PSC Staffing Interpretation Centre

The Public Service Commission of Canada has set up this space to share the most common and recurring policy interpretations based on questions received from departments and organizations.

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Calculation of 4 months less a day

For an acting appointment, how do we calculate a period of 4 months less a day?

An acting appointment is temporary and can last days, weeks, months or even more than a year. The Public Service Employment Regulations make an important distinction between an acting appointment of 4 months or more, and an acting appointment of less than 4 months. Whichever measure is used for the acting appointment, it is necessary to determine precisely when the period of 4 months less a day is reached.

Using the approach set out in the Interpretations Act, an acting appointment starting on June 15 would be calculated as follows:

  • an acting appointment of 4 months would end on October 15
  • an acting period of more than 4 months would end on October 16 or later
  • an acting period of less than 4 months would end on October 14 or earlier

Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument / Delegation

Appointment of a new deputy head

A new deputy head was appointed for my organization. Do the sub-delegation instrument and policies need to be approved again, or do they remain in effect?

When a new deputy head is appointed or designated, the Public Service Commission of Canada does not require that the existing staffing sub-delegation instrument and organizational policies be approved again by the new deputy head or that a new instrument and policies be issued, unless until they are reviewed or changed .

However, your organization may wish to ensure they continue to meet the organization’s needs and the strategic direction with regard to staffing intended by the new deputy head.


Hiring for potential

Can potential be used as a part of merit?

Potential refers to a person’s future capacity for growth or development. To be used as a qualification in an appointment process, it must be clearly expressed in terms of the job being staffed by that process.

Each qualification must be clearly linked to the job being staffed and met at the time of appointment. As long as the link is clear, there is no prescribed wording to be used to express a qualification.

To be appointed on the basis of merit, a person must meet each qualification at the time of the appointment. “Potential to…” may not be interpreted as “potential to meet an essential or asset qualification at a later date.”

The sub-delegated manager must be able to answer the question “Potential for what?”; to explain what a qualification means; what is required; the underlying constructs; and how it is defined for assessment purposes. For example, “potential to manage” can be defined for assessment purposes as the ability to learn, solve problems collaboratively, or juggle competing demands. The assessment will then focus on these skills and abilities as they are found in the job being staffed.

Whether or not the term “potential” is used, the appointment framework sets an expectation that the sub-delegated manager will establish reasonable merit criteria for a job to be staffed.

Use of personal knowledge in a staffing process

What are some of the considerations when a manager uses their personal knowledge of a candidate to assess them in an appointment process?

The Public Service Employment Act allows for use of all available information when assessing candidates. This is set out in Section 36 of the act, which provides broad discretion to deputy heads in the choice and use of assessment methods.

Sub-delegated managers determine the information they need — this could include information obtained through the assessment phase of an appointment process, or existing information (for example: personal knowledge).

Neither the act nor the Appointment Policy specify that the same sources of information or the same assessment method must be used for all candidates.

As with any assessment method, using personal knowledge:

  • must focus on the qualifications for the position;
  • need to be conducted in a fair manner and in good faith;
  • is made stronger when used with other sources of information to increase the reliability and validity of results.

The key point is that the sub-delegated manager is responsible for gathering enough information about each of the qualifications to make a clear decision about merit for that candidate. The manager is also accountable for considering all of the information at their disposal, and for using any information that is valid and reliable.

Employment equity

National Area of Selection

How does the national area of selection apply to employment equity hiring?

According to subsection 34(2) of the Public Service Employment Act, the geographic, organizational or occupational criteria defining the area of selection may be different for candidates who are members of employment equity designated groups.

The Public Service Commission’s Appointment Policy sets out an exception to the national area of selection for an external advertised appointment process that is limited to members of designated employment equity groups that are under-represented. This exception applies to the geographic element.

This means the geographic scope of the area of selection does not have to be national when an appointment process targets an employment equity group or groups for which there is under-representation.

When a process is open to everyone, whether or not they are members of designated groups, the national area of selection will apply to all applicants, including members of designated groups.

Use of self-declaration form

Can I require the self-declaration form to confirm the eligibility of the candidate for a non-advertised process based on employment equity?  Is it mandatory to require the self-declaration form, or is this at the discretion of the hiring manager?

Self-declaration information is required in writing to confirm eligibility on the basis of employment equity in an appointment process, whether the process is advertised or non-advertised.  

Hiring managers need to ensure that the person they are hiring meets the employment equity criterion, and a verbal confirmation is not sufficient. The employment equity self-declaration must be available when an authorized person needs to access the information, and the Appointment Policy requires that information related to the appointment be documented. As stated in Annex B, deputy heads must ensure that the employment equity self-declaration for persons appointed is accessible electronically or by other means for a minimum period of 5 years.

There is no prescribed form that must be used; a candidate may choose to self-declare using any means. Some commonly used methods of self-declaration include:

  • self-declaration in the applicant profile (Public Service Resourcing System)
  • self-declaration form available on the PSC website
  • statement on the cover letter or résumé
  • email exchange
  • other relevant documentation to confirm employment equity information

Note that the provisions of the Privacy Act and Treasury Board policies for the management of Protected B information apply to self-declaration.

Self-declaration is voluntary; however, only persons who have self-declared can be considered or appointed on the basis of employment equity. 

Official Languages


How is a language other than French and English assessed for an appointment?

It is the hiring manager who determines that the knowledge of a language, other than French or English, is required to perform the duties of the position. The proficiency in this language can be an essential qualification (that the candidate must meet in order to be appointed to the position) or an asset qualification.

Before the assessment, hiring managers establish the required level of language proficiency. They are responsible for developing the assessment method, conducting the assessment and determining whether the level of proficiency required for the position is met.

Those conducting the assessment on the language other than French or English must have the skills to assess that language. As per section 37(2) of the Public Service Employment Act, an examination or interview to assess the knowledge and use of a third language shall be conducted in that language.


What are the official language considerations when a position is reclassified?

Second language evaluation results that are over 5 years old are valid for re-appointment to the same position when it has been reclassified and the linguistic profile of the position has not been raised above the employee’s test results. This does not apply to situations where the position is not reclassified but is deemed a ‘new position’.

If the language profile of the reclassified position is raised above the employee’s test results, the person must meet the raised profile of the position to be appointed on an imperative basis. For example, if the reclassified position is CBC and the person’s results are BBB, they cannot be appointed to the position on an imperative basis until they have been assessed and deemed to meet the raised profile. Options include conducting a new second language evaluation test or appointing through a non-imperative process.


Classification conversion

Are appointments required in a classification conversion exercise?

For positions that are part of a classification conversion exercise, staffing appointments are not required. In a classification conversion, an existing position is evaluated using a new job evaluation standard approved by the Treasury Board as part of a classification renewal exercise. It affects every job in the occupational group and requires that every position be evaluated using the new standard. Positions that meet the new occupational group definition are converted effective the approved conversion date as part of the exercise, and no staffing action is required.

In some cases, existing positions from the group to be converted may be removed from the classification conversion exercise as they may not meet the new group definition. These situations will be handled internally in organizations prior to conversion. Managers should work together with their classification, staffing and labour relations advisors to determine the appropriate way forward in these situations.

For more information on the upcoming changes to occupational groups, as well as background information on the classification program and classification renewal exercises, visit the Treasury Board Secretariat’s classification program frequently asked questions page on GCpedia (accessible only on the Government of Canada network). 


Are appointments required following a position reclassification?

A reclassification is specific to one job or position and occurs when there is a substantive change in the work performed that leads to a change in the occupational group, sub-group and/or level of that job or position in accordance with the employer’s classification program.

Following the reclassification of a position, an appointment is the only way to apply the change in classification (group and/or level) of a position to the incumbent of the same position. An appointment is required in order to assign the new conditions to the incumbent (group and level, pay, collective agreement, terms and conditions of employment, etc.) regardless of the change resulting from the classification decision (promotion, demotion, or at-level).

Preference and Mobility

Assessment in waves

Where multiple groups of candidates are assessed successively in the same process, does the preference for veterans, Canadian citizens and permanent residents apply separately to each group of candidates assessed?

Yes, the preference set out in section 39 of the Public Service Employment Act applies separately to each appointment, even if multiple appointments result from a single advertisement.

Hiring managers have the flexibility to make decisions that are reasonable in the circumstances of each appointment. In one case, the manager may wish to identify veterans who apply, assess them, and appoint those who meet the essential qualifications before other qualified individuals. If, however, there are differences in the merit criteria applied for different appointments, a veteran who does not meet the essential qualifications for one appointment may be qualified for another. As a result, the veteran would not necessarily be completely eliminated from the process based on the results of the first appointment.

For each appointment, the hiring manager would update the information regarding veteran’s status (and citizenship or permanent resident status) to ensure the correct information is applied at the time of an appointment.

Priority Entitlements

Conversion from term to indeterminate of a person with a priority entitlement

When a person with a priority entitlement is employed for a specified period (term), would the conversion of their employment to indeterminate, as per subsection 59 (1) of the Public Service Employment Act, have an effect on their priority entitlement?

A priority entitlement ends when a person with a priority entitlement is appointed or deployed indeterminately. Subsection 59 (2) of the Public Service Employment Act sets out that the conversion of an employee from term to indeterminate is not an appointment or deployment, so it does not affect the priority entitlement.

Selection and appointment

Official languages

Can a selection decision be based on a candidate’s first official language?

No. A selection decision cannot be made on the basis of the candidate’s particular official language. According to section 91 of the Official Languages Act, official language requirements can only be used when they are “objectively required to perform the functions” of a position. 

For example, to increase the number of employees whose first official language is French or English within a team, the hiring manager cannot select a candidate based on their first official language. The decision would not be objectively determined based on the functions of the position as per the Official Languages Act, but rather on the individual’s first official language.

Selection decision

Can a selection decision be based on other factors than the established merit criteria?

Yes. A selection decision may be based on other factors beyond the established merit criteria. The Public Service Employment Act does not specify how the selection should be made. It does require that, at a minimum, a candidate being appointed must meet the essential qualifications and any other merit criteria applied for the position to be staffed.  

Sub-delegated persons are responsible for articulating their selection decision in writing as per their organization’s requirements. The selection decision explains why a qualified candidate was selected for appointment.

There may be situations where it is reasonable to use elements other than the established merit criteria to select a person from qualified candidates. A selection decision could take into consideration other elements such as talent management, employee retention and team composition.


Information requirements for student appointments

When hiring students, what are the documentation requirements?

Annex B of the Appointment Policy outlines the information requirements for appointments. Some of these requirements do not apply to student appointments, which are excluded from certain provisions of the Public Service Employment Act as identified in the Student Employment Programs Participants Exclusion Approval Order. To respect the provisions for student appointments outlined in section 3 of the Student Employment Program Participants Regulations, organizations must establish qualifications and demonstrate that the hired student meets those qualifications. 

The minimum documentation requirements for student appointments under the Federal Student Work Experience Program, the Research Affiliate Program and the Post-Secondary Co-operative and Internship Program are:

  • Qualifications for the work to be performed;
  • Assessment and results for all candidates;
  • Employment equity self-declaration form and the Affirmation of Aboriginal Affiliation Form, if applicable;
  • Oath or solemn affirmation;
  • Signed offer of appointment;
  • Documentation to support Treasury Board Secretariat student employment eligibility criteria.

Deputy heads must ensure that documentation is accessible electronically or through other means for a minimum period of five years after the last administrative action (as applicable) for each appointment.

Qualifications, such as those found in the Federal Student Work Experience Program referral request, the Post-Secondary Co-operative and Internship Program job posting and the Research Affiliate Program job advertisement, do not need to be extensive. For example, a manager may establish a single qualification, such as “ability to conduct manual labour” or “studies in administration”, as long as those qualifications accurately reflect the requirements of the work to be performed.

The assessment may be equally straightforward, with a single assessment method used; for example: review of résumé, confirmation of studies or interview with potential students.

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