(The Canadian Press)

Cost of keeping some civil servants home for COVID-19 could exceed $600 million

Most of that total was a result of employees at the Canada Revenue Agency staying home

The federal government has lost at least $439 million so far this year in productivity through a policy that allows civil servants to stay home, with pay, during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s budget watchdog said in a report released Friday.

Most of that total was a result of employees at the Canada Revenue Agency staying home, unable to work, between March 15 and May 31, the Parliamentary Budget Office said.

That one department accounted for just over $311 million in paid leave, far ahead of the second-costliest department, Correctional Services Canada, at more than $33.8 million.

The report says the Canada Revenue Agency told the budget watchdog that limitations on work was the most common reason for taking leave, mostly related to compliance and collection activities being postponed during the pandemic.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents the majority of federal employees, called the numbers “modest.”

The PBO report was compiled at the request of Edmonton Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, who wanted to know the financial impact of the policy, known as pay code 699.

The policy allows federal employees paid leave for emergencies such as being sick with COVID-19, having to quarantine, not being able to access the technology they need to complete their work and having to care for dependants.

It does not require employee to first use up other forms of paid leave, such as vacation, family emergencies or accumulated sick leave.

“The data shows that vast majority of public service employees were able to work at full capacity while only a third were occasionally forced to use 699 leave,” said PSAC national president Chris Aylward.

The PBO also noted the leave amounted to about one per cent of government salaries for the period.

“The price of forcing layoffs and trying to rebuild the public service after the pandemic would have cost taxpayers tenfold — let alone the negative impact on our economy,” Aylward said.

The PBO said 699 costs could be closer to $623 million, government wide, because the Treasury Board Secretariat, which is responsible for the civil service, only provided information from 62 of the 88 federal public service organizations, representing about 70 per cent of government departments.

The PBO noted that it was not able to find a leave policy of a similar scope in the private sector, although some provinces have offered their employees some pay cushions.

“Many provincial governments have issued notices requiring managers to provide flexibility and allow employees to draw on future sick leave credits during the pandemic,” the PBO report said.

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coastal GasLink breaks ground on meter station in Kitimat

Meter station marks final point on pipeline that stretches from Northeast B.C.

Mayoral nominations open Sept. 1

Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill confirms she will be running for the top job

Brucejack mine fatality identified

Patrick Critch was from Newfoundland

Friendship Centre optimistic MMIWG mural will be painted this year

Following trauma-informed healing workshops, project is now in the design phase

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Salmon arrive in larger numbers at Big Bar landslide

Arrival follows historic high-water levels that halted migration runs

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

Most Read