Archived - Guide to Implementing the Assessment Policy

Document Status:
Draft: Working version
Effective Date:
December 2005
Related Documents:

This Guide is provided by the Public Service Commission to help human resources advisors support deputy heads in developing organizational approaches.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

This guide has been designed to assist human resources advisors in understanding the expectations of the Public Service Commission's (PSC) Assessment Policy. It will explain, in practical terms, the application of the values that are fundamental to this policy and also outline how the PSC expects the policy to be implemented.

II. Why a Policy?

The Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) provides an opportunity for assessments to be flexible, efficient and targeted at finding the right person for the job to meet the needs of the organization. Deputy heads will be able to customize the assessment process used in staffing a specific position (or positions) to meet the needs of their organization while at the same time exercising sound judgement in these decisions.

Since the assessment of persons is an integral part of the appointment process and is key to ensuring a competent, representative and non-partisan public service, this policy is meant to highlight the need for respecting merit and the guiding values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness throughout the process.

III. Legal Basis

"Merit" is defined in the PSEA. Subsection 30(1) of the Act indicates that appointments to or from within the public service shall be made on the basis of merit and subsections 30(2) and (3) outline the components of an appointment made on the basis of merit, as follows:

  • First, everyone who is appointed must meet the essential qualifications, which includes official language proficiency.
  • Second, the manager (or other delegate of the deputy head) may take into account:
    • qualifications that are considered an asset for the work, currently or in the future;
    • any current or future operational requirements and organizational needs that he or she has identified; and finally,
    • the current and future needs of the public service, as determined by the employer, in deciding on the needs of their organization.

As such, the essential qualifications, asset qualifications, operational requirements and organizational needs form the basis for the assessment of merit and are collectively referred to as the "merit criteria." The resulting document listing the identified merit criteria is known as the "Statement of Merit Criteria".

Prior to a specific appointment being made, all identified essential qualifications must have been assessed and any identified asset qualifications, organizational needs and operational requirements only need to be assessed if they relate to the specific position being staffed. Additional information on assessment can be found in the PSC document entitled "Assessing Merit".

Subsection 30 (4) of the PSEA indicates that it is not necessary to consider more than one person in order for an appointment to be made on the basis of merit. However, it is wise to consider the guiding values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness before making a decision on the number of persons that will be considered for a particular position in the appointment process.

IV. Policy Statement

The policy statement for assessment requires that:

  • the assessment is designed and implemented without bias, political influence or personal favouritism and does not create systemic barriers,
  • the assessment processes and methods effectively assess the essential qualifications and other merit criteria identified and are administered fairly, and
  • the identification of persons who meet the operational requirements and organizational needs is carried out objectively.

The above statements set out the PSC's expectations that deputy heads will ensure that the assessment process, including the methods used for assessment, are carried out effectively and respect the guiding values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness.

The first statement emphasizes the requirement that candidates be treated equitably and in a non-discriminatory manner:

  • "Free of bias" refers to taking steps to reduce prejudices and biassed attitudes,
  • "Free of systemic barriers" involves the use of tools and processes that are inclusive in their design and implementation and that do not restrict or exclude persons in designated groups and do not discriminate on any prohibited ground of discrimination.
  • "Political influence" usually refers to interference (or an attempt at interference) in an appointment process by a minister or a Member of Parliament or a member of their staff.
  • "Personal Favouritism" has been defined in the PSC "Study of Personal Favouritism in Staffing and Recruitment within the Federal Public Service". Personal favouritism includes an inappropriate action or behaviour by a public servant who, by using knowledge, authority or influence, provides an unfair advantage or preferential treatment to: 1) a current employee or 2) a candidate for employment in the public service for personal gain (benefit) and contrary to the good of the organization. The full definition, including its four defining components can be found at:

The second statement refers specifically to the value of fairness and indicates that processes and methods must effectively assess the identified essential qualifications and other merit criteria. To ensure an effective assessment, it is important that the assessment methods, processes and tools be directly linked to the identified merit criteria and that they be able to accurately measure the criteria. In addition, this will ultimately have an impact on the capacity of the selected individual to do the job. "Fair" administration of the assessment means that individuals have had an opportunity to demonstrate their merit for the position and that managers have a sound rationale for the decision(s) that are made.

The last statement requires an "objective" identification of persons who meet the operational requirements and organizational needs. This refers to the establishment of merit criteria prior to the beginning of the process and also requires that managers be able to demonstrate and substantiate that their decision(s) were not biassed or made in an arbitrary manner.

V. Policy Objectives

The policy objectives indicate that assessment processes and methods must:

  • result in the identification of the person(s) who meet the qualifications and other merit criteria used in making the appointment decision; and
  • provide a sound basis for making appointments according to merit.

The objective of an assessment process is to ensure that the person selected is qualified to perform the functions of the job and that he or she will meet the needs identified from the organization's human resources planning. In order to ensure that the right person is selected, appropriate assessment methods must be chosen or developed so that the identified merit criteria can be thoroughly assessed.

There are various methods of assessment. Section 36 of the PSEA states that "...the Commission may use any assessment method, such as a review of past performance and accomplishments, interviews and examinations, that it considers appropriate to determine whether a person meets the qualifications...".

Collectively, assessment methods must be able to evaluate the merit criteria identified for the process. The use of more than one assessment method or source of information can improve the quality of the assessment. In fact, multiple assessment methods or sources of information regarding the same merit criterion permit an assessment of the consistency of a person's performance. For example, an interview and the review of past performance and accomplishments can be used to assess a person' ability to manage.

VI. Policy Requirements

The policy requirements indicate that deputy heads must:

i. inform the persons to be assessed, in a timely manner, of the assessment methods to be used, their right to accommodation and how to exercise that right;

It is important that persons be advised, at an appropriate time, of the methods that will be used for assessment. This will improve transparency and will allow the person to prepare for the assessment. Inviting a person to a test, and providing as much information as is reasonable on the administration of that test, would meet this requirement. Another method could be to include information regarding the assessment method(s), if known at that time, directly on the Statement of Merit Criteria. The "appropriate time" will vary depending on the circumstances, but should provide persons with a reasonable period of time in which to prepare for the assessment.

It is important to note that it is not necessary for the person to have a disability or to have completed the "self-identification" form in order to request accommodation during the appointment process. At first contact with the applicant, the sub-delegated person or person(s) responsible for assessment (this could be the HR advisor) should obtain the necessary information regarding the person's needs with respect to accommodation (if any). This will allow necessary time to determine how best to accommodate the person, before the assessment takes place, and could also result in preventing any undue delays in the assessment process.

Additional information on the duty to accommodate and the fair assessment of persons from diverse backgrounds can be found in the following documents:

ii. ensure that those responsible for assessment:

  • have the necessary competencies to ensure a fair and complete assessment of the person's qualifications;

In order to effectively and fairly assess whether a person meets the merit criteria, persons responsible for assessment must fully understand the requirements of the position and be competent to administer the assessment tool(s) being used. For example, in a highly technical field such as law, it is important to have the competency to be able to assess not only the required knowledge but also the application of that knowledge.

  • have the language proficiency required to permit effective communication with the person being assessed in the official language or languages chosen by that person in order to assess his or her qualifications fairly;

A person has the right to be assessed in the official language(s) of their choice and, as such, assessment board members must be able to communicate with the person in the official language(s) of choice. The level of language proficiency required by assessment board members depends on the technical or specialized nature of the position, as well as the complexity of interaction and communication with the person being assessed. It is important to note that failure to assess a person in the official language(s) of his/her choice is one of the grounds for complaint to the Public Service Staffing Tribunal.

  • are not in a conflict of interest and are able to carry out their roles, responsibilities and duties;

Since the integrity of an assessment process could be the subject of review, it is important not only that it be fair but that it also be seen to be fair. For example, assessment board members should make reasonable efforts to minimize any appearance of bias in the process and the assessment board members should not let personal favouritism influence the outcome of the appointment process.

  • obtain the PSC's approval before using tests of personality, intelligence or aptitude, or tests of like nature;

This is the same as the requirement that was found under the previous staffing regime.

This is the same as the requirement that was found under the previous staffing regime.

  • use assessment tools that do not create systemic barriers to employment;

Assessment tools and methods must treat all persons in a non-discriminatory and equitable (this does not necessarily mean the same) manner thereby contributing to an inclusive assessment process. Assessment tools must not restrict or exclude persons in designated groups and must not discriminate on any prohibited ground of discrimination.

  • use the PSC's Second Language Evaluation (SLE) tests or another instrument approved by the PSC to assess official language skills on a "meets/does-not-meet" basis. For appointments of students or casual workers, those responsible for the assessment are permitted to conduct the assessment if they have the language skills required to do so;

The SLE has been approved by the PSC for the assessment of the second official language proficiency. As such, this is the standard assessment tool that will provide a consistent approach to the assessment of second language proficiency.

For reasons of efficiency and due to the length and nature of the employment opportunity for students and casual workers, persons responsible for assessment are permitted to conduct the assessment of second language proficiency as long as they, themselves, possess the language proficiency required to do so.

It is important to remember that an extension of term employment (Subsection 58(2) of the PSEA) and a term roll-over from term to indeterminate (Subsection 59(2) of the PSEA) do not constitute an appointment so this may be the first and only time that the person's second language proficiency is evaluated. It is, therefore, important to ensure that the second language proficiency is properly assessed during the initial assessment.

  • conduct their own assessment of expert or specialized official language proficiency qualifications;

Some bilingual positions may require the use of specialized or technical terminology that would result in the language requirements of the position being identified as Code "P." The SLE test is not designed to evaluate this level of proficiency. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the sub-delegated person or the assessment board to determine the assessment tool(s) and conduct their own assessment of persons to ensure they meet this requirement. (Please see the Guide to Implementing the Policy on Official Languages for further information.)

  • assess qualifications for appointment to or within the EX group:
    • with a structured interview and a structured reference check,
    • with any additional assessment tools necessary to provide clear evidence for appointment decisions (such as SELEX), and
    • obtain approval from the PSC for exceptions to the EX assessment requirements on a case-by-case basis.
  • establish EX assessment boards comprised of members at, or equivalent to, a level above the position being staffed.
As a result of the delegation to deputy heads of appointments into the EX group (at whatever level), a centralized appointment process will no longer exist. Therefore, given the importance of ensuring the professionalism of persons entering this group and the consistency of approach when appointments are made into this group, the PSC has required that the above minimum methods of assessment be applied.

VII. Other Requirements

The policy also requires that Deputy heads must respect:

  • the Public Service Employment Act, section 37, which states that examinations or interviews, when conducted for the purpose of assessing the essential qualifications or qualifications considered an asset, other than language proficiency, shall be conducted in English or French or both at the option of the person being assessed;

Except for assessing language proficiency, a person has the right to be assessed in the official language(s) of their choice, i.e., English, French or both, not necessarily the language of the position being staffed. For example, the person may request that the oral interview be conducted in English (or both languages) and the written exam be conducted in French.

  • the Employment Equity Act (EEA), which specifically sets out the obligation to eliminate any systemic barriers to employment;

The EEA requires organizations to identify and eliminate employment barriers against persons in designated groups.

  • the Treasury Board/Public Service Commission Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service, which makes it mandatory to provide accommodations; and

This policy requires the accommodation of persons to the point of undue hardship and also requires the provision of information in a timely fashion and in a usable and accessible format. Note that it may be necessary to modify the assessment procedures to allow for a fair assessment of persons with disabilities. However, remember that accommodation in assessment must not give undue advantage to the person receiving the accommodation.

  • the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) and the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), which prohibit certain grounds of discrimination.

The Charter establishes the principle of equal opportunity and the CHRA prohibits discrimination in employment practices (including assessment) based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

VIII. Sources of Information


  • Public Service Employment Act: Sections 30, 31, 36, 37, 38
  • Public Service Employment Regulations
  • Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order and Regulations
  • Official Languages Act
  • Employment Equity Act

Other References

  • PSC Appointment Policy (Assessment)
  • PSC Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process
  • PSC Policy on Employment Equity in the Appointment Process
  • Assessing for Competence Series
  • TB/PSC Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service
  • Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities
  • Guidelines for Fair Assessment in a Diverse Workplace: Removing Barriers to Members of Visible Minorities and Aboriginal Peoples
  • OCHRO - Developing Merit Criteria
  • TB - Official Languages Policy
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