Link bonuses to equity targets: report

Hidden barriers exist in hiring and promotion in public service
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/25/2007

Performance bonuses for assistant deputies in the federal public service should be tied to employment equity goals, according to a new report.

In the past, the Public Service Commission focused on education, facilitation and encouragement to increase the representation of employment equity groups in the civil service, said Senator Raynell Andreychuk, chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, which has been investigating allegations of discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the public service.

“Our summation was that that hadn’t worked. While we don’t believe in consequences that are sharp edged, we think that the senior bureaucrats need to be held accountable when it comes to their performance pay,” said Andreychuk.

Despite robust laws and policies to increase the representation of women, Aboriginals, people with disabilities and visible minorities in the public service, progress has been slow, according to

Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service — Not There Yet


While representation of women, Aboriginals and people with disabilities in the public service is slightly above their workforce availability, representation of visible minorities falls short.

“We don’t need any more policies. We don’t need any more laws. What we need really is a will at the higher levels — political will, bureaucratic will in the executive level — to really make the system work,” said Andreychuk.

One way to make that change is to force assistant deputies to be accountable for employment equity targets as part of their performance review.

“We think this should be one of the (performance) criteria,” she said. “You can’t just say ‘Gee, I tried,’ you’re going to have to prove you tried.”

Since the committee began its investigation in November 2004, it has heard testimony from members of the Public Service Commission, including president Maria Barrados, members of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency and members of the Privy Council.

The fact the representation of visible minorities in the federal public service is not on par with their representation in the population did not surprise the committee, said Andreychuk. What the committee did find surprising was the hidden barriers visible minorities face in entering the civil service.

One of those barriers is the predominance of temporary and short-term positions. The committee found about 65 per cent of all full-time hires into the civil service were hired from a pool of temporary workers.

The process for recruiting into a temporary position is less rigorous than for a permanent position and doesn’t include the same consideration of employment equity objectives.

Another barrier is that the majority of public service jobs are in the Ottawa region. While not all visible minorities are new immigrants, the majority of them are and most settle in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal — not Ottawa, said Andreychuk.

While Barrados told the committee the Public Service Commission has opened up the recruitment for Ottawa-based jobs to candidates across the country, Andreychuk would like to see more done to encourage applications from geographically diverse regions.

A third hidden barrier is the culture and attitude of the public service, which for decades has been dominated by white men.

Unfortunately there isn’t a set formula to go about changing an institutional culture, said Andreychuk. It’s about each department ensuring it’s making people feel welcome and helping them overcome challenges they might face in the job.

Several people testified before the committee that real cultural change can only occur once more people of designated groups are in senior roles.

And unfortunately, the committee found “there is still a significant lack of representation of all designated groups at the executive level.”

The committee will continue to hear testimony and question members of the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency about hiring practices.

It will also examine whether the target set in 2000 of having one in five recruits being a visible minority is a realistic target, an issue the Public Service Commission is currently studying.

Employment equity

The face of the public service

Workforce availabilityFederal Public Service representation
People with disabilities3.6%5.8%
Visible minorities10.4%8.1%

Source: Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service — Not There Yet

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