As of Aug. 2, 2011, club memberships and season tickets are no longer allowed as perks in Ontario’s broader public sector — including universities, colleges, school boards, hospitals, long-term care facilities, community care access centres and children's aid societies — according to a directive by the provincial government.
Issued under the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010, the requirements around perquisites — benefits for certain individuals — “raise the level of accountability and transparency,” said the government. A perquisite is not permitted if it is not a business-related requirement.
“To be allowable, a perquisite must be a business-related requirement for the effective performance of an individual’s job,” said the directive.
The directive is based on three key principles: accountability (in the use of public funds and expenditures supporting business objectives); transparency (to stakeholders, with rules clear and easily understood); and value for money (with taxpayer dollars used prudently and responsibly).
The following perquisites are not allowed under any circumstances:
• club memberships for personal recreation or socializing purposes, such as fitness clubs, golf clubs or social clubs
• season tickets to cultural or sporting events
• clothing allowances not related to health and safety or special job requirements
• access to private health clinics — medical services outside those provided by the provincial health-care system or by the employer’s group insured benefit plans
• professional advisory services for personal matters, such as tax or estate planning.
These privileges cannot be provided by any means, including: an offer of employment letter, an employment contract or reimbursement of an expense, said the directive.
However, the directive does not apply to:
• provisions of collective agreements
• insured benefits
• items generally available on a non-discriminatory basis (such as an employee assistance program or pension plan)
• health and safety requirements
• employment accommodations made for human rights or accessibility considerations (such as special workstations, work hours or religious holidays)
• expenses covered under an organization’s rules on travel, meals and hospitality.
The rules on perquisites must include an accountability framework to ensure there is appropriate governance and everyone understands who in the organization has the authority for approvals, said the directive.
“The approval authority for an allowable perquisite should be at a high level within the organization.”
There must also be good record-keeping practices that are maintained for verification and audit purposes. And the rules must explain how summary information about allowable perquisites will be made publicly available on an annual basis.
A perquisite is only allowable in limited and exceptional circumstances where it is demonstrated to be a business-related requirement for the effective performance of an individual’s job, said the directive.
The directive also serves as a guideline to all other publicly funded organizations in reviewing or developing policies and practices related to perquisites, said the government.
© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, HAB Press. All rights reserved.