Telework: PSAC raises concerns about implementation as consultations begin to modernize telework policy 

A joint committee consisting of representatives from PSAC and Treasury Board met for the first time last week to discuss modernizing the Directive on Telework. This meeting laid the groundwork for what future meetings will look like during this year-long consultation process.  

We are committed to pushing for important updates to the directive that was developed in 2020 — before the pandemic began — based on feedback from members. 

We’ll continue to fight for all telework requests to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to prevent a "one size fits all" approach and ensure that the employer must provide written responses that will allow members and PSAC to hold them accountable to equitable and fair decision-making around telework. 

Federal public service workers have proven they can deliver the services Canadians depend on, whether working remotely or in the office. We look forward to working together in this joint committee to ensure the employer’s policy reflects the new reality of work. 

Concerns about Treasury Board’s interpretation of agreement 

While discussions about modernizing the Directive on Telework have now begun, and PSAC components and federal government departments continue their work to create joint panels to review telework grievances, PSAC has expressed in writing serious concerns regarding Treasury Board’s current interpretation of the letter of agreement (LoA) negotiated alongside the collective agreements for more than 120,000 federal public service workers. 

Treasury Board's recent communications, including statements to the media, suggest they believe telework requests should only be considered in exceptional circumstances, which directly contradicts the agreement’s intent and the existing requirements of the Directive on Telework. The unjustifiably narrow approach significantly undermines the parties’ shared commitments in the negotiated agreement. 

PSAC reiterated the key components of the letter of agreement: 

  • Flexibility is paramount: The letter of agreement enshrines the intent of the parties to follow the broad principles of the Directive on Telework, reaffirming that flexibility is an explicit objective of the directive. 
  • No one-size-fits-all approach: Both PSAC’s letter of agreement and the Directive on Telework affirm that telework arrangements are to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Early indications show that the employer continues to limit telework to “exceptional” circumstances like illness, short-term operational requirements, or extenuating circumstances, which fundamentally contradicts the language negotiated in the LoA.  
  • Telework not limited to exceptional cases: The government’s prescribed presence in the workplace policy, which outlines the minimum number of days workers are to be in the office, does not supersede the Directive on Telework or PSAC’s letter of agreement, nor does it deal with reasons to deny telework to our members or limit the instances in which telework will be granted.  
  • Panels are responsible for review: The letter of agreement expressly mandates the joint panels to review telework decisions once they are established in each department.  

Treasury Board knows these improvements were critical to reaching the agreement that ended our national strike. PSAC has asked for clarity on their position because differing views may impact the effectiveness of the consultation process and departmental panels — a key element of the agreement that provides recourse for members who are not satisfied with the decision regarding their telework request. 

If the government fails to meaningfully implement the improvements within a reasonable timeframe, PSAC is prepared to take legal action to expedite the process and ensure members’ rights are protected. 



December 18, 2023