Employment Equity and Staffing in the Federal Public Service

Staffing in the core Federal Public Service* is governed by the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), and also by policies and directives of the Public Service Commission.  The legislation and policies set out different ways in which managers can implement employment equity in the staffing process in order to achieve their employment equity goals.


Employment Equity as part of the merit criteria

The PSEA defines merit. An appointment is made on the basis of merit when the person appointed meets the essential qualifications of the position.  In addition, the deputy head may establish and apply any asset qualification, operational requirement or organizational need, currently or in the future in order to find the ‘right fit’ for the organization. The deputy head may also apply the current and future needs of the public service, identified by the employer and deemed to be relevant by the deputy head.

When employment equity considerations are part of a staffing competition, they must be included as one of the above criteria and therefore will be consistent with the definition of merit.

Employment equity, or being a member of one of the four designated groups, can be a criterion in a staffing process in the following ways:

1)       it can be included as an asset qualification

2)       it can be included as fulfilling an organizational need

3)       it can be included as fulfilling a need of the public service For example, where there is a need to hire a person who is familiar with Aboriginal culture and languages to provide service a particular Aboriginal community, the department can state that being an Aboriginal person would be considered an asset criteria or an organizational need. Or, where there is a significant under- representation of women in a particular occupational category, a department can list hiring women as an organizational need in accordance with their employment equity plan.


Employment equity as the area of selection

Another way in which employment equity can be part of the staffing process is through the “area of selection”. The area of selection defines who will be eligible to apply for a job. It can refer to:

  • a geographic area (for example, a job will only be open to people in the National Capital Region),
  • an organizational need (a job will only be open to members of the   same department),
  • an occupational criteria (a job will only be open to members of a certain occupation), or
  • employment equity (a job will only be open to members of one or more of the employment equity groups).

However, according to Public Service Commission policy, a department can only limit the Area of Selection to an employment equity group where it is justified by the department’s employment equity plan. That means, there must be evidence of a significant gap in representation for that designated group.


Other ways in which employment equity can be integrated into the staffing process

An employment equity plan will set out a number of specific measures that an employer will take to increase representation of the designated groups. These can include specific measures to make the staffing process more open and accessible.

For example:

  • making the area of selection as wide as possible to ensure that there will be a larger number of candidates from designated groups
  • ensuring that the qualifications and requirements for the job actually reflect the work to be done, and not using criteria that create unnecessary barriers or that favour certain types of candidates
  • ensuring that all parts of the process are accessible to people with disabilities (advertisements, websites, documents, interview formats etc)
  • reviewing testing and interviewing processes to ensure that needs of individuals such as those with visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments, are accommodated  ensuring that hiring boards are diverse and members are trained to recognize their own biases
  • advertising jobs widely and using community newspapers or organizations to attract applicants from different communities
  • reducing the use of casual and temporary hiring
  • reducing the use of non-advertised appointments


The Union’s Role

Legislation covering labour relations in the federal public sector prohibits unions from negotiating staffing issues at the bargaining table. While the union cannot bargain staffing, the employer does engage the unions in some consultation, in various forums, on staffing issues. PSAC is continuously challenging the employer to ensure fairness in staffing and a commitment to employment equity.  Union representatives on consultation committees, including workplace employment equity committees, can also address concerns and provide input on employment equity in the staffing process at those consultation tables.

PSAC supports employment equity and encourages the use of the tools provided in the Public Service Employment Act in order to increase the representation of the designated groups.


* Includes federal departments covered under Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act. This includes the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency. It does not include separate agencies such as Canada Revenue Agency, Parks Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and not including other federally regulated workplaces that are covered under the Canada Labour Code.



September 20, 2013