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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS - Child Care Expenses

Dan Rafferty

Dan Rafferty

A recent decision by the Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB) in the case of an Institute member has overturned the long-standing position of the National Joint Council (NJC) that employees who have a non-public-service employee spouse are not entitled to claim child care and other dependent care expenses while travelling on government business.

A member of the CS Group employed by Service Canada in Kingston, was required to travel on government business for three days in July 2004. His wife was out of the country on business that summer. For most of the summer, the member was able to arrange for the care of his children, aged 13 and 9, by relatives. However, on the 3 days in question, he was required to make arrangements for the children to be cared for in a day care facility, and incurred total expenses of $240.

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When he submitted a claim for the expense, it was denied on the basis that the member was not a “sole caregiver” for the purposes of Section 3.3.5 of the Travel Directive, which reads as follows:

“The employee who is required to travel on government business shall be reimbursed actual and reasonable dependant care expenses up to a daily maximum of $35 Canadian, per household, with a declaration, or up to a daily maximum of $75 Canadian, per household, with a receipt when:

(a) the employee is the sole caregiver of a dependant who is under 18 years of age or has a mental or physical disability; or

(b) two federal employees living in the same household are the sole caregivers of a dependant who is under 18 years of age or has a mental or physical disability and both employees are required to travel on government business at the same time.

Dependant care allowance shall apply only for expenses that are incurred as a result of travelling and are additional to expenses the employee would incur when not travelling.”

On behalf of the member, the Institute argued that because the phrase “sole caregiver” is not defined in the Travel Directive, its meaning must be interpreted by context and circumstances. The preamble to the Travel Directive specifies that the guiding principles to interpreting and applying the Directive are respect, fairness, equity and reasonableness. Furthermore, all NJC grievances are to be dealt with on the basis of the intent or spirit of the Directive. Finally, an employee is not to be out-of-pocket with respect to “reasonable expenses necessarily incurred while travelling on government business”. It was conceded that the maximum entitlement under the Directive was $75 per day, or $225, as per the Directive.

The employer argued that the dependent care provision is designed for single-income families/households when one caregiver must travel, and that the provisions are very restrictive and are to be applied in limited circumstances.

In allowing the grievance, the Public Service Labour Relations Board member agreed that the question of whether or not an employee is a “sole caregiver” is a matter of fact to be determined in the individual circumstances of each case. The fact that the employee is married is only one aspect to be considered and does not automatically disentitle that individual. In all the circumstances of this case, the Institute member was, during the three days in question, a “sole caregiver” for the purposes of clause 3.3.5 of the Travel Directive.

Reference: Umar-Khitab v. Treasury Board

(Department of Social Development) Citation: 2006 PSLRB 136

Contributor: Dan Rafferty, Regional Representative/ Negotiator, PIPSC Toronto


Publish Date: 10-APR-2007 03:24 PM