reports of anything getting better,” Carr said.
Unions representing public servants have expressed frustration with the policy since it was announced, particularly because many are in active bargaining with the government and feel the hybrid work model should be decided in negotiations.
“(Treasury Board) is not coming forward,” Carr said. “They still hold the position that return-to-office is not something that is negotiated.”
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