(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

Society celebrates pride with colourful piano contest around Chilliwack

People invited to find missing keys in Chilliwack Pride Society’s Rainbow Piano Mystery game

EDITORIAL: The dilemma of living in beautiful B.C.

Tourism dollars are needed for the economy while some locals are crying ‘stay away’

Three men face attempted murder charges after Harrison Hot Springs stabbing

Man, 24, sent to hospital with life-threatening injuries following attack Wednesday

Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Mischief and break-and-enter charges laid for incidents on four separate days prior to the protest

Chilliwack children can get tested locally, Fraser Health confirms

Erroneous information online and via 811 has many families driving to Abbotsford for testing

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Wrong-way driver triggers multi-vehicle collision on Highway 99 in South Surrey

Police received multiple reports of vehicle heading north in southbound lanes

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

Most Read