Thursday, December 3, 2020
The AJC continues to put your health, safety and well-being at the core of all that we do, especially now that we are in the midst of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Update on “Other Leave with Pay” (Leave Code 699)
Last month, we shared with you that despite the considerable efforts of AJC and other bargaining agents (BAs) to advocate on behalf of our members, including political interventions, TBS has unilaterally adopted changes to their guidance on the use of “Other Leave with Pay” (Leave Code 699).
These politically-motivated changes were made despite a GBA+ analysis conducted at the request of the BAs, which revealed that groups of employees in roles that are predominantly female or gender neutral have had a higher reliance on 699 leave, most frequently for family care responsibilities. They were also made despite recognition that the use of 699 leave by public servants during the pandemic have gradually decreased since the initial onset of remote work in March, 2020.
We view these changes as unreasonable, discriminatory and detrimental to the health and safety of our members. The AJC was one of the first BAs to take action by filing a policy grievance on changes announced to the guidelines in May. We have recently amended our grievance to address the most recent changes.
In an unprecedented measure, we have written to the Prime Minister and signed a joint letter from all of the federal public sector unions requesting action on these discriminatory changes.
Current Information for Members on Leave 699
The updated TB guidance, which became effective on November 9, 2020, has created significant barriers to qualifying for 699 leave.
- TBS has mandated that employees who are in good health and able to work, including those required by a public health official or medical practitioner to quarantine or self-isolate, should continue to work remotely, wherever and whenever possible.
- Employees who are experiencing symptoms and/or required to quarantine or self-isolate should arrange to be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible and in accordance with public health recommendations. They may be eligible for 699 leave if they require time off to be tested or if remote work is not possible.
- Employees who have tested positive for Covid-19 and are too ill to work some or all of their hours are expected to use their existing sick leave credits. If they do not have enough sick leave credits, they may be eligible for 699 leave to cover the infectious period.
- For employees who:
- are unable to work remotely and are at high risk of severe illness from Covid-19 or have someone in their care who is at high risk (your manager will assess this based on a number of factors and you may be required to provide medical documentation),
- have family members who are required to quarantine or self-isolate or have tested positive for Covid-19, or
- who have caregiving responsibilities, for example because their child’s school or daycare is closed.
Managers will examine requests for 699 leave on a case-by-case basis. 699 leave could be granted after all other available options, such as flexible work hours, remote or alternate work, and other relevant paid leave, including vacation leave, have been exhausted.
Departments may differ in their requirement to use up specific paid leaves, including unscheduled vacation, prior to granting 699 under the new guidelines. We are recommending that members schedule their 2020 and 2021 vacation as far in advance as possible prior to requesting 699 leave. So for example, if you anticipate an early school closure, you might consider making your vacation plans accordingly.
Getting Assistance on 699 Leave Issues
If you are or have been unable to work due to Covid-19, and have been denied reasonable access to 699 leave, please reach out for support by contacting your regional GC representatives or complete an intake form.
We Need Your Help - How to Help Support the AJC in the Policy Grievance
To help us advocate on your behalf in the context of the policy grievance we are advancing, we need compelling evidence. If you or your family have been negatively impacted by the new TB guidelines on 699 leave, we would like the hear your story. With your permission, we will include your scenario as an example in the 699 leave guidelines policy grievance when we present our case to Treasury Board.
To find out more about how to help support the AJC with the 699 leave guidelines policy grievance, please contact us at email@example.com
Health and Safety measures
As previously reported, the AJC with the full and unwavering support of your elected officials on the Governing Council, has been strongly advocating in many fora across the country for the compulsory wearing of masks in all workplaces, whether in the office or in the courtroom.
We are receiving reports that compliance with safety instructions has been relaxed in some workplaces notwithstanding the rising number of reported COVID-19 cases. It is imperative that we all play our part and act in solidarity by ensuring that the employer protocols we fought so hard for, where members are required to attend the workplace and court, are followed.
We understand the dilemma that some of you may face in courtrooms on account of peer pressure or pressure from the Bench. The AJC secured commitments from DOJ and PPSC senior management who have already provided you with direction on how to keep yourself safe. We implore you to put your health and safety first and follow the protocols set out by management. Let management deal with the issue should the matter escalate. This falls on them. You are not alone and have the full backing of not only the AJC but DOJ and PPSC management as well. This is no time to be a hero. We all stand to lose here and it’s imperative that we stand as one.
While we understand that the ongoing pandemic may be causing fatigue, we ask that all AJC members be extra vigilant and comply with all office safety rules in order to avoid any risk of exposure to or possible spread of the coronavirus, particularly if one is unknowingly asymptomatic.
Remote Working Video On or Off – It’s Your Choice
We thank those DOJ members who brought up the issue of feeling unduly pressured into using video settings during business video calls. The AJC raised the concern with management and is pleased to report that DOJ management sent messages to all its employees to reiterate the importance of respecting individual choices. Please know that when holding business meetings online, the choice of whether or not to use video is yours!