How does the priority system work?

The priority system allows surplus, laid-off, or other employees with a priority entitlement, to access jobs for which they are qualified, ahead of others. The Public Service Commission (PSC) is responsible for overseeing and monitoring the priority system and ensuring that priority employees are referred for positions for which they are qualified.

For employees under Treasury Board, there is an order in which priorities must be considered, in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act and Regulations. The order is as follows:

  1. A department’s own surplus employees (who have not been laid-off)
  2. Employees on leave of absence whose positions have been staffed indeterminately (entire public service)
  3. Laid-off persons (entire public service)
  4. Regulatory priorities (in no particular order): surplus employees from other departments, disabled employees, Forces or RCMP who have been discharged for medical reasons, relocation of spouse priorities,reinstatement priority (for those who are salary protected), surviving spouse or common law partner

Priority appointees only have to meet the essential qualifications of the job and the conditions of employment (not the asset criteria, organizational needs or other criteria). As well, priority appointments are not subject to challenge through PSST complaints.

The priority list is managed by the Public Service Commission, which does an initial screening to see if there are priority employees on the list who match criteria of a posted job, and if so, they are referred to the department. The Public Service Commission’s Guide on Priority Administration states:


“If priorities are being referred, an e-mail is sent to the department with the names of the potentially qualified priority persons to be assessed for the position. An automated e-mail is also sent to priority persons referred to inform them of the referral. The e-mail instructs priority persons to communicate with the hiring organization within the specific time frame stipulated by the organization (minimum of five days). Organizations must communicate and assess all priority persons who have indicated their interest in being considered for the position before all others.”


The department then assesses the priority employees against the essential qualifications, before other non-priority candidates.

More information on priority administration is available on the Public Service Commission'sPriority Administration website.



September 17, 2013