Must a psychometric test be certified?

“I have been investigating the use of psychometric tests at my business to better screen potential job applicants. A friend however informed me that I should be careful and make sure that whatever test I use is certified by the Health Professions Council. Is this so, because I’m struggling to find tests that are so certified?”

Psychometric tests are generally used to measure personality traits or personal characteristics about a person including aspects such as styles or modes of working, ability to think conceptually, decision-making styles and stress levels. In the employment context, psychometric tests have frequently been used to help provide additional information about persons for purposes of employment, promotions, personal development etc. 

In South Africa, Section 8 of the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (“EEA”) sets out the requirements for psychological testing, which include psychometric tests. Section 8 states that:

“Psychological testing and other similar assessments of an employee are prohibited unless the test or assessment being used-

(a)  has been scientifically shown to be valid and reliable; 
(b)  can be applied fairly to all employees; 
(c)  is not biased against any employee or group; and 
(d)  has been certified by the Health Professions Council of South Africa established by section 2 of the Health Professions Act, 1974 (Act 56 of 1974), or any other body which may be authorised by law to certify those tests or assessments.”  

In the recent decision of Association of Test Publishers of South Africa v President of the Republic of South Africa, the proclamation that added the additional requirement that psychometric tests be certified by the Health Professions Council of South Africa was determined to be null and void and of no force and effect. Accordingly, Section 8(d) is no longer a requirement for the valid use of a psychometric test. The other requirements in Section 8 however still apply and would need to be met for the psychometric test to be validly used.

Before finalising a decision to use a specific psychometric test, discuss the requirements of Section 8(a)-(c) with the provider of the test to establish whether the test meets these criteria and consult with a labour specialist to help guide you on how to correctly implement the use of such tests within your business. Remember that the criteria listed in section 8 are cumulative and the onus would lie with you as employer to prove that any test used meets these criteria.

March 8, 2022
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