Last week, the Yukon government quietly moved to launch a remote work policy. It will permit changes to how employees can apply to work from home, irrespective of where they live in the territory. “This is a step in the right direction,” stated Gord Curran, president of the Association of Yukon Communities (AYC). He recalled that opportunities to de-centralize the Yukon government workforce have been part of AYC meetings, at different times of the last decade. Curran and others observed that the remote-work experiment during COVID showed how government work could still arise despite the withdrawal of workers from government offices. Now the government has laid out a policy that articulates how this could be a function from each possible setting. An application-based process has been introduced.
The second criteria will rely upon an employee’s suitability, and 0.33 is the suitability of the remote workplace. Zoom calls from laundry rooms will be removed, as people are anticipated to set up offices and provide their office furniture (other than computers and phones). “It offers us a lot more flexibility as employers,” stated Aimee O’Connor, a spokesperson for the Public Service Commission. Although COVID-19 may also have accelerated the policy development process, an existing “telework” policy in the government’s general administration manual (GAM) had been identified by deputy ministers in 2019 as old and in need of review. In 2020, simply over a year ago, the opposition NDP amped things up with a motion to support the decentralization of the Yukon government workforce. Changes, additions, or deletions to GAM policies do not visit the cabinet and are approved by the deputy minister’s review committee (DMRC) which makes modifying policies less complicated than rules or legislation. O’Connor stated she expects more adjustments to the policy as it is applied and tested.
First, though, is a transition phase that requires all COVID-19-related work-from-home preparation to end by Dec. 31, and departments have till that date to transition to the new policy. Employees will now no longer be able to work remotely from locations outside of the Yukon territory. Nor can people work in a role-based in a rural community from Whitehorse. Curran says, “I think those things provided a lot of stability and captured the concerns many of our rural community members.” He sees many upsides. Children who grew up in Yukon communities can live in their communities and still find rewarding employment. Spouses of employees working frontlines in a community can nonetheless be considered for Yukon government jobs if the positions fit the policy. “Some of the things they may work on at a later date.” During the worst of COVID days, as much as 50 percent of employees had been working from home, reflecting the number of employees who work in frontline positions in the government.
The new policy is voluntary and clearly states that it is not a worker entitlement. The policy is also clear that it is not a policy to meet the demands of dependent care. Neither is it expected as a work-around to address vaccination requirements. On the latter point, O’Connor indicated that officials are working to finalize their approach to COVID-19 vaccine requirements and that logistical details will come out in the coming weeks.
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