It’s all in the mind – Psychological and psychometric testing in the workplace

Recently, the South Australian government announced that two of its employees engaged as carers were found unsuitable to work with children, following the introduction of a new testing and screening process involving psychological testing.

The new tests were introduced following the recommendations of the State’s Child Protection Systems Royal Commission report. As a result, all new applicants for positions as carers in South Australian residential care facilities are now required to undergo this testing. As at October 2017, 227 out of 350 existing carers had reportedly undergone the testing.

Whilst the testing regime has been introduced obviously with the intentions of protecting the interests of children in residential care, concerns have arisen as to the ramifications of the testing for employees (and prospective employees), particularly where it is found that they are not suitable to work with children.

The testing and screening process involves a face-to-face interview with a psychologist and is reported to include some rigorous questioning.

Of the two employees found unsuitable to work with children in a residential care environment by the South Australian government, one has been moved to an administration role, while the other is reported to be on extended leave.

This testing regime raises some interesting questions about the value of psychological testing for employers.

How much weight should employers give to psychometric and psychological testing?

Psychometric testing is a common tool used by recruiters to assess a candidate’s capabilities and behavioural tendencies. Candidates are usually sent a series of questions and, depending on their answers, are designated a particular category distinguished by certain characteristics.

Psychological testing usually involves a more in-depth interview-type process with a qualified professional who produces a report for an employer.

Before engaging in any kind of psychological or psychometric testing, employers should have a clear idea about what they are trying to achieve by requiring candidates or employees to be tested. If there is any uncertainty about the purpose of the testing or whether the objective can reasonably be achieved, psychological or psychometric testing may not be an appropriate recruiting tool for that employer.

Where there is a clear purpose, employers must then consider the method of testing and how much weight will be placed on the results.

If the testing has been conducted to assess an individual’s mental fitness to perform their duties, then the opinion of a qualified and experienced medical professional will be highly significant.

If, on the other hand, psychometric testing is more of a recruitment formality then it is unlikely to be determinative and may even be redundant.

Final comments

In summary – the appropriateness of psychological and psychometric testing should be carefully considered by an employer before any testing commences.

Employers should consider whether the testing is necessary in the first place and how much weight will be given to test results.

Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.

02 9256 7500 | sydney@workplacelaw.com.au

Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog. Where applicable, liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

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