Government departments spend $1.5 million on psychometric testing

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Government departments spent $1.5 million dollars on psychometric testing last year and the Public Service Association is calling for a halt on its use in organisational restructurings.

Under the Official Information Act the PSA asked government departments if they used psychometric testing last year, how much they spent, and for what purpose.

Most departments provided information although Internal Affairs did not provide a figure, saying the costs were included within general placement fee costs.  MBIE did not provide figures, as the department did not exist in the year requested, while MFAT said while it did use psychometric testing, it couldn’t isolate the cost.

The biggest spenders were the Department of Corrections ($376,439) which used the testing for recruitment and the Ministry of Education ($198,823) which used it both for recruitment and internal restructuring.

PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott says the PSA is very concerned about the use of psychometric testing in the public service, particularly in internal restructuring situations.

“It is very difficult to understand why psychometric testing is being used in organisational restructures.  Staff may have worked in an organisation for years and will have had numerous performance reviews.  Their skills, aptitudes and failing should be well known to their employers.  It’s also frightening to think they could be uses to make judgements on whether people keep their jobs or not.”

Over the past year, departments which have used psychometric tests on internal candidates for jobs or promotion include Internal Affairs, Conservation, Corrections, Culture and Heritage, Primary Industries, Environment, MBIE, Education, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health, Transport, Customs, Statistics.

Brenda Pilott says there is now a legal precedent against the use of psychometric testing as part of restructuring.

Earlier this year the Employment Court awarded a former Transfield Services worker $15,000 for wrongful dismissal after a psychometric test was used as part of redundancy considerations.  The judge ruled that the test was "irrelevant", of dubious value, and led to a ‘plainly wrong’ conclusion.

 

The PSA has written to the States Services Commissioner asking him to use his leadership role as head of state services to ensure psychometric tests are not used in restructurings, especially where redundancy is a possible outcome.  If employers insist on using it, the PSA would like to see it limited to appointments of senior management positions only.