TBS secretary updated remote work policy while working from home

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Days after announcing a major policy change requiring all public servants to be in the office three days a week by September, secretary of the Treasury Board Catherine Blewett is stepping down from her role.

Blewett has been working remotely and is going on leave due to health reasons.

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“Having spent many years working in service to the public, I came to the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada with optimism,” Blewett said in an email to this newspaper. “The opportunity to help shape how programs and services are delivered to citizens was a dream job.

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“Unfortunately, life had other plans for me, and I have had to leave my post far earlier than I had hoped. As I take time to focus on my health, I am buoyed by the knowledge that the public service is filled with strong leaders and committed employees across the country who work hard to serve citizens every day.”

Dominique Blanchard has assumed the role of acting secretary. The prime minister will later announce who will be taking on the role permanently.

A departmental official from the Treasury Board Secretary confirmed that Blewett has been working remotely due to her health.

“When she was able, she was here (in Ottawa),” the official said, noting that Blewett has been working from her home in Halifax since around Easter. “Her doctors essentially said she can’t travel and now. She’s gotten to the point where she’s actually having to take some leave.”

This newspaper is not naming the source because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The official said Blewett was in full compliance with the direction on prescribed presence in the workplace, which allows for “certain exemptions in exceptional cases, notably for medical reasons.”

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The official said exemptions are available to all public servants.

Blewett and her counterpart, Chief Human Resources Officer of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Jacqueline Bogden, said in a message to deputy ministers on May 1 that public servants would have to be on-site at least three days a week by September 9, 2024.

Noting that separate agencies were “strongly encouraged” to implement a similar plan, the message stated that executives would be required on-site for a minimum of four days a week.

The official noted this was the result of consensus across deputy ministers, not Blewett alone.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in late January that Blewett would be stepping into the role of secretary of the Treasury Board effective February 6, 2024. She was previously president of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer