Federal public service asked to consider return to remote work

Health Canada issued new occupational safety guidelines Thursday

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Caption: A worker enters a federal government building in Ottawa earlier this fall. New guidance from Health Canada asks public service departments to reconsider their plans to have employees return to their offices. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

New guidelines from Health Canada on workplace COVID-19 safety has halted plans to have more federal public service employees return to the office.
Health Canada has updated its occupational health guidance for the public service following the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country and the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Departments and agencies are being asked to "pause any planned increases to building occupancy, review current occupancy levels and consider increasing remote work," according to a statement Thursday from Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board.
The statement also recommended "all employees in the core public administration" receive a booster dose, wear masks indoors in all shared spaces and avoid non-essential international travel.
"It is my expectation that organizations continue to align their plans with the current public health context, taking into consideration their respective operational needs," Fortier wrote.
Most public servants have been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and federal office buildings in Ottawa-Gatineau sat almost empty until this summer. 
That's when a pilot project launched that saw hundreds of Public Services and Procurement Canada employees return to the office.
Another pilot project just launched at the end of November for employees to return to the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada.
It involved 100 employees who volunteered to return to the Portage IV and the 200 Montcalm buildings in Gatineau, Que., for at least 10 weeks.
"We have temporarily suspended it due to the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant," read an email statement from the Treasury Board to Radio-Canada.