What is Emolument?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Emolument is a term that is used in many countries to describe the compensation that is received as the result of holding public office, or a position that is related to a public office in some manner. The compensation includes wages or salary, but also may involve benefits such as reimbursement for travel expenses, health insurance, or any other monetary benefits that are received as part of holding the public office. In many nations, limits are placed on the amount of emolument that may be received, as well as the circumstances under which compensation may be rendered.

One of the situations in which many nations prevent emolument from occurring is the receipt of compensation for voting activity. This means that someone holding public office is not free to receive money or some other form of compensation in exchange for voting in a particular manner on a given piece of legislation. Doing so is considered illegal and can lead to a number of punitive actions, up to and including the pressing of criminal actions and the removal from office. The idea behind restricting this type of emolument is to ensure the public official acts in the best interests of his or her constituency, and not in order to personally gain from special interest groups that wish the vote to go in a particular direction.


It is also possible to receive emolument as compensation for some type of loss or injury that is sustained in the line of duty. For example, if a public official is injured during the course of performing the duties associated with his or her office, emolument in the form of paying for extra care during the recuperation period may be allowed. In the event that the official is permanently disabled as a result of the injury, this may be grounds for providing some form of ongoing emolument even after the individual is no longer in office.

Most jurisdictions have specific legislation that defines what types of compensation may be considered emolument, as well as defining what sources of compensation for services rendered are considered legal. It is important to note that what is allowed in one jurisdiction may be considered inappropriate in a different jurisdiction. For that reason, strictly defining what type of compensation qualifies as emolument must be conducted in accordance with laws and regulations that prevail within a specific jurisdiction. In addition, there may be some restrictions on forms of emolument that are allowed for a given public office.


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