(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

Surrey council sets new rules for Good Citizen of the Year award

Candidates have more hurdles to jump before getting nominated for the prestigious local title

EXPLORE SURREY: Tee up some adventures in the city

Also: A walk through Surrey’s public art collection

‘Best of Cloverdale’ contest returns

Voters can cast ballots once a day until Sept. 5; enter to win $250 gift card for Save-On-Foods

In honour of player killed in crash, Surrey soccer team becomes BB5 United

Brandon Bassi died a few months before CCB won the national title last fall

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Displaced tenant ‘heartbroken’ to find Langley City condo robbed after fire

Wedding rings of Michelle Buchan’s have since been recovered, but much is still missing

‘Agitated’ man pulls out knife on 3 people in Abbotsford

Witnesses sought for incident on Monday night near city hall

FoodMesh taking its emergency food recovery project nationwide

Pilot project in Chilliwack helped show that food surpluses could be diverted to charities in need

Most Read