About this directive

Reference to applicable legislation (act or regulation): Section 6(1)(d),(e), Public Service Act
Application: All employees appointed or employed pursuant to the Public Service Act within a department, as defined in sections 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii) of the Public Service Act.
Last updated: February 2022
Last reviewed: February 2022
Amended by: Alberta Public Service Commission:
Strategic Services and Public Agency Secretariat, Workforce Development and Analytics

Purpose

The purpose of this directive is to describe the various components and requirements for Alberta Public Service (APS) employees entering into a return service agreement, upon approval of a learning and development (L&D) request. The APS supports employees’ professional development to ensure they have the knowledge, skills and competencies to achieve business priorities. Requests for professional development may include L&D initiatives that are deemed to be of significant investment by the department’s deputy head. In such instances, employees may be required to enter into a contractual agreement with the APS which outlines the return service commitment and repayment obligations for taking part in the L&D initiative.

Overview

The following directive clarifies the definition of terms, the various elements of a return service agreement, including details on how to calculate the return service commitment and implications if the return service commitment is not fulfilled. It applies to all APS employees and aligns with the Professional Development Support Directive and in accordance with the HR Decision Matrix.

L&D requests must be discussed with the supervisor and approved in accordance with the HR Decision Matrix. For more information, refer to the Professional Development Support Directive.

Definition of terms

Disclaimer: If there are any discrepancies in how the terms are defined below and the Public Service Act and Public Service Employment Regulation (PDF, 1.1 MB), the act and regulation supersede.

Daily salary: The employee’s normal daily rate of compensation based on gross salary, calculated in accordance with the Salary Determination Directive.

Financial assistance: The total amount of money paid by the employer to or on behalf of the employee to support the employee’s participation in an L&D initiative, not including salary during a paid leave.

Financial support: The sum of the salary received by an employee during any paid leave for an L&D initiative plus any financial assistance for L&D initiative provided by the employer.

Paid leave: The leave of absence granted by the employer to support the employee’s participation in the L&D initiative, where the employee receives a salary amount during their leave.

Repayment amount: The outstanding amount of money owed to the employer due to employee’s failure to fulfill the Return Service Commitment.

Return Service Agreement: An agreement between the employee and the employer that outlines the details of the return service commitment, including the terms of repayment.

Return Service Commitment: the number of days that the employee must continue working for the employer after the completion of the L&D initiative.

Working day: Any day on which the employee is normally expected to be at their place of employment, as well as authorized absence with pay.

Return service agreement

APS employees who are approved to receive paid leave and/or financial assistance for an L&D initiative may be required to enter into a contractual agreement or Return Service Agreement (RSA) with the organization. An RSA is required when the L&D initiative is considered a significant investment, as determined by the department’s deputy head. It outlines the return service commitment, which is the number of days that the employee commits to working for the employer after completion of the L&D initiative (that is, after the last day of the L&D training). The RSA also specifies the terms of repayment if the employee fails to fulfil the return service commitment.

The employer must engage with the union as part of the process when discussing options and entering into an RSA with a bargaining unit employee.

Determining a return service commitment

Paid leave and/or financial assistance may be approved to support an employee’s L&D initiative.

The following are considered when calculating the return service commitment (total working days owed):

  • any paid leave the employee receives for the L&D initiative, where the employee receives a percentage of their salary; and
  • any financial assistance the employer provided for the L&D initiative, not including a leave of absence where a percentage of salary is paid.

The return service commitment is determined as follows:

Return Service Commitment (total working days owed) = A + B
A = Working days owed due to paid leave
B = Working days owed due to financial assistance

The following provides further calculation details for the above A and B values.

  • A – Working days owed due to paid leave

    Support for an L&D initiative may include approved leaves of absence, where employees are paid a percentage of their salary, up to the full amount.

    Leave for professional development should not normally exceed one year. If the employee requires additional leave, they should discuss and submit requests to their supervisors in accordance with the HR Decision Matrix.

    The working days owed due to paid leave is equivalent to double the time that has been granted for the professional development leave.

    In such instances, the following must be used to determine the total working days owed due to paid leave:

    A = 2 X (working days of leave granted X salary percentage granted)

    The total working days owed due to paid leave should not exceed 2 years (approximately 480 working days). If the total working days owed exceeds the 2-year maximum, the employer and employee must negotiate terms for a new RSA.

    Examples

    An employee is approved to take 30 working days of leave at 100% of their salary. The total working days owed due to paid leave is calculated as follows:

    • 2 X (30 days of leave granted X 100% salary granted) = 60 working days owed to the organization

    An employee is approved to take 240 working days of leave at 75% of their salary. The total working days owed due to paid leave is calculated as follows:

    • 2 X (240 days of leave granted X 75% salary granted) = 360 working days owed to the organization
  • B – Working days owed due to financial assistance

    An employee may receive financial assistance for a specific L&D initiative, which does not include a leave of absence where a percentage of salary is paid. The working days owed due to financial assistance is doubled.

    In such instances, the following must be used to determine the total working days owed due to financial assistance:

    B = 2 X (financial assistance granted ÷ employee’s daily salary)

    Example

    An employee is approved for an L&D initiative in the amount of $5,000 and has a daily salary of $250. The total working days owed due to financial assistance is calculated as follows:

    • 2 X ($5,000 of financial assistance ÷ $250 daily salary) = 40 working days owed to the organization

    For employees who are approved for both paid leave and financial assistance for an L&D initiative, simply add values “A” and “B” to calculate the total return service commitment (total working days owed).

Fulfilling a return service commitment

The return service commitment begins upon completion of the L&D initiative when the employee performs their work at their place of employment, as normally expected. As such, any work day completed with the Government of Alberta (or an employer approved by the deputy head), after the completion of the L&D initiative, counts towards the return service commitment.

Any authorized absence with pay, such as annual vacation leave, casual and general illness leave, and statutory holidays, counts toward the return service commitment.

Employees who are on long-term disability leave (that is, LTDI) does not count towards a return service commitment. However, the department’s deputy head can choose to waive the return service commitment, as per the HR Decision Matrix. This will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with Public Service Commission’s Workforce Development unit.

Supervisors should revisit the RSA with their employees on a regular basis and must inform relevant hiring managers of such an agreement if the employee transfers to another Government of Alberta department.

Failure to fulfil a return service commitment

Employees must remain employed with the Government of Alberta until fulfillment of the return service commitment. Employees who do not fulfil the return service commitment or do not complete the L&D initiative to the satisfaction of the deputy head, are required to repay the outstanding salary received during any paid leave and any outstanding financial assistance before their departure.

The deputy head may waive any obligation of the employee under the RSA if the deputy head considers it appropriate to do so.

Calculating the repayment amount

After the completion of a L&D initiative (that is, after the last day of the L&D training), working days count towards the fulfillment of the return service commitment until the date of termination of employment.

Should the employee fail to fulfill the return service commitment, the total amount owed to the employer is as follows:

Repayment Amount = C + D
C = Outstanding salary received during paid leave
D = Outstanding financial assistance for the L&D initiative

When an employee leaves before fulfilling a return service commitment (failure to work the number days as specified in the RSA), the outstanding commitment is converted to a debt due to the Government of Alberta.

Interest on the debt will be calculated in accordance with the Charging of Interest on Amounts Owing to the Crown Regulation and will form part of the debt.

The following provides further calculation details for the above C and D values.

  • C – Outstanding salary received during paid leave

    The following describes how to calculate the repayment amount for paid leave:

    C = (employee’s daily salary X percentage of salary granted) X (outstanding working days owed in the Return Service Commitment ÷ 2)

    Example

    An employee has a daily salary of $250 and was approved 20 working days of leave at 50% of their salary. The employee owes 20 working days to the organization as the return service commitment and has completed 5 of those 20 working days.

    • ($250 daily salary X 50% of salary granted) X (15 outstanding working days ÷ 2) = $937.50 repayment amount
  • D – Outstanding financial assistance for the L&D initiative

    The following describes how to calculate the amount owing for financial assistance:

    D = (total financial assistance granted X number of outstanding working days owed in the Return Service Commitment) ÷ total Return Service Commitment

    Example

    An employee was approved for $3,000 in financial assistance and completed 4 working days out of 24 working days owed to the organization as the return service commitment. The calculation is as follows:

    • $3,000 of financial assistance granted X 20 outstanding working days ÷ 24 total working days owed = $2,500 repayment amount

    Employees who are approved for both paid leave and financial assistance for an L&D initiative, simply add values “C” and “D” to calculate the repayment amount.

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