Cost of keeping some civil servants home for COVID-19 could exceed $600 million

Cost of keeping some civil servants home for COVID-19 could exceed $600 million

OTTAWA — The federal government has lost at least $439 million so far this year in productivity through a policy that allows civil servants to stay home, with pay, during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s budget watchdog said in a report released Friday.

Most of that total was a result of employees at the Canada Revenue Agency staying home, unable to work, between March 15 and May 31, the Parliamentary Budget Office said.

That one department accounted for just over $311 million in paid leave, far ahead of the second-costliest department, Correctional Services Canada, at more than $33.8 million.

The report says the Canada Revenue Agency told the budget watchdog that limitations on work was the most common reason for taking leave, mostly related to compliance and collection activities being postponed during the pandemic.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the majority of federal employees, called the numbers “modest.”

The PBO report was compiled at the request of Edmonton Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, who wanted to know the financial impact of the policy, known as pay code 699.

The policy allows federal employees paid leave for emergencies such as being sick with COVID-19, having to quarantine, not being able to access the technology they need to complete their work and having to care for dependants.

It does not require employee to first use up other forms of paid leave, such as vacation, family emergencies or accumulated sick leave.

“The data shows that vast majority of public service employees were able to work at full capacity while only a third were occasionally forced to use 699 leave,” said PSAC national president Chris Aylward.

The PBO also noted the leave amounted to about one per cent of government salaries for the period.

“The price of forcing layoffs and trying to rebuild the public service after the pandemic would have cost taxpayers tenfold — let alone the negative impact on our economy,” Aylward said.

The PBO said 699 costs could be closer to $623 million, government wide, because the Treasury Board Secretariat, which is responsible for the civil service, only provided information from 62 of the 88 federal public service organizations, representing about 70 per cent of government departments.

The PBO noted that it was not able to find a leave policy of a similar scope in the private sector, although some provinces have offered their employees some pay cushions.

“Many provincial governments have issued notices requiring managers to provide flexibility and allow employees to draw on future sick leave credits during the pandemic,” the PBO report said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2020.

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Submitted
Montana First Nations councillor gives back to youth

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News Reggie Rabbit is a newly elected… Continue reading

General Support Services workers were picketing on 46 St. at the entrances to the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury on Oct. 26 . (Emily Jaycox/PonokaNews)
Ponoka Centennial Centre support workers strike

General Support Services staff hit the picket line Oct. 26

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Most Read