Australian Public Service (APS) employment
continues to be a focus of the Federal budget.
In the 2012-2013 Federal Budget, total APS job cuts were
forecasted to be more than 17,000 over the three-year forward
estimates period. This has already resulted in a reduction of
around 2,608 APS employees in the six months between July and
December last year1.
The 2013-2014 Federal Budget has forecasted further savings of
up to $600 million coming from savings from a reduction in APS
employee numbers and APS efficiencies:
The Government will also achieve savings of up to around
$600 million over four years to 2016-17 from public service
efficiency reforms that focus on a range of efficiencies, including
property management, paid parking, procurement and
management structures of the Australian Public Service
The Government has indicated that APS employee reductions will
target senior staff at the 1 and 2 executive levels and the Senior
Executive Service (SES) levels3.
Eight critical strategies for managing change in the
The impact of the Budget on public servant numbers will mean
that there will continue to be significant workplace change in the
APS. Periods of workplace change and uncertainty can have a
significant impact on workplace legal risks.
We have highlighted eight critical strategies for managing
change in APS workplaces as a result of restructuring and reducing
Ensure compliance with enterprise agreement requirements,
including in relation to consultation and redundancy and
redeployment procedures. A failure to comply may result in a
dispute at the Fair Work Commission under agreement dispute
resolution clauses, or a claim for breach under section 50 of the
Fair Work Act, which is a civil remedy provision dealt
with by the courts.
Ensure that if there are redundancies, they are genuine
redundancies for the purposes of the Fair Work Act's
unfair dismissal provisions where the APS employee is agreement
Ensure compliance with SES terms and conditions of employment
contained in contracts of employment, industrial agreements and
provisions of the Public Service Act (including sections
37 and 38 dealing with incentives to retire and Commissioner's
certificate required for termination of SES employment).
Minimise the risk that selection processes, for those employees
affected by change give rise to adverse action or discrimination
claims, by ensuring that reasons for changes that impact on
employees are clearly articulated – and legitimate.
Review and refresh policies and procedures dealing with
workplace bullying and grievances making it clear that workplace
bullying does not include reasonable management action undertaken
in a reasonable way. This should be supported by assistance to
managers and supervisors in undertaking appropriate performance and
misconduct management. An increase in workplace bullying and stress
complaints can occur if employees feel under pressure in their
roles as a result of change and uncertainty.
To minimise risks of employee stress, that can arise from
uncertainty, in the workplace any process dealing with workplace
change should incorporate a transparent and considered consultation
process that engages employees and the relevant unions.
Consultation including one-on-one discussion with potentially
impacted employees is strongly recommended to minimise the risks of
claims or grievances being made.
Consider employees who may have particular employment
circumstances or needs, who may feel the stressors of uncertain
employment more than other employees, such as employees on parental
leave and employees with workers' compensation claims or long
term illness/injuries. Be ready to answer questions that these
employees may have and be proactive in providing information.
If an employee has performance or conduct issues, it is better
to address these front on rather than using redundancies to remove
the problem from the workplace. A failure to deal appropriately
with a performance or conduct issue can easily become a systemic
issue in an Agency – it is important that management is seen
to be dealing with these issues so that other employees can see the
expected standards of performance and behaviour and managers
understand what is required of them in managing team members.
By applying our eight critical strategies for managing change in
the APS, Agencies can take steps to appropriately manage legal
risks that can arise as a result of uncertainty and change.
Norton Rose Australia provides employment advice to a number of
Commonwealth Government Agencies. We are able to assist with
strategic advice about managing legal risks during periods of
change in the APS.
There has been a range of recent legal developments that affect privacy, child abuse claims and workers compensation.
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