Federal civil servants mandated to return to office three days a week

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Public servants in the core public administration who are eligible for a hybrid work arrangement will be required to work on-site a minimum of three days per week, the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) announced Wednesday.

Currently, public servants are required to be in the office a minimum of two to three days a week, or 40 to 60 per cent of the time.

The new directive requiring three days in the office will take effect by Sept. 9, 2024, the federal government announced. 

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It would also be acceptable to require a minimum of 60 per cent of employees’ regular schedule on a weekly or monthly basis, TBS said.

Executives will be expected to be on-site a minimum of four days per week as of the same date, said the update to the Direction on Prescribed Presence in the Workplace.

TBS said the intent of the update was “to maximize the benefits of on-site presence and to bring greater fairness and consistency to the application of hybrid.”

The updated requirement also reflects the benefits that consistent in-person interactions offer, TBS said. “These include more effective collaboration and onboarding of new talent, as well as creating a strong culture of performance that is consistent with the values and ethics of the public service.

“This approach is consistent with many provincial and territorial governments and private-sector organizations.”

Separate agencies are encouraged to implement a similar plan, TBS said.

In a message to deputy ministers, the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the TBS chief human resources officer said that, “While many public servants, including executives, are already working on-site three days or more a week, for others this will represent an adjustment. Providing employees with this advance notice will help them to make any arrangements needed to smoothly transition to the new minimum in the fall.”

The three-day minimum requirement also applies to groups of employees in organizations who had been permitted to temporarily continue working remotely based on specific work models, such as call centre employees. It also applies to information technology employees that had been exempted from the direction. 

TBS said organizations may choose to begin phasing in the common hybrid work model in September 2024, with full implementation expected by September 2025. 

Some exemptions for individual employees are still permissible and remain applicable.

“This updated requirement also aligns with the government’s commitment to reduce its office footprint by 50 per cent,” read the message to deputy ministers. “Departments and agencies continue to work with Public Services and Procurement Canada to ensure workplaces can accommodate the common hybrid work model, namely by implementing unassigned workspaces.”

TBS said it continues to work with a number of bargaining agents and organizations on its hybrid and telework policies.

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