The World Forum - July 24th, 2024

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Public service unions say federal government's guidance on hybrid work flawed


Federal public service unions say the government's plan to get employees back to the office is confusing, disjointed and jeopardizing health and safety.

The Treasury Board of Canada released its guidelines on hybrid work arrangements in May, tasking government departments with deciding "whether the location of work can be made flexible, to what extent, and how."

Deputy heads will make decisions about health and safety in the context of how their organization runs, guided by public health authorities and workplace health and safety committees, said Barb Couperus, Treasury Board spokesperson, in a statement Thursday.

Over the coming months, she said departments will gather evidence and test a variety of hybrid approaches.

"Given the diversity of the federal government’s workforce and operations, there will be no one-size-fits-all," Couperus said, noting work sites vary from coast guard ships to laboratories and prisons.

Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said the board's decision to "devolve" the responsibility of figuring out how to bring employees back into the office to individual departments means approaches are not co-ordinated and vary widely. 

She said that makes it difficult for the union to give guidance to members on how a proper return to work should happen.