Press Release — Return to office policy risks the future of the federal public service

Ottawa, June 15, 2023 – More than one-third of public service professionals are so unhappy with the government's one-size-fits-all return to office order that they are considering leaving their roles. For workers under 30 – a demographic most concerned with cost of living, childcare and the environment – that number jumps to almost 50%.

“When nearly one in five members of the federal public service is over the age of 55, approaching retirement age, we cannot afford to lose half of our youngest workers,” said PIPSC President Jennifer Carr. “The government won’t be able to deliver the services Canadians rely on if it’s not able to address the major recruitment and retention problem it’s created with its own flawed return to office policy. These numbers add up to a public service in peril.”

In his statement in support of National Public Service Week this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is supporting the career development of Indigenous, Black, and racialized employees, and building an inclusive and equitable public service. But workers who identify as Black are more than twice as likely to be concerned with discrimination and harassment now that they have been ordered back to the office. 

People with Disabilities are also twice as likely to be concerned with discrimination and harassment in the office, and more than twice as likely to report that their workstations do not meet their needs. Seventy percent said that their mental well-being has gotten worse as a result of not being able to work remotely. 

The RTO policy also puts an increased burden on women workers, who are more likely to be balancing caregiving responsibilities at home – often responsible for both their children and their aging parents. More than half of women report their caregiving responsibilities have gotten worse under RTO. 

“This government claims it wants to prioritize recruiting younger workers, workers with disabilities, Black workers, and women,” said Carr. “But at the same time, they are implementing an RTO policy that makes it harder for these groups to be successful in the workplace.”

PIPSC believes in the principle of “presence with purpose” – being at the office when justified by operational needs. The union continues to advocate for what was originally promised by the government: a hybrid-by-design approach that considers employees’ unique circumstances and job requirements. 

“Flexibility is now the centerpiece of a modern and progressive workplace,” said Carr. “Our union is ready to work with the government to develop policies that make sense.” 

In May 2023, PIPSC conducted an online survey of more than 68,000 of its members working for Federal Departments or Agencies, to assess how the members feel after returning to the office. More than 17% responded to the survey.

PIPSC represents over 72,000 public service professionals working for the federal government as well as some provincial departments and agencies.


For more information: Johanne Fillion, 613-883-4900 (mobile),