Legal aid clinic consultations

Questions and answers

Qs&As that have emerged from October 2012 consultations with clinics:


Q. What is LAOs new clinic compensation funding framework?

A. LAOs new clinic compensation funding framework is a set of proposed guidelines that will help LAO move away from the funding grids it currently uses to support clinics, and allow clinics to take control of managing their own pool of compensation funding.

LAO would establish funding maximums for each position at clinics, and review these maximums regularly. Positions funded at or above the maximum level would not receive funding increases. LAO would apply the funding increase until the funding reaches the maximum.


Q. Exactly how would compensation increases work?

The chart below illustrates how compensation increases could work with a two per cent funding increase. Please note that maximum funding amounts have not yet been determined. These numbers are for illustrative purposes only.


Position

Position funding maximum

Current funding

Two per cent increase

Scenario one: All positons funded below maximums

Executive director

$130,000 $111,630 $113,863

Lawyer

$110,000 $73,088 $74,550

Community legal worker

$75,000 $59,260 $60,445

Office manager

$60,000 $57,776 $58,931

Support

$50,000 $42,221 $43,065

Total funds

  $342,975 $350,854

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Scenario two: One position funded above maximum, two funded near maximum

Executive director

$130,000 $111,630 $113,863

Lawyer

$110,000 $119,469 $119,469

Community legal worker

$75,000 $59,260 $60,445

Office manager

$60,000 $57,776 $58,931

Support

$50,000 $49,283 $50,000

Total funds

  $397,418 $402,708

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Scenario three: All but one position funded at or near maximum

Executive director

$130,000 $135,148 $135,148

Lawyer

$110,000 $116,856 $116,856

Community legal worker

$75,000 $74,144 $75,000

Office manager

$60,000 $60,128 $60,128

Support

$50,000 $50,589 $50,589

Total funds

  $436,865 $437,721



Q. Why is LAO implementing this framework?

A. LAO is implementing this framework to fund clinics in a manner consistent with public sector values and norms, and to elevate LAOs oversight of compensation funding. The framework will accomplish these goals by allowing clinic boards, who are responsible and accountable for their employees compensation, to manage their own compensation funding pool to meet their own needs.

This initiative is an important component of LAOs ongoing modernization strategy, which is helping ensure quality services for clients, value for taxpayers and streamlined administration.


Q. When will LAO implement the new clinic compensation funding framework?

A. LAO anticipates putting the framework in place within this fiscal year.


Q. Once the clinic compensation funding framework is in place and if an increase is part of the framework when will clinics receive a compensation increase?

A. Clinics will receive any compensation funding increase LAO has allocated for this fiscal year via this new framework mechanism, within this fiscal year.


Q. If LAO is moving away from the funding grid, how will LAO determine future clinic compensation funding?

A. LAO proposes to fund positions at current funding levels. Once a person in a position has begun receiving the funding maximum, LAO will no longer provide compensation increases for the position.


Q. If a person in a position is currently funded above the maximum rate established under the new framework, would LAO decrease that person or the clinics compensation funding?

A. No. LAO proposes to maintain the current funding level for clinic positions currently funded above the maximum level. When the incumbent in the position leaves the clinic, LAO will decrease funding and fund the incumbents successor at the appropriate level.

The chart below shows what happens when a lawyer new to the position replaces an incumbent lawyer paid above the maximum rate. Please note: maximum funding amounts have not yet been determined. These numbers are for illustrative purposes only.


  One position funded above maximum  

Position

Position funding
maximum

Current funding

Adjusted annualized
funding to successor

Executive director

$130,000 $124,695 $124,695

Lawyer

$110,000 $116,856 $110,000

Community legal worker

$75,000 $59,260 $59,260

Office manager

$60,000 $57,776 $57,776

Support

$50,000 $42,221 $42,221

Total Funds

  $400,808 $393,952



Q. Will LAO claw back the funding for a position if a clinic employee replaces someone who was paid less?

A. No. LAO proposes to maintain existing levels of funding for positions, so long as funding levels are at or below the positions funding maximums.

As the chart below illustrates, there is no difference in funding when a lawyer new to the position replaces an incumbent lawyer. Please note: maximum funding amounts have not yet been determined. These numbers are for illustrative purposes only.


  New position funded below maximum  

Position

Position funding
maximum

Current funding

Adjusted annualized
funding when a new lawyer arrives

Executive director

$130,000 $124,695 $124,695

Lawyer

$110,000 $92,686 $92,686

Community legal worker

$75,000 $59,260 $59,260

Office manager

$60,000 $57,776 $57,776

Support

$50,000 $42,221 $42,221

Total Funds

  $376,638 $376,638



Q. How will clinics deal with salary compression?

A. Since LAO is proposing that the funding levels be maintained at existing levels, LAO proposes that clinics use the differential funded versus actual salary paid as one way that the clinics could solve compression.


Q. When would clinics expect the maximum levels for positions to be adjusted? In other words, when would incumbents in positions currently paid at the maximum funding level expect to receive a pay increase?

A. LAO proposes to review maximum funding levels at least every two to three years. It would review maximum funding levels more frequently if necessary due to market and/or economic conditions.


Q. Will LAO agree to consider other comparators such as the City of Toronto, other municipalities, other tribunals, etc. to set funding levels?

A. Yes, as a source of information. However, LAOs primary comparators will remain employees within the social justice sector.


Q. Will LAO take regional variations and geographic market conditions into consideration when determining the maximum funding levels for clinic positions?

A. No. LAO does not propose to break down market comparators by geographic areas. Clinic boards should, however, consider their local market comparators when they are considering salary levels.


Q. Will LAO fund to the top of the grid irrespective of what clinic employees are currently earning?

A. Clinic boards are responsible for establishing the amount paid to employees. LAO proposes to start implementing the framework at current compensation funding levels.


Q. Will the framework take into consideration base pay as well as issues with respect to pension and benefits?

A. The framework currently only addresses base pay issues. A review of clinic benefits and pension is not part of its scope. That said, the framework will consider differences in benefit levels in establishing funding maximums. The benefits that LAO funds for clinics are similar to the benefits LAO provides its employees. LAO has a defined contribution pension plan, for instance, not a defined benefit pension plan.


Q. How will new clinic compensation funding framework impact pay equity obligations?

A. The new framework will not impact pay equity obligations. It is employers, i.e., clinic boards, who are responsible for meeting pay equity obligations. LAO will maintain funding to clinics to meet their pay equity obligation, at a rate of one per cent per year, until clinics achieve their pay equity targets.


Q. Could the new clinic compensation funding framework result in allegations of constructive dismissal allegations or lawsuits?

A. No. The framework is a funding mechanism and therefore should not result in a decrease in funding for any clinic positions. The employer, i.e., the clinic board, is responsible for managing and administering compensation practices and policies.


Q. Will LAO provide a cost of living increase to employees who are earning at or above the maximum funding level proposed in the framework?

A. It is up to clinic boards to determine what is actually paid to employees. They could choose to put in place a pay-for-performance policy and provide one-time pay-for-performance bonus.

For its part, LAO proposes to cap funding once the position reaches its funding maximum. LAO proposes to review maximum funding levels at least every two to three years. It would review maximum funding levels more frequently, if necessary due to market and/or economic conditions.


Q. What are LAOs views with respect to pay for performance or bonus programs in a clinic?

A. In a climate of fiscal restraint and increased scrutiny on ensuring value for taxpayer dollars, any pay for performance or bonus programs must be based on policy that is clearly understood and defensible.


Q. What are the proposed funding maximums for each of the positions in the clinic system?

A. LAO has not yet established funding maximums. It is still collecting market information about compensation funding at other organizations in the social justice sector to help it establish the framework. LAO is also consulting with Mercer, a Canadian company with an international reputation in human resources and related advice.


Q. Once a funding range is developed for each position, will there also be defined steps within each range?

A. LAO does not propose to replace the funding grid with a series of steps. In the short term, clinic boards which wish to simplify their administration of compensation can continue to use the current funding grid and its compensation framework.


Q. Will the LAO invest the money that is saved by capping people at the top of the new funding model back into the clinic system?

A. The new framework will not produce savings. Aside from new investment funding, LAO does not receive additional funding from the Government of Ontario to fund clinic grant increases. LAO determines the funding available, including for compensation funding increases, within its annual funding envelope. This is part of its commitment to balance its operating budget.


Q. Will clinics with fairly junior staff be unfairly penalized by being forced to be funded at their current amount forever?

A. No. The introduction of a maximum funding range would not freeze funding to positions below the funding maximum.


23. Some clinics have introduced new non-standard roles. How will LAO determine the funding ranges for these roles?

A. LAO proposes to only use the five standard roles common to a majority of clinics (executive director, staff lawyer, community legal worker, office manager, and support staff). LAO would consider defining and establishing comparators to other roles, if they require tasks not substantially reflected by these five roles.


Q. How will positions requiring a paralegal license be paid under the new compensation framework?

A. The framework requires no changes in how paralegals are compensated. Clinic boards will continue to determine how paralegals are paid.

The Law Society of Upper Canada has been licensing paralegals for over five years and clinics employ some of these professionals. LAO is interested in better understanding the use of paralegals in the clinic system, is considering how to use paralegals to deliver services, and will engage in discussions on this issue in the coming months.


Q. What, if anything, are LAOs concerns about the use of other sources of funding to top up clinic salaries?

LAO would be concerned if a clinic board approved a positions salary increase when the persons salary comprised the entire LAO funding allocated to the position plus a substantial supplement from another funder.

LAO believes that such incidents are isolated and not a widespread issue across the clinic system. LAO is not concerned if employers choose to provide a small stipend to employees in recognition of the additional work required to oversee special projects supported by other funders.

LAO would also be concerned if LAO-funded positions spent a significant portion of their time on a clinic project that was funded through another source. If a positions work effort is partially allocated to a project for which other source funding is received, then LAO expects the funding of the position to be proportionately funded as well from LAO and from the other source of funding.