Starting next year, Canadians working for the federal public service will have to spend at least two or three days per week in the office, Treasury Board president Mona Fortier announced Thursday.
Fortier said that the new “hybrid work model,” will ensure employees return to the office for between 40 and 60 per cent of their regular work schedule.
The announcement also noted that since the pandemic restrictions began to lift, a portion of Canada’s 335,000 federal government employees have already returned to working on site for a few days each week.
“Creating a new work model was always going to require learning and evolution. This new approach is about refining how hybrid is applied,” the government wrote in its announcement. “Departments and agencies have been experimenting to see how a hybrid work model can best support our mandates, and many have already introduced models similar to the direction provided. During this process, we have seen the need for coherence in how hybrid work is applied across organizations. To ensure consistency for our employees and those they serve, we are introducing a common hybrid work model.”
A post on the government of Canada website stated that the new model will apply to all of the core public administration. It also “strongly recommended” that other agencies adopt a similar strategy.
To allow departments and employees to smoothly transition to a common hybrid model, a phased introduction will begin January 16, 2023, with full implementation by the end of March.
The government outlined some possible exceptions to this model, including employees who were hired to work remotely prior to March 16, 2020. It would also allow Indigenous public servants whose location is critical to their identity to work from their communities. Employees who, with the permission of their assistant deputy minister, are working remotely 125 km or more from their designated worksite are another exception noted.
However, a statement from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) shared that it is not in favour of this move.
“The government’s decision doesn’t have the best interest of workers at heart and is completely at odds with the direction the government has been moving towards for remote work,” the statement notes. “It’s unacceptable that right before the holidays, workers will be scrambling to make new arrangements for child care, transportation, and possibly relocating if they’ve been hired remotely and are now being asked to come into the office.”
The union added that it is demanding the government to “halt” its plan, adding that federal public service workers have proven they can deliver the services Canadians depend on, whether working remotely or in the office.
A story from Global News also reported that the union had reportedly argued that any planned return to work should be part of collective bargaining conversations.
“Remote work is a key issue at the bargaining table for PSAC’s 165,000 federal workers this round of bargaining, and unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of our members’ employment during negotiations is an egregious violation of workers’ collective bargaining rights,” PSAC said.