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Management of human resources

The AAT’s members and staff are integral to effectively carrying out our role as an independent merits review tribunal. We continue to develop our workforce and the workplace environment so that members and staff can provide high-quality services that meet the needs of users.

Staffing overview

At 30 June 2021, there were 310 non-judicial members appointed to the AAT. More information about members is set out in Chapter 2 Overview of the AAT and Appendix 1: Members of the AAT.

At 30 June 2021, there were 803 staff working in the AAT: 587 employed under the Public Service Act 1999 and 216 engaged under labour hire arrangements. Of the 587 APS employees, 466 were ongoing and 121 were non‑ongoing with 16 of the non-ongoing staff engaged to undertake duties that are irregular or intermittent.

Appendix 2: Additional staffing statistics provides the number of ongoing and non-ongoing employees at 30 June 2020 and 30 June 2021 by employment status, classification, gender and location, as well as information about the number of AAT staff identifying as Indigenous, as being from a non-English speaking background, and as a person with a disability.

The AAT’s APS staffing levels at 30 June 2021 were slightly below the mandated Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap of 603 full-time equivalent staff, with an ASL of 598.80, reflecting significant efforts to reduce the ASL over the financial year. There was a corresponding reduction in APS employee headcount over the reporting period from 692 to 587.

The reduction in APS headcount was largely achieved through the establishment of a labour hire program through which the AAT has procured associates to support members in finalising matters. These roles were previously largely filled by non-ongoing APS staff.

Ongoing APS staff turnover increased over the financial year and was slightly higher (1.2%) than ongoing turnover in the APS more broadly (according to Australian Public Service Commission data at 31 December 2020). Changes in workloads as well as some projects were managed with the assistance of non-APS labour hire staff. Labour hire staff increased from 102 to 216 over the reporting period.

Employment agreements and arrangements for staff

The framework for the terms and conditions of employment for APS employees in 2020–21 included an enterprise agreement and a determination made in 2020 under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999 (the PS Act) to provide pay increases and maintain current conditions for non-SES staff. Section 24(1) determinations under the PS Act are in place for SES staff.

The AAT Enterprise Agreement 2017–2020 came into effect on 9 June 2017 and was nominally due to expire on 9 June 2020. The 2020 section 24(1) determination effectively extended the AAT Enterprise Agreement 2017–2020 for a further three-year period. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government direction, the 10 June 2020 salary increase under the section 24(1) determination was deferred for a six-month period ending 10 December 2020.

At 30 June 2021, 579 non-SES APS staff were covered by the enterprise agreement with 18 of these also having an individual flexibility arrangement. Six SES employees were covered by section 24(1) determinations. Appendix 2: Additional staffing statistics shows the salary ranges available to APS employees in 2020-21 by classification level.

Performance pay

The AAT did not have a performance pay or bonus system for any staff in 2020-21 nor did we pay a performance bonus to any staff.

Non-salary benefits

Non-salary benefits available to staff in 2020–21 included:

  • two weeks of paid maternity/parenting leave in addition to the legislated minimum
  • access to our Studies Assistance Scheme
  • contributions to relevant professional memberships
  • ability to participate in a public transport loans scheme
  • health and wellbeing benefits such as assistance for group participation in health and fitness activities, access to the Calm application, the Employee Assistance Program, Reach Out program, eyesight testing and flu vaccinations.

Employees were also able to access a range of salary sacrifice benefits, including additional superannuation, leased motor vehicles, portable electronic devices and airline lounge memberships.

Executive remuneration

Information relating to the remuneration of the senior leaders of the AAT is set out in Appendix 4: Executive remuneration.

The remuneration for the President and Registrar and for other members who are identified as senior executives is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.

Remuneration for SES staff in 2020–21 was determined by the Registrar and set out in determinations made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act. Remuneration levels are reviewed annually by the Registrar having regard to:

  • the APS Executive Remuneration Management Policy (issued and amended from time to time by the APS Commissioner)
  • the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy 2020, which includes limitations on the quantum of general remuneration increases for SES and non-SES employees (capped in line with the year to date percentage change in the Wage Price Index (WPI) for the Private Sector from the most recently released June quarter)
  • an assessment of relativities with other APS agencies, as indicated in the annual APS Remuneration Report produced by the APSC.

The remuneration packages of SES staff can include cash in lieu of a motor vehicle in accordance with common Australian Government practice.

Developing our members and staff

Professional development continued to be a priority for the AAT to build the capability of our members and staff.

Member professional development

We have a comprehensive Member Professional Development Program based on a framework of competencies specific to the AAT. This framework describes the essential attributes required by members to perform their functions competently. The professional development program comprises induction, mentoring, appraisal and other learning and development opportunities.

The Member Professional Development Handbook (2nd edition, 2021), was launched by the President in March 2021. The new handbook outlines initiatives such as revised member competencies, the Periodic Evaluation and Development Program, leadership development and a Member Curriculum. All of these initiatives were designed to support ongoing professional development and build the capability of our members.

In 2020–21, in-house training sessions were delivered by external and internal presenters covering division-specific caseload topics as well as more general knowledge and skills development such as the Giving of Evidence, Working with Interpreters and Decision Writing workshops.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many external conferences were put on hold, but members had the opportunity to attend conferences arranged by the Council of Australasian Tribunals.

Our redesigned Member Appraisal Scheme is now well established. The scheme aims to provide members with the training and support they need to build capacity and provides a basis for the President to make robust and transparent recommendations to the Attorney-General on a member’s suitability for reappointment to the Tribunal.

In the period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, 17 members seeking reappointment participated in the appraisal program.

In the same period, the Periodic Evaluation and Development (PED) component of the Member Appraisal Scheme was launched, with 27 members participating. The initial cohort of participants comprised members appointed in the last 2 years.

The PED program will be progressively rolled out to all members who have joined the AAT within the last 2 years. Members first appointed in 2017–2018 and senior members with leadership responsibilities will also be offered the opportunity to participate. Moving forward, all new members will participate within their first 12 months of appointment.

The program involves an assessment of a member’s learning needs which will inform the creation of an individual professional development plan. Members will be able to participate in a range of professional development and training sessions throughout the year in line with their individual plan.

Conference registrar professional development

The Conference Registrar Professional Development Program is based on a framework of competencies developed for the AAT and includes induction, mentoring, reflective learning, peer review and performance appraisal. The 2020–21 year involved the delivery of 6 workshops focusing on Alternative Dispute Resolution, covering topics such as confronting complex behaviours, power and vulnerability in dispute resolution, mediating in cross-cultural spaces and working with victims of family violence in dispute resolution processes.

In addition, a Trauma Informed Supervision program commenced this year, managed by our Employee Assistance Program provider. This program involves small group professional supervision sessions with an experienced psychologist once every 2 months. Conference Registrars will also be trained in conducting and participating in peer-to-peer debriefing as part of this program.

Staff learning and development

We continued to embed the Leadership Capability Framework in our recruitment processes and performance management program throughout 2020–21 as a tool to support ongoing learning and development.

Training and development activities for staff during the reporting period included webinars, external seminars, and conferences. Staff underwent training according to their identified needs, with most programs offered virtually or self-paced online. In-house webinars that focused on privacy awareness, communication, mental health and neurodiversity, and working remotely were also conducted to support staff. Formal virtual training was also provided to help staff to deal with difficult interactions and improve their writing skills.

All staff participated in Code of Conduct training that was presented by a senior lawyer from the Australian Government Solicitor. We also continued to offer training to meet continuing professional development requirements for AAT legal practitioners.

In this reporting period, we continued to build our library of online learning courses including mental health awareness. As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed learning pathways for different work areas through the virtual learning platform, LinkedIn Learning in order to support professional development while working remotely.

Our Studies Assistance Scheme provided ongoing and certain non-ongoing staff with access to financial support and/or study leave to develop their capabilities, and that of the AAT, through vocational and tertiary education. In the reporting period, 11 employees accessed support for studies in areas such as business, commerce, international studies, law, project management and public sector management.

Workplace diversity

The AAT is an organisation that values diversity in the workplace. At 30 June 2021, 66% of our APS staff were women, with strong representation across all classification levels, while 21% of our staff identified as being from a non-English speaking background. Five APS staff identified as Indigenous, a decrease from the previous year. Nine APS staff identified as having a disability.

Our Workplace Diversity Plan sets the foundation for the AAT to build an organisation reflective of the diversity in the Australian community. It is intended to assist the AAT in promoting and maximising the opportunities and knowledge that can be gained from an inclusive and diverse workforce. The objectives of the plan are: to promote and uphold the APS Values and Code of Conduct embedding the principles of diversity; to attract, retain and support staff from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; to increase the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees; to support gender equality and the advancement of women and to provide an inclusive and flexible work environment for all staff.

As outlined in our Workplace Diversity Plan, the AAT provided training to staff on interview skills and resume writing to assist with career progression, particularly for those who are culturally and linguistically diverse. The AAT also observed International Women's Day by supporting a number of staff to participate in leadership training programs specifically for women.

A key initiative undertaken during the reporting year was providing an eLearning module on disability awareness. This training provided members and staff the opportunity to improve their understanding and provide a more accessible service to the community.

The AAT established a working group to develop a draft Reconciliation Action Plan, outlining the Tribunal's vision for reconciliation. The AAT observed National Reconciliation Week with all members and staff enrolled in an eLearning course titled ‘Reconciliation Walk’.

The AAT participates in the APSC Indigenous Pathways Graduate Program and anticipates engaging a new graduate in 2021–22. The AAT also participated in the Jawun secondment program, with an AAT staff member being approved to participate in a Jawun placement in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community.

Work health and safety

We are committed to maintaining the health and safety of our people and those who come into contact with, or are affected by, our operations.

This year, we continued to focus on our response to COVID-19, maintaining operations that were consistent with the Chief Medical Officer and state governments’ health advice.

We focused on implementing our Work Health and Safety Management Plan, including embedding our Local Incident Coordinator and Wellbeing Support Officer networks and implementing new working from home policies for members and staff to support a hybrid model of work.

The annual audit of our Rehabilitation Management System against the Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities 2020 achieved 100% conformance, with the auditor again noting our strong commitment to supporting employees through the timely provision of early intervention and rehabilitation programs.

We continued our annual flu vaccination program and provided support to enable our members, APS staff and non-APS employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Participation rates in our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) have continued to increase with members and staff benefiting from the broad range of support streams available. We continued supporting a range of wellbeing strategies in addition to our EAP, including a Reach Out program and an increased number of subscriptions to the CALM mindfulness application.

In response to the pandemic, we moved to delivering virtual workstation assessments for all staff and members working from home. We continued to reimburse staff for eyesight testing and optical correction costs and supported virtual group fitness classes.

We also developed and launched several learning programs focused on providing support for our members and staff, including mental health awareness, psychological health and safety eLearning modules. We also held webinars on working well from home, leading remote teams, and building resilience, and a Trauma Informed Supervision program to support our Conference Registrars and others working in a similar capacity.

Notifiable incidents and investigations

There were no notifiable incidents reported to Comcare in 2020–21 under section 38 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. No investigations were conducted in relation to the AAT and no notices were given to the AAT under Part 10 of the Act.

Compensation

The AAT continues to have low numbers of accepted compensation claims over time, as shown in the table below, though this year saw our accepted compensation claims increase, due in part to the move to digital and home-based work. One staff member was provided with early intervention support during the reporting year.

Trends in Compensation Claims, 2019–20 to 2020–21

2019–20

2020–21

Number of claims accepted

1

5

Workplace harassment

Our comprehensive policy on the prevention and elimination of harassment, bullying and discrimination in the workplace articulates our expectations of members, managers and other staff.

During 2020–21, our 6 Wellbeing Support Officers (including one member), provided staff and members with mental health first aid, and were a first point of contact for difficulties experienced in the workplace, including workplace bullying and harassment.