FAQs regarding COVID-19 for PIPSC members


Union activities

Are union activities taking place? When will they be rescheduled?

The wellness of our membership is paramount. Therefore, all in-person PIPSC activities or meetings from March 16 are postponed or cancelled. 

All Regional Councils and Steward Councils for the remainder of 2020 have been cancelled. All in-person meetings have been suspended until August 31, 2020. In-person meetings with more than 50 people in attendance are suspended until December 31, 2020.

Most of these activities will be rescheduled. Unfortunately, a small number of events will be cancelled. Activities that do not need to take place in-person will continue.

The Board of Directors will evaluate any further postponements.

Meeting organizers will keep you informed of updated logistics in these cases.

How do I cancel my travel for PIPSC related activities?
How has the COVID-19 response impacted bargaining?

Initially, scheduled negotiation meetings were disrupted. For now, no negotiation meetings have been scheduled. Any meetings that were scheduled have been postponed.

We are focused on providing support to our members who continue to deliver critical services to Canadians. We are proud and appreciative of your work.

Some negotiation meetings have now resumed and will resume when it is safe to meet. We are looking into opportunities to meet online and over the phone wherever possible. We will keep you informed on this process as it affects your group.


Union support

I am being asked to come into the office and my request to work-from-home has been denied. What do I do?

The nature of the pandemic is different across regions and workplaces so the risk varies. In addition, some members provide critical services. Each case must be assessed individually, please contact us now for assistance with this evaluation: https://pipsc.ca/news-issues/information-members-regarding-covid-19-coronavirus/coronavirus-covid-19-help-form.

If the PIPSC office is closed is my grievance or arbitration still moving forward?

Yes, your grievance or arbitration will still move forward. We will notify you if the process is delayed. In-person meetings at the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB) have been postponed. Those affected will be notified. 

We have closed PIPSC offices across the country, allowing most of our employees to work from home from March 16 until further notice. Staff have been prepared for this closure and have everything they need to continue their work.

During this time, our staff are committed to supporting members and will continue to be available by email and phone. Mailboxes will be monitored. We continue to work hard on behalf of all PIPSC members.


COVID-19 in the workplace

Where do I find medical advisories with respect to COVID-19?

The Government of Canada is the best source of COVID-19 information for Canadians. Information from your provincial and local health authority is also very important for you to stay up-to-date on the situation in your own community.

Where do I find travel advisories with respect to COVID-19?

An official global travel advisory is in effect: avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. You can get the latest updates at www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html

How is my travel insurance impacted by COVID-19?

The Government of Canada has announced an official global travel advisory: avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. Travel benefits may be void if you decide to leave the country after these advisories have been announced. 

If you cannot safely return to Canada and you departed between January 18 and March 16, you will remain covered. Your PSHCP travel insurance is extended until further notice. More information about COVID-19 and travel insurance is available here.

Have there been changes to my health plan?

Many health insurance plans are making temporary changes to their policies to allow for greater flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, members of the Public Service Healthcare Plan  will no longer need to provide a prescription to obtain mental healthcare or physiotherapist services.  PSHCP claims for services provided by licensed social workers will also be accepted for plan members living across Canada – previously coverage was limited to those living in remote regions - also, effective April 24, 2020 services provided by a licensed psychotherapist are eligible for reimbursement under the mental health provision.

Note that these temporary changes are in effect until further notice,

PIPSC members covered by other plans should visit the website of their insurer for information on any changes to coverage.

Does my health plan cover telemedicine (online/telephone appointments) for things like psychology and physiotherapy?

In most cases – yes. If a healthcare provider is covered by your plan and permitted by provincial regulations to provide that service over the phone/internet, most healthcare plans will provide coverage. Many mental healthcare providers and a growing number of physiotherapists are able to conduct appointments using video or regular calls. If your regular physiotherapist or mental healthcare practitioner bills for online/phone appointments as they would for a regular appointment, coverage for online/telephone appointments is identical to in-person appointments.

Members may also benefit from an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) which offers telephone or online appointments with a mental healthcare provider at no cost to you. Some EAPs also offer the services of accountants, legal professionals, dieticians, etc. For more information on your EAP, please visit the employee section of your employer’s website or consult your local HR representative. Different employers offer different EAP benefits.

This is a challenging time, can I access my Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) for counselling support?

Most PIPSC members with federal, provincial or private employers, have access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). Your EFAP provides counselling, referral services and sometimes other specialized support. All services are confidential and free. 

It’s okay to not be okay. We are all facing this challenge together and the EFAP is one more tool to support you. We encourage you to use it – learn more about your specific EFAP now.

Do my health benefits allow me to fill prescriptions in advance for self-isolation or quarantine?

Yes. The Public Service Healthcare Plan and most other healthcare plans will provide coverage for medication when it is filled for a period of up to three months. This will allow you to fill your prescription in advance to prepare for self-isolation or quarantine.

If your current prescription does not allow for three-month refills, you may request your pharmacist or doctor to change the period. Pharmacists in some provinces may also extend prescriptions or prescribe certain basic medications. Most healthcare plans allow for medication to be refilled ten days before your next refill.

Some pharmacies offer delivery or drive-through service. This reduces the risk of passing on the virus. There are also pharmacies that offer a mail order service at no extra cost. If your pharmacy does not offer a delivery service, you may contact a mail-order pharmacy to transfer your existing prescriptions. 

Do I go to work if a state of emergency has been declared by the provincial government?

If a state of emergency is declared, this will mean different things in different regions. State of emergency does not limit critical workers from reporting to work. However, it may mean closures of daycares, schools or other public spaces. If you are unsure how the state of emergency applies to your work or feel that you are being required to do work that is not keeping with the restrictions of the state of emergency, please contact us.

The Province of Ontario has declared a state of emergency. This does not limit critical workers from reporting to work; however, it does limit the size of gatherings of people, closes child care centers and reduces access to many public venues. If you are unable to arrange child care or are required by your employer to attend a gathering that exceeds the limitation, please contact us for advice specific to your situation.

If I am a critical public servant exposed to COVID-19 at work, what should I do?

Our members maintaining critical services are making great efforts to protect Canadians. We are proud of them. Any critical public servant who contracts COVID-19 because they are required to go to their workplace should file a workplace injury report. If you are unsure how to proceed in this case please contact us.

The bandwidth at my home is not sufficient to meet all of my family’s needs with me working from home. How do I balance these needs?

For individual cases, please contact your manager about flexible arrangements to permit you to continue working while sharing internet bandwidth. Please be mindful that needs are not the same as preferences.

You may also want to look for opportunities to coordinate schedules when multiple family members are working from home, where possible. In some families moving online extracurriculars like music lessons to outside work hours, downloading TV and movies for kids at night or planning some work that can be done offline – have been helpful solutions. This will not address the issue in all cases.

What if my home equipment breaks?

Contact your manager about being sent a replacement or virtual repairs.

I had to buy some office supplies to be able to work from home, am I entitled to reimbursement for these expenses?

Employees should always seek prior approval before purchasing equipment for work.

The Treasury Board has directed departments to only reimburse equipment expenses that have been pre-approved by the appropriate manager. You must also provide receipts for the expense.

The Treasury Board has instructed managers to prioritize equipment for indeterminate employees, employees on terms longer than three months, critical workers and workers who require accommodation. The duty to accommodate and the need to meet occupational health and safety requirements are top priorities for the Treasury Board.

Equipment will either be shipped to the employee or picked up at the workplace.


Nurses

I am working as a nurse and I am not being provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). What should I do?

We are hearing that some nurses in Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) institutions are not being provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) for specific assessments. 

If you are being directed to perform an assessment without PPE, such as the intake of asymptomatic inmate transfers to federal institutions, and you deem it to be unsafe, you have a right to refuse this task.

If you are refusing work tasks due to unsafe conditions please contact our labour relations team right away for support.


PIPSC Treasury Board Members

These questions and answers apply to members in the following groups:

Audit, Commerce and Purchasing (AV)
Computer Systems (CS)
Engineering, Architecture and Land Survey (NR)
Research (RE)
Health Services (SH)
Applied Science and Patent Examination (SP)
Canada Revenue Agency (AFS)
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (NUREG)
National Energy Board (NEB)
National Film Board (NFB)
National Research Council (NRC)
Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI)
RCMP Civilian Members

Should I be working from home?

Yes. Deputy Heads, Heads of Agencies (including separate employers), and Heads of Human Resources have been told to make arrangements to allow telework across Canada. They are working as quickly as possible to communicate this to all public servants and make appropriate arrangements. 

Only in the case that you are deemed critical, should you be required to report to your worksite. Federal organizations must determine what to do in cases where telework is not possible, such as:

  • critical services requiring on-site presence
  • security limitations
  • other operational imperatives where there are no alternatives

It is essential that Government of Canada employees abide by instructions from local health authorities.

Please clarify, in writing, if you are required to report to your worksite with your supervisor as soon as possible. 

Contact us if you are concerned you’ve been misclassified or are not being allowed to work from home: https://pipsc.ca/news-issues/information-members-regarding-covid-19-coronavirus/coronavirus-covid-19-help-form

Which federal government services are “critical”?

The Treasury Board has responded to our request for a clear definition of “critical” services. 

“A critical service is one that, if disrupted, would result in a high or very high degree of injury to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians, or to the effective functioning of the Government of Canada.”

If you are deemed critical you may be asked to go to a worksite at this time. Telework should be arranged if possible in all cases.

Learn more here.

Interprovincial or regional travel has been limited in my area. Will I still be able to get to work?

Yes. If you are a critical federal worker when you present a valid government ID and a valid photo ID you will be able to travel to your workplace.

Deputy Heads, Heads of Agencies (including separate employers), Presidents of Regional Federal Councils, Heads of Human Resources have been given a template letter that managers can use to explain the critical nature of your work. 

To make things easier, please request your manager to complete a template letter for you.

If you have any difficulties travelling to your workplace please get in touch with us for support. 

My employer has been unclear when we should work from home, take sick-leave or access leave with pay, what should I do?

Deputy Heads, Heads of Agencies (including separate employers), and Heads of Human Resources have been asked to make arrangements to allow telework wherever possible.

Managers are expected to consider telework for all their employees, at all worksites, and should work with them to identify an approach that is as flexible as possible while ensuring continued critical government operations and services to Canadians. 

If you are sick with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, you will not take sick leave, you will be granted “other leave with pay (699 code)”. You may be asked to sign an attestation declaring your situation.

If you are high risk or living with people who are at high risk to contract COVID-19 and you are unable to make work arrangements you will be granted “other leave with pay (699 code).” You may be asked to sign an attestation declaring your situation.

If you are unable to work due to child care needs and require “other leave with pay (699 code)”, you should not be asked to sign an attestation.

Employees that are required by public health officials to quarantine, if in good health and able to work, 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.

We are aware of cases where the employer is not using “other leave with pay (699 code)” and is applying sick leave in cases of isolation as a result of COVID-19. This is not in keeping with the directive from the Treasury Board. If you are experiencing this in your workplace, please get in touch with us right away.

If you are sick but not with COVID-19, please follow standard leave provisions for sick leave.

Are we required to take vacation time if we are unable to work-from-home and our office is closed?

No. If telework is not possible, you will be granted leave with pay – under “other leave with pay (699 code)” as per your collective agreement.

If you have not been granted “other leave with pay (699 code)” please contact us for support.

How should I proceed with requesting sick leave or work-from-home accommodations if myself or a family member has been impacted by COVID-19? Is there special bank time I should be using?

If you are sick with COVID-19 you will not take sick leave, you will be granted “other leave with pay (699 code)”. You will need to sign an attestation declaring your situation.

If you are high risk or living with people who are at high risk to contract COVID-19 and you are unable to make work arrangements you will be granted “other leave with pay (699 code)”. You will need to sign an attestation declaring your situation.
If you have not been granted “other leave with pay (699 code), please contact us for support.

If you are sick but not with COVID-19, please follow standard leave provisions for sick leave. 

If I had vacation time already approved, am I required to take vacation now?

No, you do not need to take prearranged vacation leave. You can cancel this vacation time and work from home. 

In the following cases you may access other leave with pay (699 code):

  • providing childcare for your children
  • contracted COVID-19
  • at high-risk or living with someone at high-risk of contracting COVID-19

If you are sick but not with COVID-19, please follow standard leave provisions for sick leave.

Can I refuse to work because my workplace is unsafe?

Like all workers, you have the right to refuse dangerous work. The nature of the pandemic is different across regions and workplaces so the risk varies and some members provide critical services. Each case must be assessed individually, please contact us now for assistance with this evaluation: https://pipsc.ca/news-issues/information-members-regarding-covid-19-coronavirus/coronavirus-covid-19-help-form

 Can I refuse to telework because I have to take care of my kids?

If your children cannot go to school or daycare as a result of COVID-19, we recommend first trying to make alternative care arrangements. If that is not possible, discuss the possibility of a telework option with your manager that also allows you to care for your children. 

If none of these arrangements are possible, you will be granted “other leave with pay” (699 code). The employer will review this arrangement in April. We will keep you informed. 

If you have not been granted “other leave with pay (699 code)”, please contact us for support.

I am not ergonomically set up to telework from home. What if it is causing me pain to work from home?

You should report any work-related injury to your manager.

Ask your manager if the necessary ergonomic equipment can be sent to you. If you have your own personal equipment to work ergonomically at home, contact your departmental security office and your manager to determine if and how you could use that equipment.

You may also wish to contact your EAP for at-home resources on mitigating strain.

It may be that for health reasons, working from home may not be possible full-time or at all. If this is the case, please contact your manager as recommended by the Treasury Board. If you and your manager do not come to a good agreement please contact us for support.

I am a critical worker in the workplace, if I develop COVID-19 can I make a workers' compensation claim?

Yes. Workers' compensation coverage includes occupational diseases (such as COVID-19) contracted as a result of your work duties in the workplace. If you are a critical worker and you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have received that diagnosis, you should immediately:

Your diagnosis is likely related to your work duties, especially if you work in health care. Our employment relations officers can provide guidance on what to expect from the workers’ compensation claim process.

If I am injured while working at home, can I make a workers’ compensation claim? 

Yes. Workers' compensation coverage includes anywhere you are doing your work, even your home. If you are working from home and you experience an injury due to a hazard in your environment, during the course of your workday, you should immediately advise your supervisor in writing and indicate that you have a workplace injury.

If the injury occurs outside of work hours and unrelated to your duties, it would not normally be covered. When you notify your employer, it is important to include the time of the accident, location in your home and what you were doing when the injury occurred.

Your employer has a responsibility to complete the appropriate documentation and you should complete the provincial workers' compensation injured worker form. In our experience, the federal government practice is to delegate claims management to the provincial boards. Employees of the federal government are subject to the Government Employee’s Compensation Act (GECA), unless the employer assigns the authority to administer a workers' compensation claim to the provincial board. Please contact our EROs if you have difficulties navigating this process.

I need pay documents and I don’t have access to VPN, what should I do? 

Pay documents like a pay stub or tax slip are now available from the Client Contact Centre using epost Connect. You can contact the Client Contact Centre directly to request these documents.

Generally, requests for documents or paystubs come from GoC employees on leave, former employees or retirees who do not have access to pay documents as they are considered inactive. However, given the current circumstances there are no restrictions as to who can receive this service.

Are there mental health supports available to me during this crisis, in addition to those offered by my Employee and Family Assistance Program? 

Yes, the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) will temporarily cover services provided directly by licensed psychotherapists and social workers. You will be reimbursed under the mental health provision in your benefits plan. This includes social workers in all regions.

Your Employee and Family Assistance Program also offers mental health support. 

Have there been changes to my dental plan? 

The Public Service Dental Care Plan (PSDCP) and the Pensioners’ Dental Services Plan have temporarily extended coverage for eligible dependents aging out of the plan.  To lessen the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on dental care, the eligible dependents of plan members will, in most circumstances, remain covered for certain treatment one year after the day in which non-emergency dental coverage is restored. Please see this website for more information.  

Members of other dental plans should contact their insurer or HR representative for information on that plan.

A member of my immediate family has passed away. Am I entitled to bereavement leave?

Yes, your collective agreement entitles you to bereavement leave with pay when a member of your immediate family dies.

Most collective agreements provide flexibility for bereavement leave, so you can take it now or week or months from now if there is a delayed memorial service.

Also, most collective agreements allow you to make a request to the deputy head (or equivalent) for bereavement leave to be granted in a different manner or for a longer period of time to meet your circumstances. The specific details are in your collective agreement. You can contact your steward or our labour relations team if you have questions.

As schools and daycares re-open, can I still access ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’?

If you were on leave due to childcare obligations, and your children are able to return to school or daycare, your employer expects that you return to working from home.

If your children are unable to return to school or daycare due to health reasons, limited availability of spaces or other restrictions put in place by the province or territory, you may use ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ for hours not worked, if other childcare arrangements cannot be made.

Some provinces and territories have not announced the reopening of schools and daycares. In these cases the leave provisions remain the same.

Will my employer reimburse my parking costs?

No, unfortunately the Treasury Board is not reimbursing parking expenses to public servants.

We wrote to the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible, Stéphan Déry at Public Service and Procurement Canada. We made clear that you should not have to pay monthly to keep your reserved parking space while working from home during this crisis. 

He refused to assist, read the response to learn more.

As parking is not part of our members' terms and conditions of employment, we encourage you to discuss your personal parking contract directly with the service provider.


PIPSC members at other employers

These questions and answers apply to members with the following employer:

  • BC First Nations Health Authority (BCFNHA)
  • Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)
  • Canadian Museum of History (CMH)
  • Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN)
  • Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL)
    • Chalk River Professional Employees Group (CRPEG)
  • House of Commons (HOC)
  • Nav Canada (NAVCAN)
  • National Gallery of Canada (NGC)
  • Senate (SEN)
  • Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)
  • University of Ottawa IT Professionals (UOITP)
  • Regional Cancer Centres Employers Association
    • Ontario Medical Physicists (MP)
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
    • Sunnybrook Mechanical and Electronic Technologists (SUN-MET)
    • Sunnybrook Radiation Therapists (SUN-RT)
  • Juravinski Cancer Centre
    • Radiation Therapists - Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC)
  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
    • Radiation Therapist - Thunder Bay Regional (TBH-RT)
  • Windsor Regional Hospital
    • Windsor Radiation Therapists (WRH-RT)
  • Province of New Brunswick:
    • New Brunswick AG Group
    • New Brunswick Crown Counsel
    • New Brunswick Crown Prosecutors
    • New Brunswick EN Group
    • New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission //New Brunswick VS Group
  • Province of Manitoba:
    • Manitoba Association of Government Engineers (MAGE)
  • Yukon Hospital Corporation (YHC)
Are we required to take vacation time if we are unable to work-from-home and our office is closed?

These arrangements are being coordinated with your employers now. We are getting daily and sometimes hourly updates and we will keep you informed as things are quickly changing.

If you require support to manage an absence from the workplace, please contact us.

We have asked for leadership from your employer to do everything they can to support Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) guidelines, social distancing and proactive self-isolation measures.

How should I proceed with requesting sick leave or work-from-home accommodations if myself or a family member has been impacted by COVID-19? Is there special bank time I should be using?

Currently, you should make this request directly to your supervisor as you would any other request for leave. The details of leave arrangements are being coordinated with your employers now. We are getting daily and sometimes hourly updates and we will keep you informed as things are quickly changing.

Please contact us if you require support to manage sick-leave provisions or absence from the workplace. I encourage you to reach out to employer and community resources like the Employee Assistance Program and check in with your colleagues to support one another. These are challenging times.