26 September 2023

CANADA: Resignation threat over office mandate

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More than a third of Canadian Public Servants are so unhappy with the Federal Government’s return-to-office approach they are considering resignation, according to a survey by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).

The May survey found that the percentage of those considering finding a job outside Government that allowed more flexibility on where they could work, jumped to almost half of those aged 30 or under.

President of the PIPSC, Jennifer Carr said the results had to be taken in the contest that nearly one in five members of the Federal Public Service were aged 55 or over.

“We cannot afford to lose half of our youngest workers. The Government won’t be able to deliver the services Canadians rely on if it’s not able to address the major recruitment and retention problem it’s created with its own flawed return-to-office policy,” Ms Carr said.

“These numbers add up to a Public Service in peril.”

In January, the Federal Government issued a mandate requiring Public Servants to work from the office at least two-to-three days per week.

That move marked a departure a previously looser hybrid work model.

President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier said that the aim of the mandate was to standardise hybrid work practices across Government, support collaborative work, “team spirit, innovation and a culture of belonging”.

The union advocates the principle of “presence with purpose”, whereby employees’ time in the office is justified by operational needs, and is urging the Government to consider a hybrid-by-design approach that considers workers’ unique circumstances and job requirements.

“Flexibility is now the centrepiece of a modern and progressive workplace. Our union is ready to work with the Government to develop policies that make sense,” Ms Carr said.

Last year, former Secretary to the Cabinet, Michael Wernick voiced concerns that long-term remote working could hold back work to improve teams and develop the next cohort of leaders.

However, he now acknowledges that the return-to-office mandate, combined with high inflation, had created the conditions for the first large-scale public sector strike in three decades.

Ottawa, 22 June 2023

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