Code of Conduct for Members of the Social Security Tribunal
Standards of conduct that members are expected to comply with in support of the Tribunal’s commitment to provide fair, transparent, credible and impartial appeal processes that are efficient and effective.
Last updated: April 2017
- 1. Purpose
- 2. Application of the Code and accountability to the Chairperson and Vice-chairpersons
- 3. Principles guiding the conduct of members
- 4. Conduct during Tribunal proceedings
- 5. Etiquette during a hearing
- 6. Decision making
- 7. Protection of personal and confidential information
- 8. Security
- 9. Tribunal property, equipment, information technology, premises, supplies, etc.
- 10. Communications
- 11. Gifts
All members of the Social Security Tribunal of Canada (Tribunal), including the Chairperson and Vice-chairpersons, are appointed by the Governor in Council and are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act, the Ethical Guidelines and Statutory Standards of Conduct and the Guidelines for the Political Activities of Public Office Holders.
The Code of Conduct (Code) is meant to complement the requirements in the above-noted instruments by providing guidance on appropriate standards of conduct that pertain specifically to members of the Tribunal as independent and impartial decision makers.The requirements of the Code support the Tribunal’s commitment to provide fair, transparent, credible and impartial appeal processes that are efficient and effective.
2. Application of the Code and accountability to the Chairperson and Vice-chairpersons
- The Code applies to full-time and part-time members of the Tribunal.
- The Chairperson is accountable for the administration of the Code, including any matters pertaining to its interpretation. The Chairperson has delegated to the Vice-chairpersons the management of their respective section’s members and caseloads. Therefore, members are expected to bring any situation, conduct or comment that could affect the integrity or reputation of the Tribunal to the attention of their respective Vice-chairperson, who will report them to the Chairperson.
- Members are expected to:
- Advise their respective Vice-chairperson of any situation or conduct that conflicts with the Code;
- Advise their respective Vice-chairperson of any circumstance that would justify a variation of the Code or any Tribunal communication instruments;
- Make every reasonable effort to be available to discuss issues related to the Tribunal with the Vice-chairperson; and
- Make every effort to attend scheduled hearings, meetings and training sessions.
- Members are expected to act honestly, in good faith, and in a professional and ethical manner.
3. Principles guiding the conduct of members
3.1 Compliance with legislation, guidelines, etc.
- Members are expected to comply with the following:
- - Conflict of Interest Act,
- - Ethical Guidelines and Statutory Standards of Conduct,
- - Guidelines for the Political Activities of Public Office Holders.
- - Subsections 48(1) and (2) of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act
- - Treasury Board policies as applicable
- Members will not commit or condone unethical or illegal acts or encourage anyone to do so.
3.2 Conflict of interest
In addition to the Conflict of Interest Act, which requires members to disclose conflicts of interest to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, members of the Tribunal are expected to:
- Be vigilant, identify and enquire into any conflict or potential conflict of interest.
- Disclose to their respective Vice-chairperson, any real or potential conflict of interest which may arise in the context of their functions, and to disqualify themselves immediately.
- Avoid involvement in activities that are, or could appear to be incompatible with their role as a Tribunal member or that could call into question their independent exercise of judgment, integrity and impartiality.
3.3 Fairness and proper conduct
Members will make every effort to:
- Comply with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.
- Act with dignity, respect, courtesy, fairness, discretion and impartiality in all aspects of their role as decision-makers.
- Treat those who appear before them without discrimination or favouritism.
- Require similar conduct from all those present at hearings and try to ensure that hearings are held in an orderly and efficient manner.
- Members will conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner with the Chairperson, the Vice-chairpersons, members, parties, representatives and public service staff. This expectation also applies to comments members make in their written reasons and other communications.
- Members are expected to maintain their expertise and current knowledge of the legislation, regulations, and jurisprudence.
- Members are expected to be familiar with the Tribunal’s communication instruments, such as the Chairperson’s Guidelines, the Chairperson’s Directives and Practice Directions.
- Members are responsible for maintaining a high level of professional competence and expertise by participating in Tribunal meetings and training activities.
- To enhance the quality of the Tribunal’s work, members may be required to share their skills, knowledge and expertise with their colleagues.
3.6 Work expectations
- A full-time member of the Tribunal must devote the whole of their time to the performance of their duties (subsection of the 48(1) of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act). This means that full-time members must devote a minimum of 37.5 hours a week to the performance of their Tribunal duties.
- A part-time member of the Tribunal must not accept or hold any office or employment inconsistent with their duties subsection of the 48(2) of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act).The number of cases assigned to a part-time member will depend on the Tribunal’s operational requirements and the availability of the member. Therefore, the number of hours a part-time member will devote to their Tribunal duties may vary. Part-time members are remunerated in accordance with the pre-determined pay structure.
- Members are expected to strive to meet the performance expectations and they are responsible for reporting to their respective Vice-chairperson about the management of their caseload.
- Tribunal members are expected to contribute to the overall effective and efficient administration of the Tribunal by conducting proceedings as informally and quickly as the circumstances and considerations of fairness and natural justice permit.
4. Conduct during Tribunal proceedings
- Members should only communicate directly with a party, witness or representative with respect to a proceeding, during a pre-hearing conference or a hearing. All contact with parties before and after the hearing is handled by the Tribunal’s registry employees.
- At the beginning of the hearing, members should not provide advice to parties, nor should they comment on the merits of any matter or offer medical diagnosis.
- Members should be well prepared before conducting hearings and attend the hearing with an objective and open mind.
- At the beginning of the hearing members should explain to the parties, in clear and simple language, how the hearing will proceed and the evidentiary and procedural rules that apply.
- Members should conduct proceedings in a manner that ensures that parties understand the procedures and practices of the Tribunal, and have a reasonable opportunity for informed and effective participation in the proceeding.
- Members should dress appropriately (business attire) when conducting hearings.
5. Etiquette during a hearing
- Members are expected to be professional when conducting hearing. As such, members should be mindful of the following best practices, which may vary depending on the type of hearing:
- Speaking loudly enough and articulating well
- Looking at the parties or into the camera when speaking
- Paying attention to inappropriate non-verbal communication (yawn, biting nails, putting head down, using cell phone, etc.)
- Being mindful of your surroundings – if possible, the parties should only see the background screen rather than other parts of the room
- Cancelling background noise (television, music, children, animals, appliances etc.)
- Not eating or chewing gum
6. Decision making
- Members are expected to be well prepared before making each decision.
- Members are expected to determine which evidence is relevant and then assess the credibility of the relevant evidence.
- Members are expected to apply the Constitution, the principles of procedural fairness, the relevant legislation and regulations and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court.
- Members are expected to render decisions in an independent, impartial and objective manner without regard to partisan or special interests, or fear of criticism.
- Members are expected to render quality decisions that are aligned with the appropriate legal test(s) and applicable jurisprudence.
- Members are expected to have all their decisions reviewed by Legal Services, until such time as their respective Vice-chairperson determines that such a review is no longer required. Member can always ask Legal Services to review their decision.
- Members are expected to consult their respective Vice-chairperson or Legal Services if they need advice on the applicability of a legal principle affecting a decision.
- Members are responsible for the accuracy, quality and correctness of their decisions.
- Members are expected to respect the privacy of individuals by ensuring that decisions contain only the personal information that is necessary.
- Members are expected to strive to render decisions in a timely manner and in accordance with member performance expectations and service standards that may be established by the Tribunal.
7. Protection of personal and confidential information
- Members shall protect the confidentiality of information contained in documents in their possession.
- Members shall respect the Privacy Act, the Policy on Government Security, the Department of Employment and Social Development Act and any policy or directive relating to the protection of personal and confidential information.
- Members shall immediately report any breach or potential breach of privacy to the Case Management Officer, as well as to the Vice-chairperson so that it is treated in a timely manner according to the internal processes in place.
- Members are required to conduct their work in an office within their home or other designated area that meets the requirements of a Threat and Risk Assessment conducted to support the departmental health, safety, security and privacy requirements.
- Members shall promptly implement any recommended corrective measures that may be identified in a Threat and Risk Assessment.
- Members shall ensure that the equipment in their home office is maintained to meet Government of Canada health, safety and security requirements or standards.
- Members shall safeguard documents, assets and equipment as directed and in particular in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Government Security as it relates to Protected A and B information.
Information contained in documents that Members may print
Information contained in documents that Members cannot print
Definition: Sensitive information whose unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause a low risk of injury to individuals, organizations or government.
Examples: Correspondence which may contain one* of the following personal information data elements, such as: a person's name, gender, date of birth, Social Insurance Number (SIN), Personal Record Identifier (PRI), Basic information on individuals participating in departmental programs.
* bold added
Definition: Particularly sensitive information whose unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause serious injury to individuals, specific public or private interests or government.
Examples: Client or employee files that include detailed personal information with more than one* personal data elements (e.g. name, date of birth, gender, SIN, PRI, etc.) pertaining to but not limited to: Program client files, such as but not limited to, CPP, CCB, OAS or EI; eligibility for social benefits or determination of benefit levels; Personal matters - pay, discipline, staffing, grievance; harassment, personal opinions or character references, official languages results, conflicts of interest, performance evaluation; Racial, ethnic, religious or political beliefs/associations /lifestyles; Medical, psychiatric, psychological evaluations; Assets, liabilities, bank balances, credit worthiness, information obtained from an income tax return or a similar source; Information pertaining to an investigation into a possible violation of law, criminal information/histories; Business or third-party information such as agreements, recommendations or advice to a departmental program whose disclosure could cause loss of reputation and/or competitive advantage; Threat and Risk Assessments and Reports; Solicitor-client privilege.
* bold added
Definition: Extremely sensitive information includes information whose unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave injury to an individual, organization or government, such as loss of life, significant financial loss, liability and embarrassment to the department. Such information could prove detrimental if disclosed to highly motivated and skilled individuals or organizations and therefore special enhanced security measures are adapted.
Examples: Correspondence which may contain information with regard to: Name of an informant under the protection of a law enforcement agency; Name of an individual or individuals involved in domestic violence; Information on departmental programs/operations involving mandates/agreements/ partnerships on life-threatening situations.
Table based on the Information Classification Guide of ESDC
- Members shall return all documents, work-related information and equipment as, and when, requested and in particular at the end of their term.
- Members shall immediately report any security-related concern or incident as well as any breach or potential breach of security to the Vice-chairperson and the case management officer for appropriate follow-up. These could include security concerns related to a case, criminal activities, unauthorized disclosure, disruption, modification, destruction, removal of government information and assets assigned to a member’s home office.
- Members must report any occupational health and safety hazards identified in the workplace and any work-related injuries or illnesses to their respective Vice-chairperson.
9. Tribunal property, equipment, information technology, premises, supplies, etc.
- Members must ensure acceptable and efficient use Government of Canada electronic network and devices as set out in the Policy on Acceptable Network and Device Use.
- Members shall follow all policies regarding the use of IT equipment, including but not limited to ESDC’s Portable Storage Devices Directive.
10.1 Media and General Public
- The Chairperson specifically determines, on a case by case basis, the designated media spokesperson.
- Unless authorized by the Chairperson, members are not authorized to communicate with any news media about matters relating to the work of the Tribunal or any other matter that may affect the Tribunal or create a reasonable apprehension of bias. Forms of news media include, but are not limited to print, online, radio, blogs, social media and related and/or relevant websites and online advocacy forums and communities, etc.
- Members shall not publicly make a comment or express an opinion regarding the work of the Tribunal, their own duties and caseload, or any other matter that may affect the Tribunal or create a reasonable apprehension of bias.
- Members shall refer any media enquiries to the Tribunal’s Communications Manager or media inbox (email@example.com) and advise their respective Vice-chairperson.
- Any enquiry from the general public should be referred to the Tribunal’s call center at 1-877-227-8577.
10.2 Communicating with government officials
- Members shall not discuss, with government or elected officials or their staff, any matter related to the work of the Tribunal or any other matter than may affect the Tribunal or that may create a reasonable apprehension of bias.
- Members shall refer any enquiries from government departments or elected officials to the Communications Manager or media inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) and advise their respective Vice-chairperson.
10.3 Social Media
- Members shall not identify themselves as members of the Tribunal on social media sites, with the exception of professional sites such as LinkedIn.
- Members shall use good judgment when posting comments on social media. Members must be mindful that their comments could reflect negatively on the Tribunal.
- Members shall not use social media to discuss or comment on any matter pertaining to the Tribunal unless having obtained prior authorization from the Chairperson.
- Members shall not accept gifts or other advantages from persons who have official dealings with the Tribunal unless it is received as an expression of courtesy or protocol, or is within customary standards that normally accompany the member’s position and is of a nominal value lower than $200.
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