Questions and Answers - Public Safety Guidance on Teleworking During COVID-19 Pandemic

(Available on RDIMS #3555211)

Operations

1. Do I need a telework agreement? If I have a telework agreement already, should it be updated?

If you have not previously entered into a telework arrangement, there is no need to complete a request at this time; that is, during the COVID 19 pandemic when employees are being requested to remain at home for their safety and to reduce transmission of the virus.

If you have a telework arrangement in place, you should ensure that your manager has your correct contact information, but there is no need to update the agreement at present.

2. How does teleworking impact the 2019–2020 performance management year-end exercise? Are there guidelines to help management and employees complete this exercise taking into account the current circumstances?

Treasury Board Secretariat – Office of the Chief Human Resource Officer (TBS-OCHRO) has extended and suspended the completion of the 2019-20 performance management year-end exercise until further notice.

Although there are no specific guidelines for completion of the Performance Management Agreement (PMA) during the COVID-19 crisis, the tools that are available during usual times continue to be good practices. What is different is the leniency and flexibility required for the work performed in the last two weeks of March when the requirement to work at home began. There was little notice given for the social distancing and closure of schools, offices, stores, etc. and considerable adjustment required for all. This context must be taken into account.

3. Am I entitled to deduct certain expenses from my employment income for income tax purposes? REVISED

Depending upon the situation and provided certain conditions are met, teleworkers may be able to deduct certain expenses from their employment income for income tax purposes. Due to the complexity of the Income Tax Act, and the fact that each telework situation is unique, employees should contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) if they have questions. Employees can find some relevant information on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

Public Safety’s Comptroller is awaiting CRA and TBS-OCHRO direction on T2200 form use, so managers should not sign off at this time.  Further information will be shared as it becomes available.

4. How will I be advised when I am able to return to the office to work?

There will be a department-wide email communication to employees indicating a future date when you will be able to return to the office to work. This information will also be shared with you by your manager through usual communications means (email or phone). Media reporting will also signal a back to work move for the public service.

Environment

1. I have special ergonomic equipment in my office. What is the process with regard to accommodating my needs? REVISED

During this unprecedented period, if we are not working in critical roles and required to report to the workplace, we are required to remain in our homes and to telework, where possible. In certain exceptional circumstances, employees who have specialized ergonomic equipment at the office, may not have similar equipment available to them at home.  In these cases, the employee should discuss with management the nature of the work performed (whether critical), the nature of the special prescribed ergonomic equipment and guidance with respect to requirements, to see what can be done as a temporary measure while the employee is working from home. 

Generally, furniture and chairs will stay in the office.  Keep in mind that there are certain limitations due to the risk that COVID-19 has placed us in and it may not be possible to provide employees with the same level of accommodations given the temporary need to work from home during the pandemic.  In certain cases where it is identified that equipment is needed and is supported by your manager, the delivery of furniture, if also supported at the Director General (DG) level, can be arranged through Accommodations.  Any costs associated with the accommodation will be managed by the employee’s Branch.  

Removal of Ergonomic Assets
Public Safety (PS) actively discourages employees from removing assets from the office themselves and will provide assistance for the removal of ergonomic assets (i.e. by courier) in exceptional cases, where certain circumstances are met (see Restrictions below). For the Regions, please contact Accommodations for the procedures. 

Restrictions

Approval Process

Transfer Protocols

Returning to the Office
When employees have been notified that they may return to working in the office, they will be responsible for shipping the items back to the office by courier and will need to complete the Courier Service Request form to arrange pickup at the expense of their cost centre. Employees will be responsible to clean properly any items they have in their residences before returning them to the office. Employees will be asked to:

2. Is it possible to have an ergonomics assessment of my home workspace?

Management is responsible for providing guidance to employees for ergonomic considerations for remote office set-up. There are many sources available on the Internet. One that is very good is the Workplace Safety and Protection Services source linked to the Guidance on Teleworking During the COVID-19 Epidemic.

During normal times ergonomic assessments are not usually provided by the Employer in an employee’s home. Especially during the COVID-19 crisis, since we are all trying to reduce exposure and transmission of the virus, it is certainly not advisable to invite anyone into your home. Use available resources to make your teleworking space as comfortable for you to work as possible, under the circumstances.

3. What if my home is not ideal to set up a space to work in?

Health and safety is a shared responsibility, you are expected to set up a workspace that is suitable for you to work in. If you are unable to find a suitable location, discuss with your manager the nature of the hazards and determine whether the hazards can be addressed and resolved, and if not, whether there are alternative arrangements which can be made.

Equipment

1. My equipment, including laptop and/or mobile work phone, are still at the office. Am I permitted to go to the office to retrieve the equipment?

You should discuss with your manager, if your equipment is still in the office. Consideration should be given to the means by which you go to the office.  You may depend on public transit; alternatively, there may be parking available near the building or if you would like to take a taxi fees will be reimbursed.

Arrangements are in place for Commissionaires to register names and floors of employees visiting the office. Precautions should be taken to maintain the recommended distance of at least 2 metres between individuals, which could mean limiting the numbers of people in an elevator, and making and respecting appointment times at the IT HelpDesk, so as not to overcrowd.

2. Can the department deliver my office equipment to my home? If yes, when life returns to normal, will the department take away equipment from my home back to the office?

Depending on the context and nature of the equipment, it would usually be the employee who would pick up the equipment at the office and transport it to their home.  Similarly, the equipment would be returned by the employee when they return to work after the pandemic.

If there are special circumstances that prohibit the employee from going to the office during the pandemic, for example, someone with a compromised immune system, no childcare, or no transportation, it may be possible, as resources allow, that IT could ship the equipment to the employee’s home, at the cost of the Fund Centre. Such a request will require DG approval as well as the employee’s device location, home address and phone number. At the point where it is safe for employees to return to the office, it will be the responsibility of the employee’s cost centre manager to ensure the return of the office equipment.

3. What if I need cables, keyboard, mouse or monitor for my home office? Can I come to the office to retrieve them? Can I purchase them on my own? What is the process that I should follow? REVISED

Employees should discuss their requirements with their manager, given we are trying to limit movement to the workplace so as to limit transmission of the virus. Cost centre managers can approve the purchase of cables, mouse or keyboard at their discretion, using their cost centre office supplies budget. With the pre-approval of the manager, reasonable purchases can be made by the employee for a pre-determined product and expense, for reimbursement after their return to work.

Monitors and laptops/Surface Pro devices cannot be purchased by anyone except the responsible IT group.  IT has previously indicated that employees can discuss with their manager requirements to take monitors home.  If a monitor is to be shipped from the office to an employee’s home, it is the responsibility of the cost centre manager to track the asset numbers on monitors and devices and ensure that they are returned to the office upon our return to work.  Please see the response provided in Q.1 under Environment for the process to be followed.

4. How do I get reimbursed for pre-approved teleworking expenses?

  1. The employee sends an email to the manager (with financial delegations) with a description of the item(s) to be purchased, including the amounts for each item.
  2. The delegated manager approves the purchase by providing the following Section 32 certification in an email to the employee and the respective financial administrative officer:
  3. The employee can purchase the goods and provide supporting documentation to the delegated manager and financial administrator (i.e. email, PDF, scan or photo of the purchase receipt and delivery packing slip if applicable).
  4. Delegated manager emails the approved Section 34 checklist (RDIMS # 1887952) and supporting documentation to Financial Operations. Should the delegated manager be unable to digitally sign the forms using their “MyKey”, provide the following Section 34 certification in the email:
    • I certify that work was performed and that goods were supplied or services were rendered as contracted and that the payee is eligible for or entitled to the payment pursuant to section 34 of the FAA.”

Important notes:

5. How will we ensure multiple employees aren’t going to the building at the same time? What protocols will be in place to ensure proper safety and health procedures are followed?

Only employees who perform a critical function and cannot work from home should be in the office during this period. Unless an employee has pre-arranged to visit the IT HelpDesk at a particular time, we do not necessarily know how many other employees plan to drop in to pick something up or to seek assistance.

Due to the current situation related to COVID-19, Public Safety is adjusting its security and emergency management procedures in the NCR buildings. Since March 19, 2020, and until further notice, anyone accessing Public Safety premises including employees must make their presence known by providing their names, phone number and the floor they will be on at the main lobby reception desks of both buildings. If you normally park in the garage and use the freight elevator to go directly to your floor due to mobility issues, you may make your presence known by sending an email to the Security mailbox.

Precautionary measures have been put in place to limit the Commissionaire’s contact with employees signing in. Employees must maintain distance and the Commissionaire signs in the employee.

Employees should distance themselves from anyone they encounter, keeping at least 2 meters apart, respecting others’ need for separation as well, whether on the elevator, passing in a hallway, using washroom facilities, occupying a desk or boardroom, etc.

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is following Public Health guidelines for the control of COVID-19 which is centered around reinforcing personal hygiene practices. To support this, PSPC landlords have installed hand sanitizing stations in their lobbies and are reinforcing touch point cleaning.

We strongly encourage employees to follow the advice of the Public Health Authority by staying home --employees are responsible to take steps to reduce the virus spread:

6. I am performing a critical function and working from home. What if I need a printer? Can I purchase one on my own with my manager’s approval? What is the process that I should follow?

There should be no need for a printer at home during this period. Every attempt should be made to modify current working practices to eliminate all printing requirements at home. Human Resources currently accepts email approvals. A number of finance forms have been modified to accept electronic signatures. One can also sign a document with digital ink – instead of printing, signing and scanning. If in exceptional circumstances, printing is still identified as a requirement, IT will require DG approval. Following discussion, submit a ticket to the IT Service Desk and someone from IT will be in touch with you at the number that you specify. A business case will be required explaining why a printer is still required. Should the requirement be approved by the CIO, the process to order a printer will be provided to the user.

7. Will IT HelpDesk support all of my home equipment when I have a problem?

IT will attempt to provide support for equipment provided to employees by Public Safety. IT will not provide support for all home-based IT equipment.

Connectivity

1. What if I can’t connect to WiFi at home? I’ve heard about phone tethering, what is this and how do I set this up?

A very helpful resource Remote Access Guidelines for Staff provides detailed information concerning getting set up and trouble-shooting from home. With respect to connectivity, at the bottom of the above named reference, you will find tethering or hot-spotting instructions for Samsung (see page 199) and iPhone devices.

2. What if I’m not able to connect to the network?

Prior to calling the IT Service Desk, please ensure that you have rebooted your work computer and that you are connected to Wi-Fi or directly connected with a network cable.  If you have other devices at home, please ensure that your Internet works properly with other devices. If your troubleshooting fails, please call the IT Service Desk at (613) 991-7053.

3. I have incurred data overages on my personal cell phone, are these eligible for reimbursement?

Charges for overages on personal cell phones will not be reimbursed by Public Safety. Should you require a work cell phone, please discuss your requirement with your manager, who can submit a work cell phone request to the IT Service Desk. In the event an employee feels strongly that consideration should be given to such a reimbursement, the request and substantiation must be submitted to the Chief Information Officer and Chief Financial Officer for approval.

Supplies

1. What if I need supplies (e.g. printer paper, sticky notes, pens)? (Do I need to get things from the office myself? Will the department send me supplies? Can I just order them online and send the department my invoice? Is there a maximum amount?)

Please discuss with your manager if you have specific requirements for supplies. Employees who do not have to report to the office to work should not go out for other than essential reasons. The fund centre manager can approve an employee’s reimbursement for supplies purchased directly, upon the production of an itemized receipt and with evidence of pre-approval of the purchase and cost-estimate. Employees are to submit receipts only upon their return to the office.

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