Human resource statistics: glossary of key terms

Below is a glossary of key terms that will help in your understanding and analysis of public service human resources data. This glossary has been developed to help provide a common language across the Office of Chief Human Resource Officer’s (OCHRO) demographic snapshots and reports found on the human resources statistics website. For an interactive view, visit the interactive data visualization tool.

Key terms by subject

Population / universe

Federal public service (FPS)

which includes the core public administration (departments and agencies named in Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act (FAA), for which the Treasury Board Secretariat is the employer) and separate agencies (organizations named in Schedule V of the FAA).

Core public administration (CPA)

which consists of the departments and agencies named in Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act (FAA). Approximately 70 departments, agencies and commissions are included in the CPA and Treasury Board is identified as the employer of this part of the public service.

Separate agencies

Separate agencies are a portion of the federal public service which consist of agencies named in Schedule V of the Financial Administration Act (FAA). Treasury Board is not the employer for this portion. Separate agencies conduct their own negotiations and may set their own classification system and compensation levels for their employees.

Population for employment equity purposes

refers the number of women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Indigenous peoples. The population definition for this group includes indeterminate employees, terms of three months or more, and seasonal employees of organizations captured under the FAA, Schedules I and IV (CPA). Excluded are employees on leave without pay, students, casual workers, Governor in Council appointees, Ministers’ exempt staff, federal judges and deputy ministers. (Note that the definition of employee for employment equity purposes is different from our standard definition. See the Employment Equity Act (EAA) and its regulation for details.)

All definitions above include by default the active workforce only, which includes persons who are remunerated. It does not include persons who are on leave without pay.


Our standard definition of the public service workforce includes employees in the core public administration and separate agencies, active employees in their effective classification and those in the following employment types: indeterminate, term, casual and students. (For a detailed description, see Appendix 1.)

Employment type / tenure

Employee type is understood here as the nature of the appointment to the public service (e.g., casual, student, indeterminate, term or seasonal). Descriptions of these terms follow.

Indeterminate / permanent employee

a person appointed to the public service whose tenure is of an unspecified duration.

Term / specified term / determinate employee

a person appointed for a specified period. After this point they are no longer considered an employee. For more information please see Section 58 of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

Casual employee

a person employed on a determinate basis pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act Section 50 for a period not exceeding 90 working days in one calendar year in any particular department or other organization to that part of the public service to which the Public Service Commission has exclusive authority to make appointments. Casual employees can be part-time or full-time:

  • Full-time casual employee works the same number of scheduled hours of work as defined by the relevant collective agreement but is not a member of the bargaining unit.
  • Part-time casual employee works less than the scheduled hours of work as defined by the relevant collective agreement but is not a member of the bargaining unit.
Student employee

To be considered for employment by the federal government under one of the student employment programs, a person must be:

  • registered as a full-time secondary or post-secondary student in an accredited institution;
  • currently recognized as having full-time status by the academic institution; and
  • returning to full-time studies in the next academic term.
Seasonal employee

A person employed to work a portion of a year (season) each year, of unspecified duration (indeterminately).

Ministers’ exempt staff

In addition to public servants, Ministers are supported in their official functions by their own office staff. The employment of such staff is provided for under the Public Service Employment Act, but they are not members of the public service and are exempt from Public Service Commission staffing and other controls. They are known as “exempt” or “political” staff. Exempt staff hold public office within the Government of Canada, are paid with public funds, and are charged with supporting their Minister in the performance of his or her public duties. They are subject to a broad range of terms and conditions set by the Treasury Board for the government as a whole and to the same statutory conflict of interest and post-employment regime and ethical guidelines as Ministers and deputy ministers.

Employment status

Active employees

are those who are not on leave without pay.

Inactive employees

are those who have been hired to the public service who are not currently remunerated. The employee may be on leave without pay for various reasons (such as parental leave, sick leave-without-pay, income-averaging leave, etc.) or their pay may have been stopped for other reasons such as seasonal layoffs, or seasonal layoff periods (i.e. House of Commons, off-duty status, and unpaid surplus status (12 months)).

Work schedule

Full-time employee

A person appointed to the public service who is ordinarily required to work the standard number of hours per week prescribed by the relevant collective bargaining agreement or the employer, as applicable.

Part-time employee

A person employed to work less than the normally scheduled daily or weekly hours of work established for a full-time employee of the same occupational group and level.

Leave type

There are two types of leave, paid leave (leave with pay) and unpaid leave (leave without pay). Commonly used types of paid leave include sick leave, vacation, and family-related leave. Commonly used types of unpaid leave include parental leave, income-averaging leave, and sick leave-without-pay.

Extended leave

Any continuous leave periods or combination of leave periods exceeding 60 consecutive working days.

Continuous service / employment

Continuous service / employment

An unbroken period of public service employment starting from the continuous employment start date. Continuous service is broken when employment ceases between two (2) periods of public service employment for at least one (1) compensation day.

Continuous service / employment start date

The start date of an employee’s continuous employment in the public service as defined in the Public Service Terms and Conditions of Employment Regulations.


Classification is the term that identifies an employee’s occupational group, sub-group and level. Please note that separate agencies have a different classification system that is not equivalent to the core public administration (CPA) classification system. Therefore, the CPA occupational groups cannot be combined with those in separate agencies. The data provided for occupational groups is thus provided for the CPA only with the exception of some classifications that form some functional communities (i.e., financial management). Other terms related to classification include:

Occupational group

A category subdivision comprising similar kinds of work requiring similar skills. It often bears a relationship to an identifiable labour market outside the public service.

Occupational groups in force (for employment equity purposes)

A category subdivision comprising similar kinds of work requiring similar skills that have been consolidated along the lines of bargaining agents. They are reported on according to Schedule III in the Employment Equity Regulations and include both information on occupational and classification groups. Please see the official list for more information on occupational and classification groups in the public service. These new groups are used when reporting on employment equity.


A situation in which a new group and/or level is established or a new classification plan and/or pay structure is introduced for an established group.

Functional community

A community of functional specialists who share work purpose, functions and professional interests across the federal public service or the core public administration. These communities support their members in meeting professional and career aspirations through functional authority centres. Some coordinate recruitment programs and develop core competencies, professional standards and specialized curricula leading to the issuance of professional recognition and/or certification by a recognized certification organization.

Substantive classification

describes a situation where the employee is in the position to which they were appointed, in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

Effective (or current) classification

describes the position the employee is in, including acting positions. In other words, an effective position for someone who is in their substantive position is the substantive position, whereas for those in acting positions, their effective position is the acting position.

Bargaining unit designator (BUD) code

Identifies collective bargaining units by category, group, sub-group and supervisors of the same group that have formed a separate bargaining unit. It is also used to identify occupational groups not subject to collective bargaining.



Refers to the number of persons added to the employee population in the past fiscal year.


An action taken under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) to hire or promote someone. Excluded from this definition is the hiring of casual workers and students, as well as conversions and deployments.


An appointment where the maximum pay rate for the new position exceeds that for the substantive position by:

  • an amount equal to the lowest pay increment for the new position where there is a scale of rates; or
  • an amount equal to four per cent (4%) of the maximum rate of the new position (where there is only one rate).
Departure (or separation)

An employee who leaves an organization’s workforce. Reasons include separations (resignations, retirement, dismissal, death, etc.) or movements to other organizations (through lateral transfer or promotion). Note that we do not make any distinction between departures and separations.


A deployment is made within an occupational group, between occupational groups or between organizations. A deployment cannot constitute a promotion. See Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) for details. Deployments are permanent lateral movements/transfer of an employee.

Assignment / secondment

An assignment is a temporary move of an employee within their department or agency to temporarily perform the functions of a position that already exists or to take on a special project. A secondment is a temporary move of an employee to another department or agency in the core public administration and other organizations for which Treasury Board is the employer. Secondments and assignments are both temporary lateral movements of an employee.


Acting assignment describes the temporary performance of duties of another position. This applies if the performance of those duties would have constituted a promotion had the employee been appointed to the position (See the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) for details).

Attrition rate (or separation rate or departure rate)

The number of separations in a given fiscal year divided by the population at the beginning of the year, restricted to the indeterminate population only, including employees on leave without pay.

Retirement (without penalty) eligibility / retirement with immediate annuity

The date when you became a member of the public service pension plan determines when you will be eligible to receive an unreduced pension benefit:

  • If you were a member on or before December 31, 2012, you are eligible to draw an unreduced pension benefit at age 60 with at least two years of pensionable service or at the age 55 with 30 years of service.
  • If you become a member on or after January 1, 2013, you are eligible to draw an unreduced pension benefit at age 65 with at least two years of pensionable service or at the age 60 with 30 years of service.
Retirement projections

While people may be eligible, they may not necessarily retire when they are eligible. The projections for retirements are based on the historical trends of different cohorts of public servants.

First official language

One’s first official language is the language (English or French) in which that person is generally the most comfortable and the most proficient. This is not to be confused with the mother tongue. The Official Languages Act recognizes only English and French as Canada’s official languages.


The National Capital Region (NCR) includes employees working in both Ottawa (Ontario) and Gatineau (Québec). Atlantic region includes Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Prairies region includes Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Northern Region includes the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon.

Labour market availability (LMA)

Labour market availability (LMA) refers to the distribution of people in the four designated groups (women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities) as a percentage of the total Canadian workforce.

LMA is one benchmark for employment equity. It is derived from the Census and from the Canadian Survey on Disability and includes Canadian citizens and non-Canadian citizens active in the labour market who are at least 15 years of age.

LMA is updated every 5 years, after each Census and Canadian Survey on Disability.

Workforce availability estimates (WFA)

Workforce availability (WFA) estimates are used as a benchmark to assess the representativeness of employment equity designated groups within the core public administration (CPA) (organizations listed in Schedule I and IV of the Financial Administration Act) in accordance with the Employment Equity Act.

WFA provides an estimate of the level of each designated group’s (women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities) representation that would characterize today’s public service workforce in the absence of historical employment equity barriers.

WFA is derived from the Labour market availability (LMA) which is derived from the Census and the Canadian Survey on Disability. WFA includes Canadian citizens active in the labour market who are at least 15 years of age and is based on occupations in the Canadian workforce corresponding to the occupations in the public service.

To properly assess the representativeness of the public service workforce, it is important to ensure that WFA estimates are reflective of the qualifications, eligibility and geographic constraints applied to the public service. For instance, as recruitment to the public service favours Canadian citizens, calculation of WFA estimates for Indigenous Peoples, members of visible minorities and women excludes census respondents who are not Canadian citizens. Moreover, the calculation of WFA estimates account only for occupations that are found in the public service and reflects the relative importance of each of these occupations within the workforce. This ensures that the type of work done by census respondents included in WFA estimates matches that of employees of the public service workforce. In other cases, it is necessary to make further adjustments to the calculation of the estimates by considering education requirements and regional distribution.

In summary below are the four filters applied to the LMA to arrive at workforce availability.

  • Citizenship: this filter is applied because the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) gives preference to the hiring of Canadian citizens (section 39.1.c). Changes to the Public Service Employment Act came into effect in June 2021, including broadening preference given to Canadian citizens in external advertised appointment processes to include permanent residents. Changes to the workforce availability filters are not expected to be applied until March 2022.
  • Classification: this filter narrows consideration to occupations (based on national occupational classification codes) that the government deems relevant to the public service.
  • Education: this filter is used for some classifications to only include persons who have an educational degree for scientific and professional occupations, taking into account the public service qualifications for jobs (educational requirements).
  • Geography: this filter assumes that most organizational hiring will be done locally for most occupational groups, rather than from wider geographic areas.

Census Metropolitan Area (CMA)

A census metropolitan area (CMA) or a census agglomeration (CA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre (known as the core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the core based on adjusted data from the previous Census of Population Program. A CA must have a core population of at least 10,000 also based on data from the previous Census of Population Program. To be included in the CMA or CA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the core, as measured by commuting flows derived from data on place of work from the previous Census Program.

If the population of the core of a CA falls below 10,000, the CA is retired from the next census. However, once an area becomes a CMA, it is retained as a CMA even if its total population declines below 100,000 or the population of its core falls below 50,000. All areas inside the CMA or CA that are not population centres are rural areas.

When a CA has a core of at least 50,000, based on data from the previous Census of Population, it is subdivided into census tracts. Census tracts are maintained for the CA even if the population of the core subsequently falls below 50,000. All CMAs are subdivided into census tracts.

Canada in 2016 had 35 CMAs, as compared with 33 in 2011.

CMA is an important Census geographical concept to understand as employers under the Employment Equity Act conduct workforce analysis using CMA level data.

Please refer to Statistics Canada’s CMA definition at Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016 - Census metropolitan area (CMA) and census agglomeration (CA) (

For a more detailed definition of CMA, please refer to Statistics Canada’s CMA and CA: Detailed definition (

National Occupational Classification (NOC)

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) is the nationally accepted classification system (taxonomy and organizational framework) for occupations in the Canadian labour market. NOC codes, signaling both skill type and skill level, are the basis for grouping employment equity occupational groups.

The NOC has been developed and maintained as part of a collaborative partnership between Employment and Social Development Canada and Statistics Canada.

An update of the classification reflects ongoing occupational research and consultation to incorporate information on new occupations. Each ten years, structural changes that affect the classification framework, such as the addition of new classes, are considered.

In the 2016 Census, data on occupation is based on the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2016 Version 1.0 (

For more information, please refer to Statistics Canada’s Introduction to the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2016 Version 1.0 (


Appendix 1

Federal Public Service Employee

  1. The Federal Public Service workforce includes employees who work for departments and other portions of the Federal Public Administration named in Schedule I, IV and V of the Financial Administration Act (FAA) Footnote 1. Schedules I and IV list departments and organizations for whom Treasury Board is the employer, and Schedule V lists separate agencies.
  2. The workforce includes employees of all employment tenures (indeterminate, specified term, casual and students).
  3. The workforce includes Governor-in-council, Order-in-council appointees and federal judges.
  4. The workforce does not include Ministers’ exempt staff.
  5. The workforce includes active staff only, and does not include employees on leave without pay.
  6. The workforce does not include employees locally engaged outside Canada.
  7. The workforce does not include self-employed consultants as well as the employees of firms doing business under contract with a federal public sector entity.
  8. The workforce does not include Royal Canadian Mounted Police temporary civilian members.
  9. The workforce does not include employees of the following separate agencies listed under Schedule V because their employee information is not available in the Pay System: the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the National Capital Commission Footnote 2, Canada Investment and Savings, the Canadian Forces Non-Public Funds, and the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
  10. The workforce is based on effective assignment of employee.

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