Legal Aid Ontario is changing the rules of the game for funding salaries at Ontario’s legal clinics.
Following a review of its funding model for clinic compensation last year, LAO has now set out the maximum funding it will provide clinics for their various roles:
• $137,189 for executive directors
• $115,000 for lawyers
• $78,873 for community legal workers
• $65,372 for office managers
• $46,920 for support staff
LAO is making the changes as a result of concerns about a lack of defined maximums on the current salary grid. In addition, it noted there was no policy framework on the use of other sources of funding to boost salaries and no policy governing pay-for-performance increases or bonus payments at clinics. On the last two questions, LAO said it will develop policies.
While it has set out its maximum contributions, LAO has said it will continue current funding for positions that are above the cap. But when a person currently in high-paying position leaves the clinic, LAO will decrease funding for the successor to the new maximum. In addition, it’s vowing to allow clinics to keep the savings when that happens in order to address other compensation-related pressures.
LAO maintains the new structure is revenue neutral and notes the government had directed it to implement a compensation framework as part of a 16.75-per-cent funding increase to clinics since 2009-10.
Clinics have had some questions and concerns, including the lack of annual cost-of-living increases under the new framework and the lack of discussion with them on the use of the social justice sector as a comparator for looking at salaries. In addition, they’ve noted the framework only looks at base pay rather than the bonuses, benefits, and pensions provided to, for example, government employees.
LAO has responded that the social justice sector is the most appropriate one given the work clinics do and notes the framework aligns the compensation with what it provides its own employees.