QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q1. Is it true that isolated posts allowances will continue during periods of maternity and parental leave without pay?
A1. Yes, with the implementation of the new directive, the isolated posts allowances will continue during leave without pay for purposes of maternity or parental leave only (for a maximum of 12 months), provided the employee remains at the isolated post.
During the period of leave without pay, the employee remains entitled to non-elective medical/dental travel, but is not entitled to the other travel benefits: fixed rate VTA, compassionate, bereavement, post-secondary, and adoption travel.
(Reference: Part I, Section 1.14.3)
Q2. Do isolated posts allowances continue during periods of sick leave without pay or injury-on-duty leave without pay?
A2. No, they do not. However, except for non-elective medical/dental travel benefits and relocation from the post, the other isolated posts benefits cease during periods of sick leave without pay (subject to Section 1.19.4 and 1.19.5) and injury-on-duty leave without pay.
(Reference: Part I, Section 1.14.1 and 1.14.2)
ENVIRONMENTAL ALLOWANCE (EA)
Q1. I have been told that the factors used for setting the EA classification of my post have changed. What is this all about?
A1. In 2005, following a two-year study, the Isolated Posts and Government Housing Committee concluded that the Land factor was no longer relevant as it was being assessed on the basis of an outdated map prepared by the Canadian Forestry Service in the late 60's.
The conclusions of this study were adopted in this cyclical review.
The factors used in the setting of the Environmental Allowance (EA) classification are now: Population, Climate and Access. The Land factor (barren or taiga Lands) has been eliminated.
The points assessed for the Land factor were re-distributed to the Climate factor, and new ranges for EA have been adopted. All posts have now been reassessed using the above criteria.
The new ranges are (in ascending order):
0-44 points Post does not qualify
135 and up 5
The EA classification level for most posts remains unchanged. Some posts have gone up by one level; others have gone down by one level. A few posts have gone down by two levels. Any reduction will be applied in accordance with Section 2.12.3 of the IPGH Directive.
(Reference: General, Allowances; Appendix B; and Appendix H, Section 1)
LIVING COST DIFFERENTIAL (LCD)
Q1. I live in Whitehorse and I had been told that the methodology for the determination of the Living Cost Differential (LCD) allowance would be reviewed. Has this been done?
A1. Yes, a thorough review of the methodology was completed by the NJC-IPGH Committee including a comparative analysis using Vancouver and Edmonton. The results of the review have shown that the LCD in Whitehorse would not have been reinstated had Edmonton been used as a point of comparison.
The prices at each isolated post are measured against the prices prevailing in the post's point of comparison, rather than with a single location historically used as the major source of supply. The price differentials are calculated by Statistics Canada on the items that fall within the approved Basket of Goods and Services included in isolated posts Living Differential Indexes.
For a list of point of comparison for each region, see Appendix H, Section 2 of the IPGHD.
(References: General, Allowances; section 1.7; Appendix C; and Appendix H, Section 2)
Q2. Why are you not comparing the prices at the post to the prices at the source of supply?
A2. On the advice received from Statistics Canada, the Committee has agreed that there are no longer unique sources of supply. Goods are obtained from a variety of sources. Distribution is frequently centralized and the sources may vary from time to time. Appendix H, Section 2 of the Directive indicates the points of comparison as established by the National Joint Council Isolated Posts and Government Housing Committee.
FUEL AND UTILITIES DIFFERENTIAL ALLOWANCE (F&UD)
Q1. Am I entitled to receive the Fuel and Utilities Differential Allowance?
A1. Provided you are paying fuel and utility charges directly to the supplier, you will receive a Fuel and Utilities Differential, at the rate set out in appendix D of the IPGHD.
(References: General, Application; section 1.8; Appendix D; and Appendix H, Section 3)
PART III - EXPENSES AND LEAVE
Q1. Which kilometric rates apply under Part III – Expenses and Leave of the IPGH Directive?
A1. Unless otherwise specifically stated (See Section 3.1.2 – Notes), the lower kilometric rates apply in this Part. The rates can be found at: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/hrpubs/TBM_113/trkr-tkdv_e.asp
Q2. Why is there a requirement for receipts under Part III – Expenses and Leave of the IPGH Directive?
A2. An employee is reimbursed for expenses actually incurred.
Q3. Do the meal rates under the NJC Travel Directive apply automatically under Part III – Expenses and Leave of the IPGHD, regardless of whether a meal was purchased?
A3. No. The rates outlined in the NJC Travel Directive are used as a guide only to calculate an employee's maximum entitlement. Once the employee returns, the employee must submit a claim along with receipts in support of the expenses incurred to obtain a reimbursement. However, a receipt is not required for incidental expenses.
Q4. Who determines the medical/dental treatment is non-elective or the need for an escort?
A4. A qualified medical or dental practitioner who is attending the employee or the dependant at the isolated post determines and certifies that the treatment meets the criteria in the directive. The criteria are:
- the treatment is not optional;
- the treatment is not available at the isolated post; and
- the treatment is required without delay.
The attending medical or dental practitioner, by means of a certificate, must also determine the nearest location in Canada where adequate medical or dental treatment is available.
(References: Part III, section 3.1)
FIXED RATE VACATION TRAVEL ASSISTANCE
Q1. I used to have the choice between a 100% Accountable Vacation Travel Assistance (VTA) and a 80% Non-Accountable VTA. Do I still have these options?
A1. No. The 100% Accountable VTA and 80% Non-Accountable VTA have been replaced by the Fixed Rate Vacation Travel Assistance (VTA).
(Reference: Part III, section 3.4 and 3.5)
Q2. What is the Fixed Rate VTA based on?
A2. The 100% fixed vacation travel assistance benefit is not intended to be a reimbursement of expenses incurred or to be incurred. Rather, it is a value assigned to a benefit for which employees and their dependant(s) are not required to travel away from the post or to take "paid leave", i.e. vacation, furlough, compensatory leave, or lieu time off. The value is based on the cost of travel between an isolated post and its point of departure. It is calculated as follows:
(a) If your isolated post has an airport, the payment will be 100% of the return full economy class airfare between the post and the point of departure (including GST and provincial or territorial sales tax if applicable) as determined by TBS. Fees such as NAV CANADA fuel surcharges, airport improvement fees, travel agent fees, etc., are excluded from the calculation.
(b) If your isolated post does not have an airport, the payment will be 100% of the return full economy class airfare between the nearest airport and the point of departure; plus the return lower kilometric rate between the post and the nearest airport.
(Reference: Part III, section 3.5.1 and 3.5.3)
Q3. I am working at a headquarters that does not have an airport. What is the payment for the Fixed Rate VTA based on?
A3. The payment is based on the cost of travel between an isolated post and its point of departure. Given that your headquarters does not have an airport it is calculated as follows:
The return full economy class airfare between the nearest airport and the point of departure; AND the return lower kilometric rate for the driving distance between the post and the nearest airport; OR
The return lower kilometric rate for the driving distance between the post and the point of departure, where the most practical and direct means of reaching the point of departure is by road.
(Reference: Part III, section 3.5.3)
Q4. There is no airport at my post and the most practical and direct means of reaching my point of departure by road. What will my entitlement be?
A4. Where the most practical and direct means of reaching the point of departure is by road, the payment for each employee and each dependant is the return lower kilometric rate for the driving distance between the post and the point of departure.
(Reference: Part III, section 3.5.3(b))
Q5. There is no airport at my post and my post is at least 250 km from the nearest airport or from the point of departure. Are there any additional entitlements for expenses?
A5. Yes, in this situation the Employee and dependant(s) will also each receive $100 for miscellaneous expenses each way. This amount is paid to the employee.
(Reference: Part III, section 3.5.4)
Q6. I work in Big Trout Lake, ON. My friend told me that my Fixed Rate VTA would be based on travel between my post and Thunder Bay. Is this correct?
A6. No, Thunder Bay is not a point of departure. The approved points of departure are: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Moncton, Halifax and St. John's.
As the point of departure for Big Trout Lake is Toronto, that is what the value of the Fixed Rate VTA will be based on.
(General, Definitions; and Part III, Section 3.5)
Q7. I have the following dependants: a 16 year old, a ten year-old and an infant who is 18 months old. How will my Fixed Rate VTA be calculated?
A7. To calculate the payment, the employer has to take your and your dependants' ages into consideration in the same way that airlines do when determining how much to charge for a return full fare economy ticket.
If the airline being used to determine the regular economy airfare offers discounts for children's tickets, the applicable discounts will be taken into consideration in the determination of the Fixed Rate VTA payable for each dependant.
If the airline being used to determine the regular economy airfare does not offer discounts for children's tickets, the employee will receive the full Fixed Rate VTA.
(Reference: Part III, Section 3.5.2)
Q8. I am at a location where I have access to an airport but I would prefer to use my private motor vehicle (PMV) for my trip. How will this affect my VTA entitlements?
A8. The value of your Fixed Rate VTA will still be based on 100% of the return economy airfare ticket. However, the Fixed Rate VTA may be used in any manner the employee desires. There is no requirement to travel, or take leave or lieu-time off to receive the Fixed Rate VTA.
(Reference: Part III, Section 3.5.5)
Q9. I must drive to my point of departure, but it is located in another province. At which rate will the lower kilometric rate be paid?
A9. The lower kilometric rate is based on the province or territory in which the vehicle is licensed.
Q10. With the new Fixed Rate VTA, do I still get time off with pay for the purpose of travel?
A10. Yes, you are entitled to time off with pay for the purpose of travel, provided it is contiguous to a period of approved vacation or other paid leave. You must satisfy the Deputy Head that travel will take place or has taken place. Requests for time off with pay for the purpose of travel cannot be requested retroactively.
(Reference: Part III, section 3.10)
Q11. In that case, how much time off with pay am I entitled to?
A11. You are entitled to the lesser of the actual and reasonable time required to travel from your headquarters to the point of departure or to your destination. A maximum of two days may be granted but it is not automatic.
For example, an employee living in Yellowknife normally requires ½ day to fly to Edmonton, the point of departure for Yellowknife. The employee would be entitled to 1 day of time off with pay for travel (2 x ½ day).
(Reference: Part III, section 3.10.1)
Q12. I understand from reading the IPGHD that the Fixed Rate Vacation Travel Assistance (VTA) benefits may be subject to recovery if I resign from my position in the Public Service. Is this correct?
A12. Yes. When an employee resigns from the public service for reasons other than retirement, disability or a work force adjustment, and has received VTA benefits within the preceding three (3) months if their headquarters has an environment classification of 4 or 5 or within the preceding five (5) months if their headquarters has an environment classification of 1, 2 or 3, the amount of those benefits shall be recovered.
(Reference: Part III, Section 3.6)
Q13. I note that the amount of VTA benefits shall be either deducted from my claim for relocation expenses or considered to be a debt to the Government of Canada if there are insufficient funds payable for relocation or I am not eligible for relocation benefits. Is this true?
(Reference: Part III, Section 3.6.2)
Q14. I am a local hire and therefore will not relocate when I resign. Does the above still apply to me?
A14. Yes. Section 3.6 applies to all employees, including local hires.
Q15. How must I request the Fixed Rate VTA?
A15. You must request your Fixed Rate VTA to your department in writing. If you are in a post providing assistance twice a year, you will need to request it twice per year.
Q16. Is the Fixed Rate VTA subject to statutory deductions?
A16. Yes, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has ruled that a non-accountable VTA is subject to Income Tax, Canada Pension Plan, and Employment Insurance premiums.
Q17. Is it possible to request a waiver of the requirement to withhold income tax?
A17. Yes, as was the case with the former 80% non-accountable VTA, CRA has agreed to relax the requirement to withhold income tax for employees living at isolated posts in the Prescribed Northern and Intermediate Zones. For a list of the locations in these zones, go to the CRA website at: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/business/topics/payroll/benefits/housing/travel/menu-e.html
In order for the request to be granted, employees must certify that they will use the payment entirely for travel. Refer to your Compensation Advisor for further details.
Q18. Who will determine the Fixed Rate VTA?
A18. Treasury Board Secretariat will determine and publish the fixed rate VTA for each isolated post. For locations with an EA classification of 1, 2 or 3 (one trip per fiscal year), the rate will be published at the beginning of each fiscal year on a date agreed to by the NJC-IPGH Committee. For locations with an EA classification of 4 or 5 (two trips per fiscal year), a second rate will normally be published in the fall on a date agreed to by the NJC-IPGH Committee. Employees will be paid an amount equivalent to 100% of the return full fare economy class airfare between the headquarters and the point of departure, whichever is the nearest to the headquarters of an employee by the most practical route and means of transportation. Note: the fixed rate VTA is a value assigned to a benefit for which employees are not required to travel away from the post or to take "paid leave", i.e. vacation, furlough, compensatory leave, or lieu time off.
(Reference: Part III, Section 3.5.7)
PART IV - RELOCATION TO AN ISOLATED POST
Q1. I have an employee who is relocating to an isolated post or from one isolated post to another. Which directive applies in these situations?
A1. Relocation to an isolated post will be handled through the NJC Integrated Relocation Directive, except for a few specifics applicable only to isolated posts such as:
- the requirement for medical clearances prior to assignment to an isolated post;
- weight limitations for those who will occupy furnished accommodation;
- shipment of automobiles or recreational vehicles;
- storage of effects;
- delay of dependant's relocation;
- delayed shipment of household effects; and
- excess luggage.
(IPGHD, Part IV – Relocation to an Isolated Post; and NJC Integrated Relocation Directive)
PART VI - HOUSING
Q1. What is the Shelter Cost Differential (SCD)?
A1. A Shelter Cost Differential is payable at certain isolated posts to help offset the higher shelter charges experienced there. The SCD represents the difference between the average rent for a three-bedroom detached bungalow at the isolated post and the national average rent for a similar unit at the 12 locations identified as points of departure in the directive.
For example, the national average rent threshold in 2007 is $1,105.
The Yellowknife average rent in private accommodation is $1,640./month and the Yellowknife average rent in government housing is $1,660./month.
Private accommodation – all employees: SCD will be $6420./year ($1640. – $1,105. = $535. X 12)
Government Housing - Employee with dependants: SCD will be $6,660./year ($1,660. – $1,105. = $555. X12)
Government Housing - Employee without dependants: SCD will be $3,996./year (60% of $6,660.)
(Reference: Part I, Section 1.10)
Q2. Once my location qualifies, would I receive the Shelter Cost Differential (SCD) even though I live in a one-bedroom government-housing unit and not the three-bedroom model?
A2. Yes, you would.
Q3. Am I entitled to receive the SCD if I live in Government Housing?
A3. Yes, but only when the average 3-bedroom rent in government housing at your location exceeds the national average rent at the 12 Points of Departure.
(Reference: Part I, Section 1.10.4)
Q4. I am an employee without dependant living in private accommodation. Am I entitled to the SCD and at which rate?
A4. There is now only one rate of SCD for employees living in private accommodation at a location that qualifies for the SCD. The rate is the same for employees with dependants and employees without dependants.
(Reference: Part I, Section 1.10.3; and Appendix K-1)
Q5. How do Departments allocate accommodation?
A5. When providing government housing, departments have the responsibility to allocate appropriately sized dwellings on the premise of one bedroom for each household member, although this is not always possible initially.
Employees may be given options, where practicable, on a first-come, first-served basis.
(Reference: Part VI, Section 6.4)
Q6. I am an employee without dependants and have been assigned a 3-bedroom unit. Will my rent be adjusted?
A6. Yes. In this type of situation, the rent charged shall be 60% of the full rent for the unit. At a later date, the Department could ask you to relocate to an appropriate-size dwelling. This move would be made at the Department's expense. An employee who refuses to relocate at the request of the department will be charged the full rent for the unit.
(Reference: Part VI, Section 6.7.1)
Q7. I am an employee with two (2) dependants but have been assigned a four-bedroom unit. Will my rent be adjusted?
A7. In this type of situation, the rent would not be adjusted given that the occupants may benefit from the extra living space available.
(Reference: Part VI, Section 6.7.2)
Q8. What happens if I have to share my accommodation with another employee?
A8. This would not normally occur. However, if the Employer requires two (or more) employees, who would normally live separately to share accommodation, their individual share of the rent charge is prorated by the number of occupants (for example: 2 employees - rent share is 50% each of total rent for the unit).
(Reference: Part VI, Section 6.7.3 and 6.7.4)
Q9. May local hires be provided with accommodation under the IPGHD?
A9. Government Housing is not normally provided to local hires.
Q10. I own a residential property at my headquarters. Does this disqualify me from living in government housing?
A10. It depends on the circumstances. The particulars must be discussed with your manager.
(Reference: Part VI, Section 6.1.1)
Q11. My spouse and I are both public service employees. Are we each expected to pay rent?
A11. No, members of an employee-couple, even if they work in separate organizations, are expected to sign and remit to the employing department(s), a joint declaration indicating to which person the rent should be charged.
(Reference: Part VI, Section 6.3.2)