Quebec's public sector workers will begin gradually returning to their offices in September as the government transitions into a hybrid model of employees working from home most of the week.
The government is recommending that private sector employers develop similar plans to return to offices this fall, Labour Minister Jean Boulet said on Wednesday.
Boulet said while employers have the right to require their employees return to offices, he hopes they discuss the issue with their workers to ensure a "harmonious back to work for all the people in Quebec, in compliance with the hybrid formula that we strongly recommend.''
Even though the province is at the lowest pandemic-alert level, Boulet said working remotely remains strongly recommended.
Boulet suggested private employers should assume their employees who have been working from home want to continue working remotely some of the time.
Depending on the epidemiological situation, the gradual return of all public service employees could begin as early as Sept. 7, the province says on its website.
Eventually, the aim is to have 100 per cent of employees working at the office at least two days per week by the end of the year.
This rollout will happen in three phases, with the first being managers and support teams going into work one day per week as needed to prepare the workspace, the website says.
Then, starting Sept. 20, a maximum of 50 per cent of employees will be returning to the office one to two days per week.
Finally, from Oct. 19 to Dec. 31, an increasing number of employees will be expected to attend the office one day per week until it becomes mandatory that all staff are on site twice per week.
"Even if the situation is better than it was and we are very optimistic for the future, we still have to deal with the fact that the virus is still present in our communities," Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel told reporters on Wednesday.
That why the government is launching a hybrid model that gradually progresses over a period of several months, she said.
The pandemic has proven that the hybrid model has advantages for both the employees and the government, LeBel said.
A union representing 29,100 government workers welcomed the announcement but said the plan lacks flexibility and employees, not the government, should determine when and how often workers return to the office.
"It's a step in the right direction,'' Line Lamarre, president of Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec, said in a news release.
"However, we believe our members are sufficiently professional to determine for themselves when their presence at the office is required.''