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.

Employee

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

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.

Conversion

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.

Mobility

Hires

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

Appointment

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.

Promotion

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.

Deployment

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

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.
Retirements 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.

Region

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.

Index

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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