Telework wherever and whenever possible, federal public servants told

The federal government is now advising managers to consider telework for all employees, at all work sites.

Concerns remain about the strain telework may have on government IT networks

The main Statistics Canada building at Tunney's Pasture in Ottawa on March 16, 2020. Workers at Statistics Canada in Ottawa have been told to stay at home until further notice. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The federal government is now advising managers to consider telework for all employees, at all work sites, "while ensuring continued critical government operations and services to Canadians," according to an advisory from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. 

Some departments, including the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), informed workers on Sunday evening that only employees who perform "critical services" would be required to work. 

"All other CRA employees are asked to stay home in order to minimize the spread of illness," said CRA officials in an advisory. 

Meanwhile Statistics Canada workers in Ottawa who have not yet been contacted by their managers have been asked to stay home until further notice.

"We will be sending further details on our plans for remote working in the next 24 hours, and will keep you up to date with regular messages as the situation evolves," Chief Statistician of Canada Anil Arora said in a memo to staff.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos says the government will now 'encourage teleworking whenever and wherever possible.' (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

'As flexible as possible'

As of Monday evening, there had been 13 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness in Ottawa, where many federal employees work.

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The stronger message comes after Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos told CBC News Friday that each "human resource manager must make the best decision possible" about allowing employees to work remotely.

"We are constantly reassessing the situation and striving to balance both our duty to Canadians and the health and safety of all public servants," said Duclos in a news release Monday.

"The Government of Canada will be as flexible as possible and will not only allow, but encourage teleworking whenever and wherever possible."

But the government continues to be concerned about the strain telework might have on some departmental information technology networks. 

While employees at Public Services and Procurement Canada have also been asked to stay home, the message to those employees reflects this worry.

"We are concerned about the strain that this situation will place on our network," it says. "Therefore, employees are only permitted to connect to the network when absolutely necessary to perform essential functions and then disconnect." 

The Treasury Board is working with Shared Services Canada and departmental chief information officers to "maximize internet bandwidth to support remote work and prioritize network access tied to critical operations," according to a note sent to Canada Border Services Agency workers.  



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