Frequently Asked Questions for Human Resources Advisors and Managers

Roles and responsibilities

1.       As a manager or human resources advisor, what are my responsibilities in the assessment accommodation process?

It is the role of the manager or human resources (HR) advisor to inform candidates of the assessment tools that will be used and of the candidates’ rights to request assessment accommodation.

If assessment accommodation is requested for a Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) test, managers and HR advisors must contact our assessment accommodation specialists, who will determine the assessment accommodation to be put in place. Managers and HR advisors must ensure the accommodation is correctly implemented.

In the case where assessment accommodation is requested for an organizational (that is, non-PSC) test, managers can choose to determine the assessment accommodation themselves or consult our assessment accommodation specialists. Regardless of the option selected, managers are responsible for correct implementation of the accommodation.

For more information about responsibilities of managers and HR advisors, go to the Roles and responsibilities web page.

2.       How can the Public Service Commission of Canada support managers or HR advisors in fulfilling their duty to accommodate?

We offer a variety of products and services to managers and HR advisors at every step of the assessment process, including:

To obtain more information about our services, contact us by email at:


3.    To what extent must hiring managers exercise their duty to accommodate during the assessment process?

Employers are required, pursuant to the Canadian Human Rights Act, to provide reasonable accommodation for legitimate needs linked to a prohibited ground of discrimination (sex, age, disability, etc.), up to the point of undue hardship. Since there is no set formula for deciding what constitutes undue hardship, the following factors have to be considered: health, safety, cost, collective agreements, the interchangeability of the workforce and facilities and the legitimate operational requirements of the workplace.

The law recognizes that a limitation on individual rights may be reasonable and justifiable in employment situations. If an employer can show that there are specific requirements that every candidate applying for a specific job must meet because they are essential to the effective and safe performance of the job, then no duty to accommodate arises because this does not constitute discrimination.

See Duty to Accommodate: A General Process for Managers for more details.

4.    Who pays the costs related to an assessment accommodation?

The Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service states that the hiring department or agency is responsible for covering the costs related to professional assessments that are required in order to determine the functional limitations caused by a disability and the required accommodation.

The hiring department is also responsible for covering the costs related to implementing of the assessment accommodation throughout the assessment process.

The development of assessment accommodation and multiple formats for Public Service Commision of Canada tests is provided at no cost to departments and agencies.

For organizational in-house tests, we can develop assessment accommodation and multiple formats, on a cost recovery basis.

Finally, we can also administer our own tests and organizational tests for a fee.

See our price list for more information.

Choosing appropriate accommodation

5.    What types of assessment accommodation are provided by the Public Service Commission of Canada?

Assessment accommodation is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature and extent of the functional limitations presented by the candidate.

There are several kinds of accommodation, including:

Modifications in testing environment. A test that is normally administered in a group setting may be administered individually. Other potential adaptations include changing the test location if it is not wheelchair accessible or providing a table and a chair that offer greater physical support.

Modifications in test format. The format used to present the instructions or questions to the candidate can be modified. For example, a test booklet may be offered in Braille, large print or audio format.

Modifications in response format. The format used to record candidate responses can be modified. For example, giving the candidate a scribe, a computer, a Braillewriter or their own assistive equipment to answer questions.

Modifications in scheduling/timing. This may include extended time to complete a test or an interview and/or more breaks during assessment. It may also include scheduling an assessment session at the most appropriate time of day for a candidate.

Other modifications. This category covers every accommodation that could not be included in any of the 4 previous categories. The most common instances would be:

  1. the modification of test content
  2. the use of a substitute assessment method to assess the same qualification (for example, administering an interview instead of a written exam to assess problem-solving abilities)

Source: Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities

6.    When a person requires accommodation for assessment purposes, does the same accommodation apply in the workplace?

Not necessarily. An accommodation that is appropriate in an assessment context may or may not be required or appropriate in the workplace, and vice versa.

Note that tests are usually done under time pressure and with high expectations of success. These factors alone can create a higher than normal level of stress and effort for anyone, but especially for someone who is susceptible to anxiety or who has a disability that interferes with their ability to process and respond under such conditions.

For more information about workplace accommodation, refer to the Treasury Board Secretariat’s website.

7.    How do I know if a specific assessment accommodation requested by a candidate is appropriate?

When establishing accommodation, a case-by-case approach should be followed to help ensure that the accommodation is appropriate. For each request, 3 factors need to be considered:

  1. The assessment tool being used
  2. The nature and extent of the candidate’s functional limitations
  3. The nature and level of the qualification being assessed

An accommodation is considered appropriate when it removes the barrier caused by the candidate’s disability, without changing the assessed qualification.

Source: Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities

8.    Must I accommodate a preference?

No. The goal of an assessment accommodation is to remove barriers to a fair assessment and to provide a candidate with the opportunity to demonstrate their actual competence with respect to a qualification.

It may not be straightforward to determine whether the candidate has a legitimate need for accommodation or a preference. You have a duty to accommodate legitimate needs when they are linked to one of the 11 prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in the Canadian Human Rights Act (that is, disability, sex, family status, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sexual orientation, marital status and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted). A rational connection must be made between the candidate’s request and any of these grounds of discrimination.

More information on the Duty to Accommodate is available on the Canadian Human Rights Commission website.

9.    Under what circumstances could a hiring manager refuse a candidate’s request for accommodation?

According to the Public Service Commission of Canada’s Appointment Policy, the hiring manager has to respect the duty to accommodate throughout the appointment process. If a candidate requests accommodation for a ground that is protected from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as disability, then accommodation cannot be refused without a solid rationale.

All accommodation requests should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis and considering all relevant information. If it is determined that there is a barrier to fair assessment linked to a prohibited ground of discrimination, accommodation must be provided. If no barrier exists, the accommodation may not be required and could be refused. For instance, extra time might not have to be given to a candidate for a test that was designed in such a way that all candidates should be able to finish it (for example, a take-home assessment that takes approximately 2 hours to write and for which a 2-week deadline is given).

There are also certain specific situations in which an employer does not have to accommodate an employee, even if a barrier to fair assessment exists. This is notably the case when an assessed qualification is considered as a legitimate occupational requirement, that is, a requirement that every individual performing a specific job must meet because it is essential to the effective and safe performance of the job. For example, individuals employed as truck drivers must meet vision standards and have an appropriate driver's license.

If an employer can show that there are specific requirements that every individual performing a specific job must meet because they are essential to the effective and safe performance of the job, then no duty to accommodate arises because this does not constitute discrimination.

See Duty to Accommodate: A General Process for Managers for more details.

10.    How do I justify giving extra time to a candidate?

The goal, in providing extra time, is to ensure that the candidate has enough time to fairly demonstrate their competency on the test. However, it is also important to ensure that merit is preserved and that the amount of extra time does not alter the qualification being assessed.

When a candidate requests extra time, it must first be established whether that extra time is warranted, based on the candidate’s functional limitations.

Thereafter, the amount of extra time needed will be based on several factors, including the:

  • nature and extent of the functional limitations
  • type of assessment tool
  • qualifications being assessed and
  • job requirements

The more information you have about the above factors, the more precise you can be when determining the amount of extra time. There is no set formula.

When determining extra time, ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Why does the person need extra time?
    • Do they have difficulty reading?
    • Do they have difficulty concentrating?
    • Do they need to take short breaks to rest their hands, for example?
  • Will giving extra time have an impact on the nature or level of the qualification being assessed? For example, is the test intended to assess a person’s ability to do a task within a restrictive time limit? If yes, perhaps giving extra time will result in an invalid result.

To best answer these questions, consult with the candidate. You can also speak to the manager of the position being staffed to find out more about job requirements and assessed qualifications.

11.    Do managers or human resources advisors need to obtain documented proof of a disability from the candidate?

No. You do not need a proof of disability to provide accommodation. However professional documentation is often required in order to determine appropriate and fair assessment accommodation.

Source: Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities

12.    Can I reuse a Public Service Commission of Canada assessment accommodation for another test?

No. Accommodation is assessed and implemented on a case-by-case basis, which implies that the accommodation reports provided by the Public Service Commission (PSC) are intended for the one test situation only.

Candidates could provide HR advisors with an accommodation report prepared by the assessment accommodation specialists at the PSC as an example of accommodation provided in a previous assessment process and insist on the same accommodation. However, to ensure fair and valid assessment, it is important for you to know how the accommodation was determined before applying it to your test. Any change in the candidate’s limitations should be reported, since this could affect the accommodation provided.

13.    How should we proceed if, prior to completing an exam, an individual is unsatisfied with the accommodation suggested?

Candidates must be given the opportunity to review their accommodation and to provide their comments. If a candidate has concerns about the proposed assessment accommodation, these should be discussed before the assessment takes place. It is essential for the candidate to understand the proposed accommodation. If the accommodation needs to be reviewed, the testing session may need to be rescheduled. The person determining the accommodation may need to investigate whether any other possible accommodation could be suitable.

If the accommodation was recommended by the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC), contact the assessment accommodation specialists as soon as possible after the candidate informs you that they have concerns with the suggested accommodation. Please note that only the PSC has the authority to modify any previously recommended accommodation measures for PSC tests.

14.    What steps do I have to take when a candidate declares the assessment accommodation was inappropriate after failing the test?

If the accommodation was determined by a Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) assessment accommodation specialist, contact the PSC immediately.

If the accommodation was determined by the department, the hiring manager responsible for the assessment would be responsible for addressing the situation. In this situation, our recommendation is to:

  • obtain additional information from the candidate to fully understand the complaint
  • determine whether certain needs were not addressed by the accommodation
  • confirm that the recommended accommodation was indeed provided by the test administrator
  • confirm the accommodation was agreed upon by the candidate prior to the test and that they were given the option to comment on the recommended accommodation
  • clarify with the candidate that accommodation is not intended to give an advantage or to guarantee that the person will pass the test

Increasing test accessibility

15.    How can I make my assessment tools more accessible for persons with disabilities?

Assessment tools, such as interviews and exams, can be designed from the beginning with accessibility in mind. The following are some guidelines, adapted from the principles of Universal Design, which can be followed to enhance accessibility:

  • design your assessment tool for people with diverse abilities and backgrounds in mind
  • clearly define your assessed qualifications
  • design your test items to be maximally accessible, identify and remove barriers that would limit or hinder the test-taker from demonstrating their competency
  • write instructions and procedures in plain language to ensure maximum readability and comprehension
  • design the assessment tool for compatibility with other accommodation and existing assistive technologies
16.    What does the Public Service Commission of Canada do to increase accessibility of its tests?

The Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) applies the principles of Universal Design in its test development and administration services. The assessment tools and processes are designed from the outset to make tests accessible to as many individuals as possible.

We provide assessment accommodation and multiple formats for both organizational and PSC tests. This service is free for PSC tests and offered on a cost recovery basis for organizational tests.

We share our expertise on accessibility with managers and HR advisors from various departments and agencies through our website, seminars and workshops.

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