Opening Remarks by Christine Donoghue, Acting President, Public Service Commission of Canada on Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service at Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights

June 4, 2015

Check against delivery.

Madam Chair, thank you.

I am accompanied by Jacqueline Bogden, Vice-President of our Audit and Data Services Branch.

We are pleased to be here today to provide an update on the information provided to the Committee last summer with respect to its December 2013 report on employment equity in the federal public service.

The Mandate of the Public Service Commission

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 also administer programs on behalf of departments and agencies that recruit qualified Canadians from across the country.

We report annually to Parliament on the staffing performance of the 80 organizations that come under the Public Service Employment Act whose Preamble underlines the value of a public service that is representative of Canada’s diversity.

Madam Chair, this morning, my remarks will focus on recruitment data, outreach activities, accommodation assessment and the use of technology to provide greater access to public service jobs, and I will also discuss some areas where we are conducting research.

2013-2014 Annual Report

Our Annual Report provides information on the recruitment of four groups designated under the Employment Equity Act, namely, Aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and women.

In 2013-2014, we saw that members of visible minorities and Aboriginal peoples continued to apply at a rate exceeding their 2006 workforce availability. Three out of the four designated groups – women, visible minorities, and Aboriginal peoples, were appointed to the public service at a rate exceeding their workforce availability.

We are therefore closely monitoring the application and appointment rates of the fourth group, persons with disabilities, which continue to be lower than their workforce availability. Should it persist, this trend may have longer term implications for the representation of persons with disabilities in the federal public service population.

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. That’s why we need to have a better understanding of the issues facing persons with disabilities with respect to the employment process in general and in their recruitment in particular.

Outreach Activities

Over the past year and a half, we have collaborated with other federal departments and agencies including Treasury Board Secretariat, Employment and Social Development Canada, and Shared Services Canada to reach out to students with disabilities. We wanted to talk to them about opportunities in the public service and to address issues or concerns that they may have about the hiring process.

We began at the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities at Carleton University and since then we have conducted similar outreach at the University of Ottawa, Dalhousie University and Algonquin College. We plan to do more outreach to raise awareness about the federal public service and to encourage more students with disabilities to apply for jobs.

Assessment Accommodation

We also conducted outreach to hiring managers and human resources specialists on assessment accommodation to ensure they are aware of how candidates with disabilities can be assessed so that they have equal opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications without being limited or unfairly restricted due to the effects of a disability.

We provided seminars to some 36 different organizations and we recently developed a webinar to extend our reach.

We have experts in our Personnel Psychology Centre who provide advice and recommendations for assessment accommodations for persons with disabilities. 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 2013-2014, the PSC received more than 1,600 requests for assessment accommodation from hiring managers. While these requests were up by 22% over the previous year, we have seen that the requests, as a proportion of total staffing and hiring activities, have remained relatively stable.

Internet Testing

Madam Chair, we believe that technology and innovation will also help to remove barriers and provide greater access for persons with disabilities. We have expanded the use of Internet testing. Applicants can take a test at a location of their choosing, no matter where they live. Persons with disabilities use their own adaptive technology at home to do our exams.

In addition, we are simplifying and standardizing our tests using plain language and formats that would remove barriers, for instance, those related to visual scanning and detection. These formats will allow more people to access the tests without special accommodation. And we continue to look for ways to improve user experience and expand access to opportunities in the public service.

Research on Employment Equity

We also conduct research activities using the data we collect on hiring and staffing activities in the federal public service.

Madam Chair, we are updating two studies that looked closely at how being a member of an EE designated group affects both chances of promotion and perceptions of the staffing process. These updates are now being finalized.

We are also examining whether there are any differences between the career progression of members of the four EE designated groups as compared to those who do not self-identify as an Aboriginal person, or a member of a visible minority, or a person with disabilities.

Finally, we are undertaking a study to better understand the issues surrounding the application and appointment of persons with disabilities. The study will apply different methodologies to explore the rates of application and appointment of persons with disabilities and the factors that might influence these rates.

We plan to use the findings to better target areas for specific action and we will be sharing the results with stakeholders including the Employment Equity Champions and Chairs Committees.

Conclusion

Madam Chair, the Public Service Commission is committed to working with Treasury Board Secretariat as well as all stakeholders to ensure that the federal public service is representative and reflects our increasingly diverse society.

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