FAQ: Returning to the workplace

The Return to Workplace plan has been announced and I’m being forced to return to the office. What should I do?

While your employer can ask you to return to the workplace, they also must ensure that your health and safety are protected and that the request isn’t discriminatory. If you feel that the requirement for you to work in the workplace doesn’t meet one or more of these criteria, we recommend that you speak to your manager to discuss an alternative work arrangement as a first step.

If the Return to Workplace plans create an impediment for you to participate in the workplace it may be discriminatory. If so, you may need to request an accommodation as part of an alternative work arrangement. If your request for accommodation is denied, you may file a grievance.

If you’re concerned about health and safety in the workplace, you should contact your manager and your health and safety committee, and you may file a grievance or a health and safety complaint. For specific assistance relating to health and safety requests, please fill out our help form and a PIPSC Employment Relations Officer will be in touch.

What is PIPSC doing about the Return to Workplace plan?

PIPSC has demanded that the Employer stop its plans to mandate our members back to the office. The plan to return our members to the office for 2-3 days per week does not consider the individual circumstances of federal public servants. We will continue to advocate for a safe, flexible return to workplace policy for all members and we are exploring our options on how to challenge this poorly-planned and punitive return to workplace plan.

How do I talk to my manager about continuing to work remotely?

If you have concerns about returning to work for any reason, having a conversation with your manager about continuing to work remotely is an excellent place to start, particularly if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have evidence that your employer said that you would be working remotely in the future. This is particularly important if you moved further away from your workplace based on this understanding.
  • All or most other teams in your department have hybrid and remote working options, and there is no reasonable justification for your team to be denied these options.
  • You are the only employee who is denied hybrid or remote work options, with no reasonable justification.
  • If there are not enough workspaces (e.g. desks) for you to return to in your office

In addition to highlighting the items above to your manager, we also recommend discussing your situation and providing a proposal of what you would like to see in terms of hybrid or remote working options.  This could include a return to workplace once a week, a few times a month, or not at all depending on your needs and the needs of the Employer.

If your manager isn’t receptive to this conversation, you may formally request an accommodation or seek other recourse. For specific assistance relating to accommodation requests, please fill out our help form and an Employment Relations Officer will be in touch.

What is an accommodation?

The Employer has a legal duty to accommodate employees who fall into several categories listed in the collective agreement or Canadian Human Rights Act (e.g. disability, family status) up to the point of undue hardship. Practically this means that the Employer is required to remove barriers to your full participation in the workplace where feasible, for example, if you are disabled. This could include allowing you to work remotely depending on your circumstances.

When can I ask for an accommodation?

You can request an accommodation for various reasons if the Return to Workplace plans create a serious obstacle to your involvement in the workplace. Some examples would be if you had a medical condition that prevented you from returning to the office 2-3 times per week; or, if requiring a return to work had a substantial impact on your legal requirements for childcare or eldercare in which no reasonable alternate solutions were available.

How do I ask for accommodation?

No matter what reason you are requesting an accommodation, the first step is to contact your manager to put in a formal request.

When seeking an accommodation of any kind, you must disclose the reasons why you need to be accommodated. Although you may prefer to keep your reasons to yourself, the law on this matter is clear; employees are required to cooperate in the accommodation process by providing supporting medical information or other documentation required to support their request.

A denial of an accommodation for a disability, medical reason or family situation could be seen as discriminatory, and therefore violate your collective agreement. The burden of proof in an accommodation situation lies with you – both to prove the grounds of discrimination and to confirm your specific restrictions or functional limitations.

What should I do if my accommodation request is denied?

Please fill out our help form and an Employment Relations Officer will be in touch. After reviewing your request and the reasons it was denied, we will recommend how to proceed, which may include filing a grievance.

How do I file a grievance?

While employers have the legal right to require employee presence in the workplace, PIPSC is actively advocating for return to workplace policies that meet our core principles. We are here to support members who would like to request accommodation or file a grievance.

We recommend starting by having a conversation with your manager. If that’s unsuccessful, you may request an accommodation. If your accommodation request is denied, an Employment Relations Officer will review your request and the reasons it was denied and will provide you with a recommendation on how to proceed, which may include filing a grievance.

Your Employment Relations Officer will assess the merits of your situation, advise on the possibility of filing a grievance, and explain all the required forms and documentation as required.

What if I have a health and safety concern about returning to the office?

If you reasonably believe that your attendance in the workplace puts your health and safety at serious risk, you can file a health and safety complaint under Part II of the Canada Labour Code.

The first step is to file a health and safety complaint, either orally or in writing, with your manager. You then must speak to your manager about your concerns to try and resolve the complaint.  If you cannot resolve the complaint it must be referred to the Workplace Health and Safety Committee for review.

I already have an existing telework agreement. What should I do?

We believe that members with existing and valid teleworking agreements should be allowed to continue working remotely. If you have an existing telework agreement but are being forced to return to your workplace, please contact an Employment Relations Officer.

I may not be able to secure childcare by the March 31 deadline. What should I do?

The first step is to raise your concerns with your manager. You may be able to work out an alternative arrangement that permits you to find adequate childcare on or after the March 31 deadline. If your manager isn’t unable or unwilling to find a workable solution, you may formally request accommodation or seek other recourse such as a grievance.