Opening Remarks by Anne-Marie Robinson, President, Public Service Commission of Canada at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights

April 22, 2013

Check against delivery.

Madam Chair, thank you.

I am accompanied by Hélène Laurendeau, Senior Vice-President of our Policy Branch and Dr. Stan Lee, Director-General of the Personnel Psychology Centre at the Public Service Commission.

We are pleased to be here today to discuss employment equity in the federal public service.

Role of the Public Service Commission (PSC)

The Public Service Commission is responsible for promoting and safeguarding merit-based appointments that are free from political influence and, in collaboration with other stakeholders, for protecting the non-partisan nature of the public service. We report independently to Parliament on our mandate. We also administer programs on behalf of departments and agencies that recruit qualified Canadians from across the country. Under our fully delegated staffing system, the PSC provides overall policy guidance and supporting tools to assist deputy heads, managers and human resources advisors in making staffing decisions based on merit and consistent with the values of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

Through our monitoring, audits and investigations, we gather information on how departments and agencies are exercising their responsibilities. We report annually to Parliament on the staffing performance of the 82 organizations under the PSEA, including recruitment and appointments with respect to the four designated employment equity groups.

Under the Employment Equity Act, the PSC is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing, and for developing policies and practices that promote a more representative public service.

More specifically, the PSC conducts research and studies on employment equity to better understand staffing issues and challenges, to take stock of lessons learned from initiatives and practices in both the private and public sectors, and to identify possible opportunities for improvement. For instance, we used the information gathered in our 2011 literature review on the recruitment of persons with disabilities to engage the top six recruiting departments in a dialogue focused on identifying best practices.

We also disseminate information to departments and agencies to help them improve their staffing practices and processes. In addition to posting our research on the PSC’s Website, our annual report also highlights noteworthy initiatives taken by organizations. For instance, Correctional Service of Canada created advisory committees, conducted outreach and developed staffing strategies specific to each designated group, which all contributed to achieving a diverse and representative workforce.

We also conduct detailed data analysis using the PSC’s data holdings on hiring and staffing activities in the federal public service. This year, we are conducting a study on the rate of promotions from the employment equity perspective and on how members of the designated groups perceive the appointment process. We are nearing completion of this study and its findings will be published in our 2012-2013 Annual Report this fall.

The PSC also provides expertise and services in the area of assessment accommodation. We have experts in our Personnel Psychology Centre who provide advice and recommendations for assessment accommodations for persons with disabilities. These accommodations provide equal opportunity for those candidates to demonstrate their qualifications without being limited or unfairly restricted due to the effects of a disability. These assessment accommodations can vary from providing Braille and large print versions of exams to the use of assistive technology such as screen readers.

In 2011-2012, the PSC received more than 2,000 requests for assessment accommodation from hiring managers. During that same period, we also conducted outreach to increase awareness on assessment accommodation by delivering 15 seminars to HR practitioners in the public service.

Madam Chair, I would like to now turn to the recruitment and staffing of the four designated groups. Overall, we are finding that the appointment rates, even with reduced staffing levels, are largely consistent with the trends observed over the past few years. We are finding that members of three of the four groups continue to apply, and be appointed to the public service at a proportion exceeding their respective workforce availability. The exception is for the recruitment of persons with disabilities, who continue to be under-represented in terms of applications and appointments.

In our 2011-2012 Annual Report, we found that their share of external appointments had increased slightly from the year before, from 2.6% to 3.0%, as compared to their workforce availability rate of 4%. However, the percentage of applicants with disabilities continued to fall, from 2.7% to 2.6%. This is important because recruitment into the public service should reflect workforce availability for all designated groups.

Madam Chair, the PSC has undertaken a number of initiatives to respond to this challenge. We continue to provide specific assistance on a range of services to hiring managers to support the appointment of Canadians with disabilities. More departments are consulting our experts on accommodation measures. We are conducting further research to better understand potential barriers that may help explain why application rates for Canadians with disabilities are still low. Those findings will also be incorporated into our outreach as we work with organizations on best practices to attract more applications from members of this designated group.

Respecting EE and Workforce Adjustment

Madam Chair, as the public service reduces in size through the implementation of workforce adjustment, department and agencies must continue to meet their obligations under the Employment Equity Act.

We worked in close collaboration with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Canada School of Public Service, as well as bargaining agents, in order to provide as much upfront support as possible to organizations in their preparations for implementing workforce adjustment as a result of Spending Review 2012.

We updated our guides and tools to provide concrete guidance on how to run merit-based, structured processes in selecting employees who would be retained or laid off. Along with our partners, we provided intensive training to some 3,700 managers and human resources advisors based on specific workforce adjustment situations and decisions.

With sound planning, organizations can meet their obligations under the Employment Equity Act while implementing workforce adjustment. For instance, when an organization clearly identifies the need to increase the representation of a designated group in its planning, this organizational need can then be used as part of the process for selection for retention or lay-off.

Priority Administration

As members may know, the implementation of workforce adjustment has resulted in an increased number of surplus employees and laid-off individuals who are eligible to be appointed ahead of all others to vacant positions in the public service, provided they meet the essential qualifications of the positions. We have a Priority Administration Program, which allows the public service to redeploy skilled and experienced employees.

We’ve put in place a series of measures to provide greater access, fairness and transparency, with the objective of placing as many priority persons as quickly as possible.  Priority persons can self-identify as a member of a designated group. Organizations seeking to increase the representation of a designated group can use this information in meeting their employment equity obligations.

Madam Chair, there are currently about 2,900 priority persons, an increase of 60% over last April when 1,800 persons had priority rights. Since April 2012, 956 priority persons have been placed in new positions – most of them (around 70%) were employees affected by workforce adjustment. We are closely monitoring placements among the designated groups and we are continuing to collaborate with organizations to rigorously manage this program.

Looking ahead

Madam Chair, the Public Service Commission is committed to working with Treasury Board Secretariat as well as stakeholders to ensure that the federal public service reflects the diversity of Canada.

We will continue to adapt our policies, programs and services to support deputy heads and managers, and promote a federal public service that is representative and draws on the talents and skills of all Canadians.

Thank you. I would be very pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.