Policy 2.2.3: Conflicts of Interest

Effective date: September 1, 2018
Responsibility: Vice-President, People and Culture

1. APPLICATION

This policy applies to all CBC/Radio-Canada employees. Individuals or companies who have a contract with CBC/Radio-Canada, including freelancers, independent producers, as well as service providers and consultants working on site or on a CBC/Radio-Canada project, are expected to abide by the provisions of this policy that are reasonably applicable to them.

Governing policies and procedures for unionized employees found in the applicable collective agreements apply if they differ from the current policy. Journalists and other employees involved in producing journalistic content may have additional obligations beyond what is covered by this policy. (See the Journalistic Standards and Practices.)

2. DEFINITIONS

Close personal relationship: a close personal relationship can be a close friend or other type of relationship that, if known, could be reasonably perceived as impacting an employee’s objectivity, impartiality or independence or leading to favoritism.

Conflict of interest: Occurs when an employee’s personal interests, those of a family member or those of someone with whom he/she has a close personal or business relationship, affect or might affect his/her judgment or ability to carry out his/her duties at CBC/Radio-Canada with objectivity, independence and impartiality.

Perceived conflict of interest: Occurs when people could reasonably conclude that a conflict of interest exists, even if this is not the case.

Employee: All CBC/Radio-Canada employees, regardless of their status (permanent, contract, temporary or short-term).

Family member: Spouse or common-law partner, brother or sister, parent, child, grandparent, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, grandchild, parent-in-law, brother or sister-in-law, child-in-law, stepchild, stepbrother or stepsister, and stepparent.

Hospitality: Food, beverages and accommodations provided by third parties.

Manager: The non-unionized person to whom an employee hierarchically reports.

Outside Employment or Activities: Involvement in activities or work (paid or unpaid) performed by an employee outside of his/her duties at CBC/Radio-Canada. This includes volunteer activities.

3. OBJECTIVE

To outline how employees and CBC/Radio-Canada must handle situations and behaviours that could lead to either a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest.

4. STATEMENT OF POLICY

All employees of CBC/Radio-Canada have an obligation to carry out the functions and activities of their position with the highest level of integrity and independence, in a professional and ethical manner. They must ensure they avoid or remove and immediately disclose to their manager any conflict of interest or any situation that could reasonably be perceived as a conflict of interest.

While this policy details certain behaviours that can lead to either a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest, it is impossible to foresee every situation that could give rise to one. Employees may also find themselves inadvertently in a situation that leads to a conflict of interest or that could be perceived as such. These situations must also be disclosed.

Adherence to this policy is a condition of employment. Failure to comply with it may result in disciplinary action, up to and including immediate dismissal.

► 4.1 Personal Interests

Employees must ensure that no conflict exists or could appear to exist between their personal interests and those of CBC/Radio-Canada or their official duties.

Employees must not:

  • Use their position or their connections at CBC/Radio-Canada to further their personal interests or those of a family member or someone with whom they have a close personal or business relationship;

  • Use CBC/Radio-Canada programs, premises, equipment, supplies or the services of other employees to further their personal interests;

  • Use confidential information for their personal advantage either during or after their employment with CBC/Radio-Canada;

  • Place themselves in a position where they could derive any direct or indirect benefit from a CBC/Radio-Canada commercial transaction (e.g., provider of goods or services, freelance contract, licence, sponsorship or partnership);

  • Give preferential treatment to any supplier or other person doing business with CBC/Radio-Canada in order to further their personal interests;

  • Invest in, own, have an interest in, or be an employee of an organization that might have an interest, direct or indirect, in any CBC/Radio-Canada commercial transaction, except in the case of a widely held public company whose dealings with CBC/Radio-Canada do not represent a substantial portion of its total business;

  • Solicit suppliers of goods and services or business partners of CBC/Radio-Canada to provide gifts, prizes or other financial assistance for personal or employee activities.

In addition, on-air personnel, journalists and other employees involved in producing journalistic content, as well as members of the Senior Executive Team (SET), the Executive employees reporting directly to them, and Communications employees representing CBC/Radio-Canada in its relations with its various audiences have a special role in preserving our objectivity, impartiality and independence, and therefore our credibility, due to the nature of their duties. Therefore they must not take a public stand on controversial issues, either in person or using social media, unless specifically authorized in writing, before the fact, by the component VP or, in the case of the Executive Team, by the President.

Persons engaged by the Corporation expressly for their reputation regarding a particular subject or to express opinions may however be permitted to take a stand on public controversies, by inclusion of a clause to that effect in their individual contracts.

This should not be interpreted as an exhaustive list of all circumstances that could lead to a real or perceived conflict of interest.

► 4.2 Relationships and Nepotism

Employees must not give, or be perceived to give, preferential treatment to a family member or someone with whom they have a close personal or business relationship. In some situations, past relationships could also lead to a perceived conflict of interest and should be treated as such.

If an employee is in a position where he/she could be making a decision (e.g., hiring, evaluation, discipline, promotion, reward, any other form of discretionary control, or the awarding of a contract) that involves, directly or indirectly, a family member or someone with whom the employee has a close personal or business relationship, he/she must:

  • Disclose the potential conflict to his/her manager
  • Refer the decision to the manager or someone designated by him/her
  • Refrain from making any recommendations or conveying views related to the decision.

In addition, if an employee is in a position of authority over a family member or a person with whom he/she has a close personal or business relationship, his/her manager must modify the reporting relationship. The manager may also take other measures to reduce the appearance of conflicts of interest, as necessary.

► 4.3 Outside Employment or Activities

Employees are permitted to engage in outside employment or activities as long as they inform their manager prior to starting such activity, and to the extent that;

  • it does not cause, or could not be perceived to cause, a conflict of interest;

  • it could not be reasonably perceived as compromising the integrity, independence and impartiality expected from CBC/Radio-Canada or bring CBC/Radio-Canada into disrepute;

  • it does not include activities in competition with those of CBC/Radio-Canada. This does not apply to temporary employees, as long as they are not on-air or in a management position, either for CBC/Radio-Canada or for the competitor);

  • it does not inappropriately exploit the employee’s connection with CBC/Radio-Canada;

  • it does not disrupt their regular assignments or scheduled work;

  • it does not restrict their availability or efficiency;

  • it does not involve acting as a spokesperson for another organization;

  • in the case of on-air personnel, it does not constitute or appear to constitute a personal endorsement of a product, service, or charity.

Employees are permitted to act as board members of an organization external to CBC/Radio-Canada, if their participation meets the criteria above, and if authorized by their manager beforehand. Employees may also act as board members for an organization involved in a commercial transaction with CBC/Radio-Canada, if previously authorized by their manager to do so, as long as they have no personal interest in the organization, financial or otherwise, and if they agree beforehand, in writing, to recuse themselves from any discussion or decision that could involve CBC/Radio-Canada.

Employees may be permitted to write books or work on other creative projects that are not in competition with CBC/Radio-Canada as long as they respect the criteria for outside activities mentioned above, and obtain prior written authorization from their manager.

If the manager considers the outside activity to be inappropriate, considering the criteria mentioned above, he/she informs the employee in writing and the employee must avoid, discontinue or modify his/her participation in such activities accordingly. Disclosures and their assessment by the manager must be documented.

► 4.4 Invitations to Speak, Moderate Debates or Host an Event

Employees are permitted to accept an invitation to speak, moderate debates, be a panelist, host an event or take part in other public appearances, if they have obtained prior written permission from their manager*.

In cases where the organizers offer to cover travel costs and hospitality, the manager must determine if this is appropriate, according to the provisions of this policy.

Some areas of the organization are subject to stricter rules than those mentioned above. On-air personnel and journalistic employees in general should refer to policies specific to their areas, as well as the Journalistic Standards and Practices, for additional specific conditions that may apply to them. More particularly, given that paid appearances can have an adverse impact on the Corporation, CBC/Radio-Canada does not allow paid appearances by its on-air journalistic employees. CBC/Radio-Canada discloses all appearances on its websites.

* (Such authorizations can be requested by email, or using the department’s request form if any, as long as they are filed in Livelink for future reference)

► 4.5 Accepting Gifts, Hospitality and Other Benefits

Accepting a gift, a benefit or an offer of hospitality for oneself or for a colleague, family member or friend can lead to uncomfortable situations or to real or perceived conflicts of interest.

Because of the possible impact on their credibility, journalists and employees involved in producing journalistic content should avoid accepting gifts, benefits, free travel or hospitality, except as permitted in the Journalistic Standards and Practices.

Other employees may occasionally accept unsolicited gifts, hospitality, free travel, tickets, or invitations to sports or entertainment events (e.g., hockey game, round of golf, theatre show or concert) or other benefits, but only if they have a value of $200 or less, subject to the conditions expressed below. It is also permitted to occasionally accept a working meal of reasonable value paid for by a third party.

However, employees must not accept gifts, hospitality, free travel, tickets, or invitations to sports or entertainment events or any other benefits:

  • That could influence, or be perceived to influence, their judgment and/or their performance of duties;
  • That are offered by a business partner and/or supplier of goods or services involved in an active request for proposal, sole source contract procedure or contract discussions, or in the six months following such a process, or as soon as they know such a process will begin in the near future;
  • That are offered by a business partner and/or supplier whose performance the employee is evaluating;
  • That are cash, loans, discounts or work rendered free of charge for personal purposes;
  • If the total value of what has been received from the same source within a 12 month period would exceed $400.

In circumstances where refusing a gift worth more than $200 would prove rude or problematic, an employee is permitted to accept it; however, it becomes the property of CBC/Radio-Canada and must be handed over to the employee’s manager, who must decide how best to dispose of it.

Employees must also refuse invitations to a conference or other formal gathering not mentioned above, organized or sponsored by an external party, a supplier, potential supplier or business partner, unless their manager determines that their attendance at such an event would not compromise or appear to compromise the objectivity, independence, impartiality or integrity of the employee or CBC/Radio-Canada.

See also the Policy on Employee Related Expenses and Reimbursements.

5. RECORDS OF DISCLOSURE

Employees must immediately disclose any conflict of interest or any situation that could reasonably be perceived as a conflict of interest to their manager.

The manager must then assess if the situation respects this policy. His/her response to the employee must be in writing, and include any conditions he/she might set or measures to be put in place to mitigate the conflict or possible appearance of a conflict of interest. Managers who need guidance on a particular situation can contact their own manager, the Values and Ethics Commissioner or, if the situation is related to the Journalistic Standards and Practices, the person appointed by the general manager of news to act as JSP advisor.

6. AUTHORIZATION OF EXCEPTION

Exceptions to the policy may occasionally be authorized when the interests of the corporation are clearly better served.

All requests for exceptions to this policy must first be submitted to the employee’s manager for approval. If the manager agrees to the request for an exception, he/she must submit the request, in writing, to the Values and Ethics Commissioner, accompanied by the reasons why such an exception could be considered legitimate. The Commissioner will analyze the situation and provide recommendations to the component’s Vice-President.

After receiving the Commissioner’s recommendations, the Vice-President approves or denies the exception and informs the Commissioner, the person requesting the exception, and the manager of his/her decision in writing. The manager must send a copy to Shared Services to be placed in the employee’s file.

If the request is granted, some conditions may apply. The period of time or specific circumstances for which the permission is granted may also be specified.

7. HISTORY

This policy came into effect on October 1st, 2017 and was updated on September 1st, 2018. This update pertained to the following sections:

  • Definition of "close personal relationship";

  • Additional examples of "commercial transactions" ;

  • Clarification regarding temporary employees, in the paragraph about working for competitors

  • Clarification in the section about outside activities, regarding employees writing books;

  • Clarification of the processes mentioned in the policy.

8. INQUIRIES

All questions pertaining to the interpretation or application of this policy should be referred to the Values and Ethics Commissioner.


QUICK TESTS
KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO

GIFTS: KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO

1

Does the value exceed $200?

2

Is it cash or an equivalent (such as a loan or discount)?

3

Could it reasonably be perceived as a bribe or other improper payment?

4

Is it given to influence a decision or create an obligation on your part, now or in the future, or could it be perceived as such?

5

If subsequently disclosed to the public, could it jeopardize your credibility or the reputation of CBC/Radio-Canada?

IF THE ANSWER IS YES, SAY NO!

PERCEPTION OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST QUICK TEST

1

Could this situation be perceived by others, inside or outside the organization, as affecting your objectivity, independence or impartiality in the execution of the tasks related to your position, now or in the future?

2

Could it be perceived as leading you to favour your interests or those of a person close to you rather than the interests of CBC/Radio-Canada?

3

Could it be perceived as leading you, or CBC/Radio-Canada, to favour a given contractor or another organization?

4

Could the situation be perceived as you using your position for personal gain?

5

Could it be perceived as calling into question the independence, impartiality and objectivity of CBC/Radio-Canada itself in the eyes of the public or other interested parties?

IF THE ANSWER TO ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS IS YES, AVOID IT!

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