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What is fairness?

What is fairness?

Fairness in public service delivery has several key features. It includes allowing people to be heard in processes that affect them, ensuring decisions are made without bias, and following the rules that apply. It is also about making decisions that are considerate of an individual’s needs and circumstances and are based on relevant information.

Fairness is also about providing clear and meaningful reasons for decisions so the person affected can understand what process your organization followed and how it came to the decision it did. By following a fair process, members of the public can better understand the reasons for decisions being made by those in positions of authority. Fairness in public service delivery is in everyone’s best interests – ensuring your policies, procedures and practices are fair is good for your organization, your employees and the people you serve.

To learn more about fairness and see what other resources we have available, please click here.

The fairness triangle

To help us understand fairness, we use the fairness triangle. It considers three distinct aspects of fairness in public service delivery: fair process, fair decision and fair service.

Learn more about the three aspects of the triangle by clicking on each side. To print a PDF version, please click here.



A fair process, also known as procedural fairness, refers to the process that public bodies follow to make decisions that affect a person, group of people or organization. It includes the steps a public sector employee takes before, during and after making a decision.

A fair process has two essential elements:

  1. an impartial and unbiased decision maker
  2. the right to participate in decisions that affect a person’s rights, interests or privileges. This includes providing adequate notice that a decision will be made, information about the decision making criteria, an opportunity for the person to be heard and present their case, and clear and meaningful reasons for the decision.


A fair decision, also known as substantive fairness, refers to the decision itself and includes following the relevant rules (legislation, policy, practice standards), and considering individual circumstances to reach a fair outcome for the person affected.


Fair service, also called relational fairness, refers to how a person is treated in their interaction with a public body. If a person feels that they were treated disrespectfully, or that a public sector employee was not honest and forthright with the information they provided, even if the decision was procedurally and substantively fair, the person might still raise a concern about the service they received.

We can help you be more fair in the work you do.