Despite strong calls from unions to be more lenient, gradual restrictions on the use of leave with pay under Code 699 during the COVID-19 pandemic have adversely impacted some of the hardest hit federal public service employees.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CAPE, along with other federal bargaining agents and the employer, established a COVID-19 working group that collaborated to transition much of the federal public service to a remote and virtual work environment. Many did not have the proper equipment and support in place in the early days of the crisis. Some needed to use leave with pay under Code 699 or its equivalent to manage the transition, as well as the impact of the pandemic and the lockdown on their lives and their families.
While its application was flexible at the beginning of the crisis, over time the government began restricting its use, much to the detriment of some groups facing unique pandemic-related struggles, including natural caregivers, parents of young children or of children in school, and women generally.
CAPE believes these extraordinary circumstances call for greater flexibility in interpreting and applying Code 699, especially given that the TBS’s restrictions on the use of leave with pay under Code 699 are adversely impacting specific employee demographics. Employees must be given full access to all the resources needed to fulfill their work-related duties during this unprecedented national crisis.
CAPE continues to press the employer to do the right thing and recognize that a small number of people need special accommodation during this global pandemic.
About Code 699
What is Code 699* (Other Leave with Pay)?
*It is important to note that not all departments/agencies use Code 699 as the Code for “Other Leave with Pay”. So, while Code 699 is what is generally used, some departments/agencies use a different code for “Other Leave with Pay “.
Clause 21.17 of the EC collective agreement is the Other Leave with Pay provision to which the TBS Code 699 directive references and it provides as follows:
“At its discretion, the Employer may grant:
- leave with pay when circumstances not directly attributable to the employee prevent his or her reporting for duty. Such leave shall not be unreasonably withheld.
- leave with or without pay for purposes other than those specified in this agreement.”
Clause 21.17 clearly defines the circumstances under which Code 699 leave is to be granted, i.e., it shall be in circumstances that: (1) are not directly attributable to the employee, and (2) prevent the employee from reporting for duty. Although this leave is discretionary, the Employer’s discretion is not absolute as clause 21.17 specifies that the leave shall not be unreasonably withheld.
Similarly, in the TR collective agreement, clause 21.25 is the Other Leave with Pay provision that the Code 699 directive references and it provides as follows:
“At its discretion, the Employer may grant leave with or without pay for purposes other than those specified in this agreement.”
Once again, although this leave is discretionary, the Employer’s discretion is not absolute as management must exercise its discretion reasonably and in a non-discriminatory manner.
Members having difficulty accessing leave under Code 699, or who are being asked by their employer to use other types of leave such as vacation, sick leave, or other types of leave with pay should contact their labour relations officer.
- December 23, 2020 - Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) conducted by the Treasury Board Secretariat as part of its analysis and consultations for ‘Other Leave With Pay (699)’ clarified guidance.
- November 12, 2020 – Update to members from CAPE
- November 6, 2020 – CAPE filed policy grievances with the TBS for the EC and TR groups.
- September 2020 –TBS initially sought to implement changes to the 699 guidelines by the end of September. CAPE disagreed with the timeline and the approach proposed. We then contacted Minister Duclos’ office to seek assistance in pushing back TBS’ initial timeframe and were successful.
- CAPE wrote several letters to TBS and various Ministers outlining the above concerns to:
(a) Minister Duclos on November 2, 2020 in his capacity as President of TBS.
(b) Ministers Duclos, Freeland, Blair and Hajdu on September 1, 2020 in their capacity as Ministers and as Members of the Cabinet Committee on COVID-19; and
(c) Nancy Chahwan (Chief Human Resources Officer, TBS) on August 17, 2020
- May 2020 – A 699 Working Group was formed with several Federal Bargaining Agents, including CAPE, and TBS to identify appropriate and sustainable measures to help support employees in the context of the pandemic.
- March 21, 2020 – OCHRO releases initial guidance on the use of leave with pay under Code 699. These guidelines were to remain in effect until April 10, 2020
- March 12, 2020 – The National Joint Council (NJC) launches weekly calls between the Treasury Board Secretariat and the labour union community.