Update on Code 699 — arbitration decision

Following policy grievances filed by the Public Service Alliance of Canada against the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), an arbitration board ruled that the TBS could not force employees to exhaust all their other leave options before using the Code 699 leave for COVID-19-related reasons.

See decision: Public Service Alliance of Canada v. Treasury Board - Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (fpslreb-crtespf.gc.ca)

CAPE had filed an identical policy grievance at the same time as the PSAC and expects the decision to be applied by the Employer to all public sector employees. 

In summary

The Board adjudicator stated that:

  • Family leave, sick leave and vacation leave have specific definitions in collective agreements, are separate entitlements and should not be used interchangeably with 699.
  • Sick leave is precisely that — an employee cannot work due to an inability caused by illness or injury. Employees should not be forced to use sick leave if they are not ill or injured.
  • Vacation leave should be used for its true purpose, which is enjoying life without work and without any obligation to report to work. Vacation leave is not meant to cover the inability to attend work because of circumstances one cannot alter.
  • Family-related leave is a safety valve for employees who have family responsibilities that might create a sudden requirement. Employees should not have to use family leave to cover the COVID-19-related problems, such as the ongoing closure of schools or daycares because of the pandemic.

Application of ruling

CAPE has been informed that TBS is currently assessing the legal ramifications of this decision and that departments have been asked to wait before taking any action for past transactions until they receive further instruction from TBS.  

Meanwhile, CAPE encourages its members who, during the pandemic were forced to exhaust other leave options despite meeting the requirements for Code 699 leave, to request having their other leave options reimbursed in their leave banks and their leave recorded as Code 699, where the ruling is applicable.

Going forward, members who must take a leave of absence due to the pandemic and meet the requirements for using Code 699 leave should request it through their manager. 

If your request is denied or you have questions, please contact your Labour Relations Officer.

About Code 699

The Code 699 leave is an option to which EC and TR members, as well as other public service employees, are entitled when they are unable to report to work due to circumstances not directly attributable to the employee.