In response to the letter to the editor from the MHA for Burgeo La-Poile that was published in the Dec. 3 edition of The Telegram, I felt that it was important to respond.
First and foremost, other than how the base salary of a public service employee is released there are no other changes to how employee benefits are released under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Prior to amendments to the legislation in spring 2012, the exact salary of an employee would be disclosed if requested. Today, the salary range of an employee is released and if there is no range the exact salary amount would be available upon request. In addition, how any additional benefits are calculated including pension entitlements, vacation leave entitlements, paid leave entitlements, employment contracts and performance pay are disclosed.
The basis of this change was based on a recommendation of John Cummings, who completed an extensive review of the legislation. Through this process, public service employees raised concerns about the lack of protection for their personal information, specifically the availability to an applicant on request of their exact salary amounts.
To address these concerns, Mr. Cummings recommended that departments and public bodies adopt a harm test, which is a list of various types of personal information that, if released, could be harmful to individuals. Employment or educational history, personal recommendations and personnel evaluations are examples of information that are considered to be harmful to an employee if released.
The disclosure of specific benefits of a public service employee such as an exact bonus amount could indicate their performance in the workplace. Mr. Cummings believed that disclosure of this information would be an unreasonable invasion of an employee’s privacy and relate specifically to overall job performance which is believed to not serve the best interests of the individual.
Any additional information relating to compensation information released in the past was disclosed voluntarily. At any time an individual can publicly release their salary and benefits, which has occurred in the past.
As a steward of personal information belonging to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, our objective is to share as much information as possible while balancing the need to protect highly sensitive information such as personal information pertaining to citizens and commercially sensitive information about businesses.
We intend to abide fully by this commitment, as well as the principles of transparency and accountability.
Minister Responsible for the
Office of Public Engagement