A big misconception about a position in the Government of Canada is that all job opportunities only exist in other Government of Canada departments or Crown Corporations. This could not be further from the truth. While the majority of public servants do not venture outside of federal departments and Crown Corporations during their careers, several options do exist. In this article I will briefly describe two options for Canadian public servants that wish to expand their horizon outside of the Government of Canada.
Option one: Interchange Canada
Interchange Canada is a program managed by the Treasury Board Secretariat that is open to all Canadian public servants. The program allows exchanges between academic institutions, all levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal), international organizations of all sizes, not-for-profit organizations, personal corporations, and private businesses.
The program provides the perfect framework for exchange programs for public servants and allows them to benefit by: building a strong professional network; obtaining new knowledge; and developing skills and approaches that cannot be easily obtained in the Government of Canada.
Below, are responses to several questions on the Interchange Canada program:
- How are assignments found?In the large majority of cases, assignments are made through professional contacts. A specific website offers assignment opportunities; however they are very limited in number and scope.
- Do I need to have any specific skills to participate in Interchange Canada?
No. However, you must possess the requirements as per the assignment offered by the host organization.
- How long can an assignment last for?Interchange Canada assignments last up to three consecutive years in duration, and make take place in one or more organizations. In certain cases, the assignment can be extended up to two additional years.
- Who will pay my salary and benefits?Public servants continue to receive their salary and benefits from their home organization (reimbursed by their host organization). However, they are subject to the working conditions of the host organizations (e.g., working hours, over time, and leave requests). However, the Deputy Minister can approve alternative agreements, if deemed necessary, assignment to happen. Other job-related expenses such as training and travel are the responsibility of the host organization.
- What will be my status as an employee in the Government of Canada when on an Interchange Canada assignment?
During the course of the Interchange Canada assignment, an employee continues to be considered as an indeterminate employee.
- Am I allowed to do an Interchange Canada assignment outside of Canada?Yes! Also, in certain cases, employees are also entitled to the National Joint Council’s Foreign Service Directives which covers additional factors such as relocation and benefits associated with living abroad.
- Could a former participant of the Interchange Canada program participate again?Yes; however, there is a two year waiting period. Nevertheless, from personal experience, keep in mind, that due to small budgets and fairness issues, it would probably be difficult for a previous participant to perform another assignment if they are still working in the same department at that time another Interchange Canada opportunity presents itself.
- Can my assignment be ended at any time?Yes, the assignment can be ended with a written notice from one of the parties to the letter of agreement. This must be done at least one calendar month before the new termination date of the agreement.Alternatively, the assignment can be temporarily interrupted for a specific period of time with the written agreement of all parties to the letter of agreement. The remaining portion of the assignment can be postponed until further agreed to by the parties to the letter of agreement.
- Am I still entitled to promotions in the Government while I am on an assignment?No, public servants remain and their substantive group and level and cannot receive additional pay benefits such as a bonus or acting pay.
Option two: Unpaid leave
Unpaid leave is another option for public servants who wish to work in another institution, but may have won a competition or been offered an official job offer from the future host company. In this situation, an employee can take an unpaid leave and will be considered an employee of the other institution during that time. This option is definitely more convenient in situations where there is a clear advantage in the areas of salary, benefits, or both.