Code 699 and the absence of childcare in the COVID era

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis public servants have worked hard for people across Canada. We delivered the CERB in record time, we worked tirelessly to get Canadians home and we continue to push to develop a vaccine.

We also took care of our children. Many of us worked late at night or very early in the morning while our children were asleep. Many of us volunteered outside of our normal roles to help out wherever we could.

75% of public servants have been able to work at full capacity throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

“Public servants have gone above and beyond in the face of this crisis,” said Debi Daviau, PIPSC President. “Working parents have been faced with full time childcare duties and balancing their current workloads. It is clear that safe and accessible childcare is key to a functioning economy.”

Across the country, working parents – especially women – have been forced to choose between their careers and taking care of their children. Since the start of the pandemic, participation of women in the labour force has been set back nearly three decades. Safe and reliable childcare spots that workers can access now and as this crisis continues, along with safe and open public schools are the clear solution. 

The public and private sector must develop flexible leave policies to help working parents equitably manage caregiving demands. PIPSC has joined calls to provide all people in Canada with access to better child care programs and basic income guarantees. Our members built the CERB and other emergency programs and we know the good they can do. 

Only 25% of public servants have needed to use the leave with pay Code 699, occasionally, in order to take care of children, quarantine or recover from COVID-19 or because of technical issues. In some cases, the code was used because tasks were put on hold or a particular job required self-isolation between shifts. 

According to the Treasury Board 76,804 employees used Code 699 between March 15 and May 31. This cost about 5% of the usual expenses for wages during that same time period, around $439 million.

These public servants were working and sometimes accessing the Code 699 leave. If these workers had stopped working completely and gone on CERB, as they would have been entitled to do, this would have cost $384 million. Savings would have been minimal as the federal government still has to deliver services for Canadians and back fill all of these roles. The negative long-term impact on public services and the economy would have been significant. 

It is appropriate that the federal government put the emphasis on maintaining a high functioning public service during this time of unprecedented crisis. PIPSC is working with the employer to ensure these processes are reasonable and fair. Until safe and reliable child care is available and schools are reopened, flexibility from the employer is required to get the job done.