Basic Pay and Benefits Information

This short info-sheet is designed to provide you with an overview of pay and benefit questions that may be on your mind but not necessarily comfortable asking your manager in the early days! Details will be available to you on our intranet site once you officially walk through the door.

Government calendar

One thing most people don’t think to tell you and you just eventually learn is… in the Government of Canada (GoC) the year doesn’t start on January 1, well not for most things!  The “fiscal” year for the Canadian Federal Government starts on April 1 and ends on March 31. Almost everything you do in government will revolve around those dates. An exception is your benefits plan which you will learn about shortly!

Your pay


  • DFO is leading in the federal community in helping its employees when pay issues arise.
  • As an employee, you are paid in arrears. This means you are paid for the two weeks you have already worked and not for the current pay period. Typically, public servants are paid every two weeks on a Wednesday.


  • Want to figure out what you get before taxes? You can determine your pre-tax pay every two weeks, by dividing your annual salary by 26.088.

For example, if your salary is $50,000, your pre-tax pay can be calculated as:

$50,000 ÷ 26.088 = $1,916.59 per pay


What is a pay increment?

  • A pay increment rate is the next highest horizontal rate of pay on the pay scale.
  • If the Collective Agreement does not specify a period of time, the pay increment period defaults to 12 months. In layman’s terms, that means that if there are no major performance issues, your annual pay will bump up to the next increment or level on the pay scale!

Your benefits

The Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) is an optional health care plan with various options for federal public service employees and their dependents. It is designed to supplement provincial/territorial health insurance plans.

Note: Your health plan works on a standard calendar year. The restart button for your benefit amounts is January 1.

What gets covered?

Supplemental coverage for expenses such as, prescription drugs, vision care, dental and other various medical practitioners. Just so you know, the plan typically pays 80% to 90% of eligible expense(s) or stated maximums, if any. Most coverage begins on the 1st of the month following receipt of your health coverage application, but dental coverage eligibility begins after 3 months.

For example:

  • Prescription drugs are reimbursed at 80% with no annual or lifetime maximum.
  • Psychological and other services are reimbursed to a maximum of 80% of $2000 per calendar year.
  • Standard dental services are reimbursed at 90% (maximums are established for certain procedures).

What is optional?

The plan allows you to choose one of three levels of extra hospital coverage for a fee. Your new employer covers level 1, but you must pay for level 2 or 3. There is also a plan for employees residing outside of Canada. Details of the plan and the costs are available on the department’s intranet site once you are officially on board!

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

EAP is a program offering free services to federal government employees, including:

  • A bilingual 24 hour crisis and referral centre
  • Short-term psychological counselling services
  • Advisory services for managers/supervisors and union reps to assist with personnel challenges

Your work hours and work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements may be possible, but depend on many factors, including the details of your collective agreement, the operational needs of your position or team and managerial approval. While the government always tries to balance operational requirements with personal needs the options listed below are not always possible.

Flexible hours of work

A core work day = 7.5 or 8.0 consecutive hours, excluding lunch period. Work hours can be between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. (lunch is not less than 30 and not more than 90 minutes and typically there are 2x15 min. breaks). Breaks may not be combined with lunch. Work hours and work weeks vary significantly for some operational positions and many working in the field or on ships.

Compressed work week

Variable Work hours/week = work longer days in exchange for a reduction in the number of working days in the work cycle. A normal work/pay cycle = 75 hrs. Compressed (9 x 8.33 hrs/2 weeks = 74.97). What does this mean? You may be able to take one day off every two weeks by working longer each day.


In some cases telework may be an option, meaning you may be able to work from home, full-time or part-time, but key work deliverables and activities must be defined and approved by your manager.

Leave with income averaging

If your manager agrees, the option exists for you to take unpaid leave between 5-12 weeks to a maximum of twice annually. It is unpaid leave, but the overall reduced income is averaged out across the year so that you will continue to receive a regular deposit.

Your holidays and vacations

Remember, this information is general and may be subject to your individual (union) collective agreements! Please refer to your collective agreement. The union to which you belong is outlined in your Letter of Offer.

Statutory holidays

  • Employees of the Canadian Federal Government receive all of the standard statutory holidays, with two noteworthy differences.
  • Government employees include November 11 (Remembrance Day) as a holiday; however, they do not receive ‘Family Day’ as a holiday. This is due to the fact that Family Day is provincial and we are a federal organization and not all provinces have instituted this holiday in their calendar.
  • One other difference to note is that if a federal government employee works in la belle province du Québec, you take St. Jean Baptiste day (June 24 or the first work day after June 24) as a statutory holiday whereas federal employees in all other provinces take the first Monday in August – Civic Holiday.

Vacation time

  • Typically, if you are new to government or have been working for less than eight years, you receive 15 vacation days annually.
  • They can be taken all together or individually according to your preference and approval of your manager – always based on operational requirements.
  • Once you have worked for 8+ years, your vacation amount increases as it does at various service milestones. With manager approval, you may carry over some accumulated vacation days, but typically they are intended to be used in the current “fiscal” year.

Other time off

There are a few other benefits regarding time off:

  • A personal day: under most collective agreements, subject to manager approval, is treated like a vacation day for personal reasons.
  • A volunteer day: subject to manager approval, is a day designed to encourage volunteer community or other service. The government strongly encourages volunteerism!
  • Family-related days: time to take care of sick family members
  • Appointment time: time for appointments usually between 1-3 hours
  • Bereavement leave: up to 1 week for immediate family, but hopefully you don't need it
  • Other leave: also exists, but the above-mentioned leave is most used!