Accessing Professional Expenses Reimbursement while on Long-Term Disability Leave (and other relevant leaves)

YUFA Executive wishes to inform members of a recent Employer (ER) action that we view as a breach of our collective agreement and of our members’ human rights. ER representatives from Faculty Relations have recently informed YUFA that faculty and librarian/archivist members on Long-Term Disability Leave (LTD) will no longer be eligible for Personal Expense Reimbursements (PER).

According to York Faculty Relations, PER supports employees in performance of their duties. YUFA members on LTD are disabled, they argue, so they cannot perform their duties. Therefore, members on LTD cannot qualify for PER. They further claim that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) could pursue Employers who disburse non-taxable benefits to people who do not qualify.

It is unlikely that the CRA has instituted new rules regarding the dispensation of PER funds to colleagues on leave. The ER has yet to provide YUFA with any evidence to support this claim.

Despite Faculty Relations' new designation of PER as inaccessible during leave, there are many situations that warrant its continuation. Members incur expenses while on LTD, such as professional licenses, subscriptions, and memberships in scholarly and professional societies. Faculty and librarians on LTD are often encouraged to engage in some modified work considered beneficial for their recovery. Members rely on PER when returning from LTD to start or resume research or purchase office equipment necessary for teaching and service activities. Faculty members and librarians can accrue significant expenses in these instances. The loss of PER support places an unacceptable burden on members returning to a full professional life.

A member’s yearly PER amount remains in the account for 5 years up to $9000. When your account reaches a surplus exceeding the five years and $9k limits, the amounts are transferred to the Conference Travel Fund and the Faculty/Library Research Grant Fund. The ER’s position deprives sick or disabled individuals of their rights; it also potentially deprives these funds of surplus monies that support all members.

The use of PER funds ebbs and flows according to the needs and work situations of each member. Targeting members on LTD fails to accommodate YUFA members during a time when they may rely on these funds to maintain continuity and connection to their scholarship and students. Currently there is a very small percentage of colleagues (less than 1%) on LTD. To wield this new policy on a small, vulnerable population while publicly espousing the values of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is disingenuous and unfair. This non-normative stance reveals a lack of sensitivity towards the needs of faculty and librarians/archivists and discriminates against those who are sick and/or in circumstances where they are unable to work.

If a YUFA member incurs legitimate expenses while on Long-Term Disability leave, they must be reimbursed. If the member is unable to invest in research activities while on leave the money accrues in their account to be used on return. YUFA opposes this attack on the human rights and security of its members. YUFA has filed a grievance and we are in the process of appointing an arbitrator. We will seek remedies for members who have been affected by the employer’s recent practice.

YUFA regrets that Faculty Relations chose to adopt an antagonistic and litigious approach to labour relations, particularly where human rights and provision of adequate facilities and services are at stake. The Employer appears willing to waste public funds and student fees on costly and unnecessary litigation rather than to support the work of faculty and librarians/archivists through established practices won through years of collective bargaining.