Who would have imagined a mere 7 months ago that our lives and those of everyone around us would be turned upside down? Businesses closed or significantly curtailed operations; schools and daycares were forced to close. All of this resulted in thousands of Canadians losing their jobs or having to make choices to care for elderly parents or school-age children for which there was no care readily available.
Financial hardships were a grim reality for many Canadians. For members working at the Canada Revenue Agency, the agency’s infrastructure and technology lent itself to taking the lead on a number of initiatives that assisted Canadians during these unprecedented times.
During the initial months of the pandemic the CRA developed a number of time codes used to track employees who were unable to work and were provided with leave with pay under one of the time codes. Over time, CRA developed various business resumption plans that gradually brought most employees back into the workforce. The vast majority of these employees transitioned into telework situations. As of today, approximately 70% of our members continue to work from home.
As of the writing of this article the CRA has transitioned to an almost fully operational status, the majority of employees are now working from home or in the workplace.
This transition has resulted in changes to the approval of the COVID-19 time codes. To be clear, these time codes continue to exist, contrary to misinformation occasionally provided to our members who were told they have been eliminated. As a member, should you find yourself in a situation where you are being told that the leave is no longer available or that you do not qualify, we strongly suggest that you contact your local executive for assistance on these matters.
Listed below are the most common scenarios for which leave is still available. We need to point out that in some cases, the criteria used for granting the leave is more stringent than in the past. However, there are still situations for which the leave is appropriate and will be granted.
Interactions with an affected individual, tested positive or ill with COVID, or complications post COVID
An employee who is required to self isolate due to close contact or proximity with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 may be entitled to code 6990 - leave with pay – other reasons. The code may be used until such time as they complete the isolation period, receive a negative result or a medical authority has confirmed that it is safe for them to return to the workplace. It should be noted that if able to perform work, there may be a discussion regarding the option to telework with your manager, otherwise the above code may apply.
In the case of an employee who reports to the workplace and who is ill with COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms, they must notify their manager immediately. The manager will follow the steps for addressing potential or confirmed cases of the virus. If the member is able to work, the option of working from home should be discussed. If the member is unable to work, they may be entitled to code 6991 leave with pay – COVID-19 Illness. Prior to approving this leave, the manager may require documentation to support the request.
Lastly it is important to note that employees who were ill with the virus and are no longer contagious but dealing with complications will be required to use regular sick leave codes at that point in time.
Caring for a family member who was sick as a result of COVID-19
If an employee needs to take some time off to care for a member of their family who becomes ill as a result of the virus, the employer will first consider allowing them to telework or other workplace flexibilities. If this is not possible, they may be entitled to code 6992 leave with pay – COVID-19 Family Care. Prior to approving this leave, they may be required to provide supporting documentation.
Caring for children
As per the Commissioner’s update on July 8, 2020, code 6992 Leave With Pay – COVID-19 Family Care, designed for unpredictable situations during which alternate arrangements are not possible, will be limited to exceptional circumstances. If the employee can demonstrate that they have exhausted all reasonable avenues to obtain childcare, they may still be entitled to code 6992 Leave With Pay – COVID-19 Family Care.
Where schools and daycares are available, it is expected that employees will send their children and continue or commence their normal work duties. Employees would not be granted leave with pay – COVID-19 Family Care (6992) if they choose not to send their child to school or daycare based on preference or level of comfort only. This is also the case with respect to school buses and public transportation. In these circumstances, employees may consider adjusting their work schedule to accommodate transporting children to school or daycare.
If a child is not exhibiting symptoms but was directed by a school, daycare or health care authority to stay at home due to potential exposure to the virus, consideration will be given to allowing the member to work from home. If this is not possible, they may still be entitled to leave with pay – COVID-19 Family Care (code 6992) to provide support for their child, until the member is informed by the school, daycare or health authority that the child is able to return. Prior to approving this leave, the manager may require documentation to support the request.
There are likely numerous other examples we could provide which may meet the criteria to be considered under the COVID-19 leave codes. The main message is that this leave is available, albeit with more information required than may have been the case in the past. If you are told by a manager or team leader that this leave is not available, we strongly recommend you contact a member of your local executive to discuss the situation further to attempt to resolve the matter.
Chair of the Communications Committee