Justification for Employee Wellness Support Program


The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Treasury Board have reached a tentative deal on a Memorandum of Agreement to support employee wellness.

When this round of negotiations began in 2014, the employer tabled proposals to eliminate the existing sick leave system and replace it with a short-term disability program. PIPSC, along with other federal public service unions, firmly stated that we would only negotiate improvements to the current system.

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Employee Wellness Support Program (EWSP) is a significant improvement over the current system. It is a system designed to improve employee wellness and the safe and successful reintegration of employees into the workplace following a prolonged absence due to illnesses or injury.

What are the weaknesses of the current system?

To make improvements to the current plan, we needed to clearly understand areas where the system could be improved. An analysis of the usage of sick leave and the distribution of sick leave banks was done for PIPSC’s Treasury Board groups. It was found that the needs of many of our members are not being served by the current system, especially for members in certain demographic groups.

PIPSC’s analysis revealed the following:

  • The current system disadvantages women.
    o Female members tend to use about 2.5 more sick-days per year than men resulting in smaller sick leave banks.
    o On average, women’s banks
  • The current system disadvantages Health Care professionals.
    o Members of the Health Services Group (SH) use about 11.5 sick days per year, which is 2.6 days more than the overall average of 9.9 days per year for PIPSC Core public administration (CPA)Treasury Board Groups.
    o 78 percent of the SH group have insufficient sick leave to meet the LTD waiting period (average shortfall of 22-days).
  • The current system disadvantages members under the age of 40.
    o As the banks accumulate from unused sick days over time, it can take very long to accumulate enough sick leave to cover the LTD waiting period.
    o It takes the average member well into their 40s to accumulate banks in excess of 65 days.
    o Members between the ages of 30 and 39 are on average 9 days below the 65-day threshold while members under 30 are 38 days short.
    o Not a single member under 30 has enough sick leave banked to cover the LTD waiting period.
  • Where certain characteristics intersect (under 30, female, health care professional) the gaps are even larger.
    o For instance, the average bank of a female in the SH group (38 days) is 27 days below the average males in the SH group of 65 and a drastic 73 days below the overall average male bank of 111 days.
  • Overall, the current system does not serve the needs for the majority of CPA members.
    o Over half (51%) of PIPSC members employed by the Treasury Board have sick leave banks that are less than 65 days.
  • The current system disadvantages vulnerable members.
    o A member who requires regular sick leave to attend to a chronic or episodic illness has no choice but to draw from their sick leave banks to cover their absence. This situation can quickly become unsustainable as their banks run out.
  • The current system requires you to exhaust your sick leave bank before going on LTD.
    o After returning from just one period of LTD your bank will be empty. If you were to get sick again before accumulating enough sufficient sick leave, you could face an unpaid waiting period.
    o Members retire with large sick leave banks that go unused. On average, members retire with 118 days of unused sick leave in their banks.

How the EWSP would improve on the current system

The EWSP was negotiated to improve on the current plan. A number of key features were included that make the system more adaptable to the diverse needs of our members. The program includes several major improvements over the current plan, including:

  • Members will no longer need to rely on their sick leave banks to cover the waiting period before going on LTD. The program offers a three-day paid qualification period for 26 week short-term disability plan at 100% income replacement. This will be beneficial for over half of the PIPSC Treasury board members who have sick leave banks less than 65 days.
  • Members will need fewer annual sick days. The program includes an additional day of Family-related leave which will allow members to take care of a family member without having to use their own sick leave. This may reduce the current sick leave usage by up to one full day.
  • Members can still use annual sick days when needed. The program includes nine fully-paid sick days per year with a three-day carryover of unused days.
  • 100% salary replacement for 13 more weeks: The LTD benefits provided by Sun Life are at the rate of 70% of pre-disability earnings. Under the new system, our members will be eligible for 100% income replacement for additional 13 weeks which would benefit 75% of CPA PIPSC members
  • Members with chronic or episodic illnesses will have full income protection under the new plan, since the waiting period will be waived for employees having a diagnosed chronic illness. Currently, many members with chronic illnesses are required to use vacation or other leave days (paid or unpaid) to cover off absences from the workplace.
  • Members will not have to use sick leave to cover travel time for diagnosis and treatment of an illness.
  • Members on the EWSP will be considered to be on leave with pay and therefore, will continue to accrue vacation and pensionable service.
  • Members will not automatically lose their sick leave banks. Existing sick leave banks in excess of 26 weeks can be used prior to going on LTD.
  • This program comes at no extra cost to members. It has been agreed that the plan will be fully funded by the employer.

The EWSP is a big improvement over the current system. The program will address the current system’s shortcomings while ensuring that PIPSC members have a sick leave system that provides full income protection when our members are away from the workplace due to illness or injury.