Message from the Deputy Minister and Associate Deputy Minister
Easing Restrictions at Justice – Our Path Forward
Dear Justice Employees,
The last two months of living and working according to social distancing rules have been challenging on many fronts. We also recognize that many of you are wondering what comes next.
While our office doors across the Department have been closed since mid-March, the lights never went out. Here we think of and thank our legislative drafters, our legal services units, our policy experts, our communicators and our COVID-19 Tiger Team. For others, this time has meant a different kind of work. We want you to know that every one of you has been contributing—contributing to the work of this department and, by staying home, contributing to flattening the curve.
We are now entering the next stage of this pandemic. Provinces and territories are easing restrictions for the public. We are already seeing some public servants across government returning to worksites, and we expect to see more of this over the coming weeks and months.
Justice is preparing for a return to worksites, too, at least for a limited number of you, when it will be safe to do this. We will continue to encourage and support working remotely wherever possible. However, for those who do need to return to the workplace, we are working on developing detailed plans for making the workplace safe for your return.
You may return to the workplace because your work is critical to our operations and support services, or perhaps you have to appear before the courts or tribunals, or your job doesn’t allow you to work from home. No matter what the situation, your health and safety in the workplace are paramount. We know that your managers will consider a number of factors, and we encourage open dialogue on these matters between managers and employees.
Plans for a gradual return to the workplace will be different among federal government departments, regions and cities, as well as within individual divisions and teams here at Justice. Much will depend on local public health advice and specific work requirements. For those who do return to Justice worksites, we want to assure you that we have been focused on ensuring that we will be able to accommodate you, and that we will do so safely.
Over the last number of weeks, a great amount of work has been done to prepare for this recovery phase. We have been working with Justice’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee and bargaining agents, and we are putting in a place a detailed tactical plan to ensure our readiness across the Department.
Whether you work at East Memorial Building or St. Andrew’s Tower, a legal services unit located in another department’s building, if you share a worksite with other tenants in one of our regional offices or in the National Capital Region, or if you need to appear before the courts or tribunals, our readiness plan will address these worksite issues, including the health and safety of employees. ADM Bill Kroll’s next update to staff will go into more specific details, but here is some of what is being done:
- Plans for an incremental, staggered and phased recovery of the workplace, seeing some employees returning to worksites, with the majority working remotely. This allows for greater physical distancing while in the workplace and helps take pressure off the public transit system.
- Putting in place safe building and floor occupancy levels to ensure appropriate physical distancing
- Protocols for enhanced cleaning for offices and communal spaces, such as meeting rooms, elevators, kitchens and bathrooms
- Placement of reminder and information signage
- Designating up and down stairwells, as well as ensuring proper signage
- Guidance to staff and managers on the use of personal protective measures, which may include face coverings
- Continued support for employees working from home as the primary means of conducting business
- Ability to adapt to our approach due to any changing public health advice in each jurisdiction (province, territory and in some cases municipality)
While we cannot give you an exact date of when things will change for everyone, things are already changing for some—we are, and will be, ready. We are not rushing; we are doing this right. In all of our efforts and actions, we will:
- Ensure the health, safety and wellness of Justice employees
- Follow local public health direction to contain the spread of the coronavirus
- Maintain programs and services that the Government of Canada and Canadians rely on
Managers and all employees will be equipped with the information and guidance to ensure employee health, safety and wellness, whether working on site or working remotely, and will plan accordingly.
This current phase will likely go on for a while, and there could be continued uncertainty as to what will happen with the pandemic next. We are in unprecedented times, and we thank you for your perseverance. As always, we will keep you informed about the latest decisions.
We want to say once again how proud we are of what we have accomplished together during these unprecedented times. We know that we are poised to enter this next phase. We are, as you know, stronger together.
Thank you, and take care.
Nathalie G. Drouin, Ad. E. – A. François Daigle
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