Changes to 699 leave: PSAC to take further legal action

PSAC is filing a second policy grievance against Treasury Board for its most recent discriminatory changes to 699 leave that will force federal workers to exhaust all other leave – including sick leave and vacation leave – before they can request “other leave with pay” for COVID-19-related reasons.  

For the past eight months, federal public service workers have been giving their all to help Canadians grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. PSAC members have been unwavering in their dedication despite the physical risks for those doing front-line work, in additional to ongoing school and daycare closures, and the extra burden of taking care of vulnerable family members.  

In some cases, workers have been forced to use 699 leave when they simply could not work remotely because of child care or elder care responsibilities, including waiting in long lines for COVID-19 testing. 

Despite the modest use of 699 leave, in May Treasury Board changed the guidelines on 699 leave to restrict how public service workers use “other leave with pay” to fulfil childcare needs related to COVID-19. 

PSAC warned Treasury Board that tightening the guidelines would discriminate against marginalized groups, potentially lead to serious human rights violations and violate members’ collective agreements. Workers have a right to use 699 leave because we negotiated it into collective agreements; it cannot be taken away at the whim of managers. 

They didn’t listen.  

Shortly thereafter, PSAC filed a policy grievance against Treasury Board on the grounds that the revised policy disproportionately impacts women, people with disabilities and people with family obligations.  

New policy forces members to exhaust all other leave 

Even before PSAC’s first hearing date with the Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, Treasury Board doubled down on their restrictions around 699 leave, revising their policy to state that 699 leave could only be considered if workers have depleted all other paid leave available to them, even if they are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms or are unable to work because of child care or family obligations.  

PSAC will therefore be filing another policy grievance for the latest 699 leave policy changes that come into effect on November 9.  

Every day, parents are pulling their sick kids out of schools and daycares and will be forced to use up their vacation and sick leave. Workers caring for elderly relatives must make the impossible choice of putting their loved ones at risk if they go to work and bring COVID-19 home with them. These changes violate both members’ collective agreements and the Canadian Human Rights Act based on family status, sex and disability. The Canadian Human Rights Commission also plans to make submissions on behalf of federal public service workers.  

Without the availability of a vaccine, and with many parts of Canada experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, Treasury Board’s proposed changes are premature and do not reflect the current reality of this public health crisis and its mental health impacts on public service workers. 

PSAC is committed to ensuring that our members, and in particular, women, caregivers and those with disabilities, continue to have the necessary support and leave with pay they need during the pandemic. 


October 29, 2020