By Cindy Tran, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Treasury Board President Mona Fortier has announced that federal public servants will have to return to in-person office work two to three days per week.
A Treasury Board document explaining the change says that hybrid work is here to stay, and the government is neither returning to a traditional model nor continuing with the one imposed by the pandemic.
Fortier told reporters Thursday that after the government shifted to a necessary hybrid model during the pandemic, there began to be “inconsistencies in the system” on how employees were treated.
Fortier didn’t directly answer a question about whether she had seen any data suggesting a drop in productivity due to remote work.
“We’re looking at everything that we’re doing and to make sure that we serve Canadians best and we’re adapting this model,” she said.
Employees across all departments in the core public service will be subject to a “phased introduction” of the return-to-office plan starting Jan. 16.
The plan would be fully implemented by the end of March 2023 and would see employees spending 40 to 60 per cent of their time at the office.
The Treasury Board, which oversees the administration of the public service, is also encouraging federal agencies to follow suit.
Departments were able to make their own decisions about hybrid models until now, but the document says that there must be consistency for the decisions to be fair and equitable. Fortier confirmed today that all departments must implement the model.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada said in a statement last week that a return-to-office order would be an “egregious violation of workers’ collective bargaining rights.”
Chris Aylward, its national president, said earlier this week that the union will continue to bargain for the rights of its employees should a mandate be announced.
“We informed the unions about this new decision from the management that location of work is a right of the employer and that we will now go to this common approach across the government,” said Fortier.
Accommodation requests will be assessed by each department on a case-by-case basis, the Treasury Board document says.
It lists several possible exceptions to the hybrid model, including for people who were hired to work remotely prior to March 16, 2020, Indigenous employees whose location is critical to their identity and workers who were already subject to different arrangements that pre-existed COVID-19.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.