As you are aware, the World Health Organization has declared the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to be a global pandemic. In Canada, this situation has resulted in the closure of schools, local recreational centres, libraries, the cancellation of public sport and cultural events, and advice recommending against travel and gatherings. Parliament and several legislative bodies across Canada have announced suspensions of their activities, and government agencies are now preparing for COVID-related disruptions.
This is a very unsettling time for all of us. As employees of the National Research Council, we can play three important roles over the coming weeks, including:
- Limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting ourselves and our families. All of us share real and valid concerns about the health of our families and friends and, in many cases, aging parents and relatives.
- Supporting the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada in their efforts to protect Canadians from the impact of COVID-19.
- Delivering on our Operational Plans and so supporting our private sector and government partners with sustaining advancement of their objectives. This is especially true for our private sector partners, as they try to manage the difficult economic impacts arising from COVID-19 related market disruptions.
What we do now as a group therefore matters. We need to take actions to protect ourselves and limit the spread of COVID-19, we need to help PHAC protect the health of Canadians, and we need to continue to support our clients in this difficult time.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR NRC EMPLOYEES
1) Recognizing that many NRC activities will require lead time to be able to fully shift to telework, this week, all NRC employees should start the shift to telework from home, unless specifically indicated by your supervisor that you are needed on our premises for critical tasks (e.g., key missions in Business Continuity Plans, operating key facilities, NRC security, or other vital onsite operational roles). Directors General and Executive Directors for each Research Centre, Branch, and IRAP are responsible for deciding who needs to work on site at times.
This will take time to organize. Over the course of the March 16-20, 2020, week please gather the materials you require to telework, such that by the end of this week everyone except the mission critical staff are now working offsite.
2) To lighten the load on our telecommunications and IT infrastructure please limit your log-in time to as brief a period as possible, such as downloading necessary files to work on, and use cellular connections or personal email (for non-classified communications) to minimize the burden on the limited available Information Management and IT systems.
A follow-up email is being sent by KITS to all NRC employees regarding what to do if you do not currently have devices able to access your needed work accounts at this time. It is understood that for some employees it may take some time to be able to access the correct devices and approaches to telework effectively, and that flexibility will be required.
3) Cease travel and large meetings. All NRC business travel is suspended. All international meetings should be conducted electronically or postponed to May (to be updated based on conditions at that time). All personal travel should be declared to your supervisor and self-isolation is required for 14 days on return (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html)
All large gatherings and public events should be postponed. Whenever possible, all NRC meetings of more than several people should be conducted via video or teleconferencing. Effective immediately, any staff returning from vacation, work, or other travel outside Canada should self-isolate for 14 days and telework from home as well.
4) Regarding time codes, given you are teleworking, please code your time as per usual based on what you worked on over the course of the day. For those of you planning to take approved vacation time, please use leave time codes. For those at home due to school closures, as indicated by the below OCHRO message, please code this time as “0699 other leave with pay”.
In addition to this note, please review the OCHRO note attached below.
We will keep you advised as further developments occur. In the meantime, stay safe, take care of your family and friends, and thank you for all that you do.
National Research Council
GC Intranet – Information for employees: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) https://intranet.canada.ca/psc-fsc/messages/cmt-538-eng.asp
Canada.ca – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
To: Deputy Heads, Heads of Agencies (including separate Employers), Heads of Human Resources
As part of our pledge to share updates as quickly as possible, I’m providing further guidance to you and your teams on a number of issues.
Flexible work arrangements
In line with the President of the Treasury Board’s public messaging today, I urge you to be as flexible as possible in leveraging your authorities around existing telework and alternative work arrangements in line with your operational requirements and circumstances.
The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has been working with Shared Services Canada and departmental Chief Information Officers to maximize internet bandwidth to support remote work and prioritize network access tied to critical operations. More specifically, the following is guidance to help our workforce maximize productivity individually and collectively:
- Use mobile devices whenever possible to send and receive emails;
- Connect to VPN/SRA get what you need from the corporate network and disconnect, which allows for others to do the same;
- Limit the use of video conferencing on the GC network when audio conferencing will suffice;
- Localize any files before leaving the office; and
- Download documents outside normal business hours.
Further, tips to maximize collaboration within and across teams, include:
- Use public cloud services to collaborate with colleagues, for Unclassified work (examples: Facetime, MS Teams, Google HangOuts, Slack, etc.); and
- Use the BBMe application to communicate with colleagues, for up to Protected B work.
The situation has evolved since my March 12th e-mail. The Prime Minister advised today to avoid international travel. In light of this advice, employees should be asked to declare their intent to travel to their manager and must take into consideration public health travel advisories as per the active travel health notices.
I am therefore hereby amending the advice on leave provisions contained in the FAQ document, which will be amended online.
Employees that are required by public health officials to self-isolate: If in good health 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 (699 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 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” (699 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 10, 2020.
We believe the above takes into consideration the collective agreements, continuity of service to Canadians as well as reflecting the imperative we all have to follow public health advice as Canada continues its containment efforts. As the situation evolves, I would like to underscore that changes in the public health advice could lead to a different approach.
I know we are all seized with the importance of supporting the mental health of our employees navigating this rapidly changing environment.
The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer is currently preparing information for employees to outline key resources and tips for continuing to take care of their mental health and that of their teams in our workplaces.
We also need to encourage our teams to seek the help they need by contacting the 24-7 Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or your departmental coordinator, accessing care through the Public Service Healthcare Plan (PSHP) or using the nationwide Specialized Organizational Services (SOS).
If you are located in a Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) building and you believe that you are confronted with a possible or confirmed COVID-19 case, please immediately contact PSPC’s National Service Call Centre. PSPC or their service provider will work with the occupants to design and implement an appropriate disinfection plan as an Additional Building Service.
Thank you and take care of yourselves.