NWT government launches remote work policy
The Northwest Territories government has released a new remote work policy that will allow some of its employees to work from home, regardless of the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.
NWT Finance minister Caroline Wawzonek, who oversees human resources, said the policy will make the NWT government a more attractive employer and provide more job opportunities to northerners living in smaller communities.
“There’s a lot more digitization going on in the workforce, a lot more folks are looking for options in the workforce,” she said.
“This isn’t going to be an opportunity for folks to just go work from the beach. That’s not the point. The point is to be responsible and reflective of peoples’ needs and realities here inside the territory,” she continued.
“This really is an opportunity for us to give better public service.”
Wawzonek added the policy is “another tool in the toolbox” to support potential employees living outside of regional centres, something that politicians and residents have long called for.
During a recent public meeting on the territorial government’s affirmative action policy, attendees said decentralizing government jobs from Yellowknife is key to attracting and retaining more Indigenous employees.
“Those positions that are right now based in say headquarters or in a regional office, if that individual is qualified and would otherwise be the perfect candidate but for the fact that they’d have to move from their home, well suddenly they can now be applying and hired,” Wawzonek said of the remote work policy. “Departments don’t have to be asking people to move.”
Territorial government employees must volunteer to work remotely, and whether they will be allowed to do so will be subject to supervisor approval.
To be eligible, employees must work in a job that is suitable for remote work, and be able to maintain the same level of productivity and work quality. Employees will also responsible for the costs of working remotely including phone lines, internet and renovations.
Wawzonek said another criteria is whether employees will be able to meet privacy obligations.
“That’s really important,” she said. “Every GNWT employee needs to understand the privacy obligations that we all operate under.”
Reviewing a privacy breach in September, NWT Information and Privacy Commissioner Andrew Fox stressed the importance of government bodies addressing privacy and security concerns when employees are working remotely. He noted there were challenges when territorial employees began working from home during the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic with some territorial departments saying they had little time to prepare before the work-from-home order was issued.
The government policy states remote work is not a replacement for child or elder care, and it will not allow people living in Yellowknife to fill out regional jobs. Remote work outside of the NWT will “only be considered in rare and exceptional circumstances.”
Wawzonek said there has been a lot of interest in the remote work policy since it was launched late last month, but she doesn’t “expect a flood” of remote work requests.
“I’m a bit surprised but pleased that it’s gotten the attention that it has,” she said.