Demographic Snapshot of the Federal Public Service: Glossary of Key Terms

To assist you with your analysis of Federal Public Service human resources data, we have compiled a glossary of key terms that are used in many of the demographic snapshots and reports that are available on the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer’s (OCHRO) Human Resources Statistics webpage. This glossary has been developed to help provide a common language across OCHRO’s demographic snapshots and reports.

Key Terms by Subject

Population / Universe

Core Public Administration (CPA)

which comprises the organizations set out in Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act (FAA). Over 75 departments, agencies and commissions are included in CPA and Treasury Board is identified as the employer of this part of the Public Service.

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).

Population for Employment Equity Purposes

refers the number of women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal peoples. The population definition for this group includes: indeterminate employees, employees with terms of three months or more, and seasonal employees (excluding those on leave without pay). Excluded are students and casual workers (except in the case of hiring), Governor in Council appointees, ministerial 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.)

Separate Agencies

which are the organizations for which the Treasury Board is not the employer, but for which the Public Service Commission has exclusive authority to make appointments. They represent a portion of the federal public administration named in Schedule V of the Financial Administration Act (FAA).

All definitions above by default include 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, in effective assignment and active status, and those in the following employment types: indeterminate, casual, student and term. (For a detailed description, see Appendix 1.)

Employee Type

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 in the position is of an unspecified duration.

Term / Specified Term / Determinate Employee

a person appointed for a specified period in accordance with Section 58 of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

Casual Employee

a person employed on a determinate basis pursuant to the PSEA  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.

Employee Status

It is important to note that Employee Status differs from Employee Type. Employee Status identifies whether an employee is active or inactive.

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)).

Employee Assignment

Substantive Assignment

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) Assignment

describes the position the employee is actually 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.

  • 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). The Pay System only captures appointments of four months or more.

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.



Refers to the number of persons added to the employee population in the past fiscal year. This includes indeterminate, terms, students, and casual workers.


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 can be various 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 or between occupational groups. A deployment cannot constitute a promotion. See 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 age 55 with 30 years of service); or,
  • 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 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.

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 and unpaid. 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.


Classification is the term that identifies an employee’s occupational group, sub-group and level. 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.


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 departments and agencies. 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.

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.


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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