In the words of our Secretary, Chris Moraitis, ‘people are not just our greatest asset, they are our only asset'. To achieve our objectives, our workforce must be capable, motivated and agile.
We seek to build a workforce that comes from diverse backgrounds and who bring a range of insights and perspectives to their work. We create environments that encourage staff to be thoughtful, creative and use experience to improve the work they do. We monitor and plan work conditions so that the health and wellbeing of our staff are prioritised.
During 2019–20, the extended and severe bushfires and the global pandemic have increased the pressure on our workforce. Changes in working conditions, places of work, personal work health practices and competing work priorities required our staff to respond with resilience and professionalism. In doing so, they continued to provide high-quality advice to government to deliver policies and programs that serve the Australian community.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 175 employees were redeployed to support critical functions across government and within the department - 86 to other entities, including Services Australia, the Treasury and the Fair Work Commission, and 89 internally. These internal transfers were predominantly to support work relating to the Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme as well as to other business areas where workload had increased due to the government’s response to the pandemic. On average, employees were deployed for just under eight weeks. By 30 June 2020, most employees had returned to their usual roles to support ongoing priorities.
The Attorney-General’s Department Enterprise Agreement 2019 (AGD Agreement) provides the remuneration and other conditions for non-SES employees. The AGD Agreement provides different salary structures and other remuneration provisions for employees in the AGS Group. The differing remuneration arrangements continue to substantially reflect the differing arrangements that existed between the department and the AGS at the time that AGS functions were moved to the department in a 2015 machinery-of-government change.
The AGD Agreement allows for individual flexibility arrangements to be entered into between the department and an employee in respect of remuneration arrangements, superannuation, working hours, leave, allowances, overtime rates and penalty rates. As at 30 June 2020, 1,863 employees were covered by the AGD Agreement; 89 of these employees were covered by individual flexibility arrangements. Of the individual flexibility arrangements, 24 relate to remuneration arrangements and 30 relate to enabling the cash-out of a portion of employer superannuation contributions. The balance of the individual flexibility arrangements deal predominantly with the time that ordinary hours of work are performed.
Employees within AGS may earn or be awarded performance pay in accordance with the AGD Agreement (for non-SES employees) or the determination made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999, which provides for the remuneration and other conditions to apply to SES employees within AGS. There are three types of performance-based bonuses:
Net production bonus: employees designated as a Lawyer or Paralegal with a fee earning target are eligible to receive a net production bonus equivalent to 20 per cent of the employee’s net production above their net production target. The bonus is paid where the employee’s overall performance is assessed as at least ‘satisfactory’ under the performance management program.
Discretionary bonus: AGS has a pool of funds of up to $150,000 per year available to award to employees who are eligible for the net production bonus. The bonus is paid at secretary discretion, having regard to any other bonuses the employee may be entitled to receive, the employee’s responsibilities and their overall contribution. The pool of funds is not required to be expended each year.
Percentage-of-salary bonus: outposted lawyers, graduate APS employees and other roles as determined by the Secretary are eligible to earn up to ten per cent of their salary in a percentage-of-salary bonus. The bonus is paid where the employee’s overall performance is assessed as above ‘satisfactory’ under the performance management program.
Performance payments made to AGS staff in 2019–20
Number of employees who received performance pay
Aggregated (sum total) of all payments made
Average of all payments made
Minimum payment made
Maximum payment made
SES Band 3
SES Band 2
SES Band 1
Executive Level 2
Executive Level 1
All staffing information is prepared in accordance with the instrument issued under subsection 17A(4) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014.
As at 30 June 2020, the department had 1,962 ongoing and non-ongoing employees. For information related to our workforce statistics including numbers and locations of staff, employment arrangements, turnover, remuneration and other staff non-salary benefits, refer to Appendix 3: Workforce statistics .
Of the 1,962 employees, 68.7 per cent are female, which is higher than the overall APS at 59.7 per cent. The department’s average age of employees (38.7 years old) is lower than the overall APS average age (43.7 years old). Figure 4 illustrates our employee profile for 2019–20 compared to 2018–19.
Our strategic workforce plan, Broader Horizons – Agile, Global, Diverse, outlines the workforce we need now and into the future by:
anticipating future workforce needs and capabilities based on the changing external environment and the objectives of the department
identifying changes required to transition from the current to the anticipated future workforce
identifying responses required to shape and maintain the desired future workforce.
Our learning programs and activities align with the workforce plan to strengthen workforce capability by using the experience-exposure-education model.
The department’s online learning platform, ALEX (AGD Learning EXperience) was launched in May 2020. It provides self-directed learning programs and resources and records staff attendance for the learning and development calendar. ALEX gives employees access to learning resources anytime and anywhere. This promotes an inclusive, flexible learning culture.
We offer leadership programs that build skills, knowledge and confidence in our leaders. The department’s Capability Council is responsible for oversight of SES leadership development through the annual SES Career Conversations. This gives our senior leaders the opportunity for a tailored and specific discussion on their career and development with the department’s executive. Our executive-level leadership programs, EL2 Connect and EL1 Evolve, support our middle managers to build and strengthen their management and leadership capability.
Our employees can access study assistance and scholarship programs to complete external studies and gain formal qualifications that benefit their work. Benefits include financial reimbursement and study leave.
Recruitment and mobility
In 2019, the department reviewed its recruitment processes and consulted with employees to identify issues with the current processes. Following the review, we redeveloped the recruitment strategy to improve the effectiveness of the process and increase the pool of applicants. In the opening months of 2020, we removed psychometric testing from most recruitment processes and introduced information sessions for prospective candidates. We continue to review the outcomes of each centralised recruitment process.
We consider mobility a key instrument to develop the capability of our people by building on their skills and broadening their experiences. Mobility helps ensure that employees with the appropriate skills and experience are available to work on priority issues, both within the department and across the APS. An internal mobility round is an integral part of every centralised recruitment process. This round allows staff to express an interest in a change to their role (at level), without the need to go through a recruitment process. In addition, each week we notify employees of the current mobility opportunities available throughout the department, our portfolio agencies and across the APS.
In 2019, the department established a pilot program for a legal secondment to Waminda (the South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation) for a period of six months. Based in Nowra, New South Wales, Waminda is a ‘culturally safe and holistic service, providing women and their Aboriginal families an opportunity to belong and receive quality health and well-being support’. The secondment builds the legal capability of the organisation and provides valuable experience for departmental employees. The first secondment commenced on 2 March 2020.
Our performance management framework is built on a ‘no surprises’ approach and is designed to facilitate effective performance conversations. These conversations help us meet the objectives set out in our corporate plan.
Our Program for Performance Improvement applies to all employees who are employed for three months or more. It includes check-ins at established intervals and an end-of-cycle review and performance rating. We also encourage regular, informal performance conversations.
Workshops for managers on managing underperformance are delivered regularly to assist with identifying and addressing underperformance matters.
Probation is applied as a condition of engagement for all new ongoing employees and, in certain circumstances, non-ongoing employees.
Our Graduate Development Program recruits and develops high-calibre graduates. We recruit graduates from diverse academic backgrounds to support the department’s future workforce needs. The program’s purpose is to attract, engage and develop a graduate cohort with a strong record of achievement and the capability to deliver high-quality policy, program and legal services. Through on-the-job experience and exposure to networks and expertise, graduates develop into practising lawyers and policy, legal and program officers. The Graduate Development Program is supported by supervisors and mentors who play a vital role in coaching and developing graduates.
In January 2020, 50 graduates completed the 2019 Graduate Development Program. This included eight graduates who were transferred as part of machinery-of-government changes in July 2019. In February 2020, an expanded cohort of 63 graduates commenced the 2020 program. This consisted of 55 policy and program graduates and eight legal practice graduates. Our graduates have taken part in redeployment efforts across the department and the Australian Public Service in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of 2019, one participant successfully completed the 2018–19 Indigenous Australian Government Development Program. The 15-month program includes on-the-job learning, involvement in the Indigenous Employee Network and other department networks and education through a Diploma in Government qualification. The department partners with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment to deliver this program.
A refreshed graduate recruitment campaign for our 2021 Graduate Program took place in the final quarter of the year. The department received a strong response across four streams of Policy and Program, Legal Practice, Economics and Industrial Relations Legal. Two affirmative measures processes were also run to support Indigenous graduates and graduates with disability to participate in the program.
For the last seven years, we have ranked in the top 75 graduate programs, as assessed by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers. We were also nominated for Best Law Graduate Employer as part of the 2020 Australian Financial Review and GradConnection’s Top 100 Graduate Employers. Our program continues to perform well compared with other graduate programs in the public and private sectors.
We also engaged a small group of interns through our participation with the Australian Network of Disabilities Stepping Into Program and the Australian Public Service Commission’s Indigenous Intern Program. Interns are placed within the organisation to build skills and gain exposure to the department and the Australian Public Service.
We embrace diversity, flexibility, inclusion and the unique skills and qualities of all employees. A workforce that is diverse in background, culture and gender is innovative, productive and delivers better organisational outcomes. We build on this through our membership of the Diversity Council of Australia, which we obtained in 2020.
Under the direction of our Diversity Council and Diversity Committee, our employee-led diversity networks support women and gender equity, disability and carers, LGBTIQ inclusion, Indigenous culture and representations, and cultural and linguistic diversity more broadly. These networks support and promote inclusion in the department through a variety of events, initiatives and advice on departmental policy.
Our Diversity Strategy has been operating since 2016 and we have achieved strong results in the APS employee census, particularly related to inclusive culture.
Building on this, we commissioned an external consultant to conduct an independent review and cultural audit of our Diversity Strategy in late 2019 to give a clear understanding of progress made under the current strategy and help identify opportunities for the future. The final report contained detailed observations and recommendations and was provided to the department’s Diversity Council in October 2019. Based on the report’s findings, we have developed a consultation process to inform the next diversity and inclusion strategy.
Our Gender Equality Action Plan is guided by the Balancing the future: The Australian Public Services gender equality strategy 2016–19. The plan has five action areas to meet gender equality targets, including a target of 50:50 at the SES Band 2 level by 2021. In 2019–20, 33 per cent of the department's ongoing SES Band 2 employees were women.
A working group, sponsored by the AGD Women’s Network, develops resources specific to gender equity and flexible work practices. The working group has identified areas of effort covering:
data and transparency
practical advice to facilitate flexible work arrangements
our culture in support of flexible work
structural enablers supporting flexible work.
The Women’s Network also holds events on days of significance such as the UN International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women to raise awareness in support of women and gender equity.
Supporting Indigenous employees
We consulted employees during 2019–20 to develop our sixth Reconciliation Action Plan and working group. In partnership with the Indigenous Employee Network, the group developed an ambitious and achievable plan to build awareness and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ histories, cultures and achievements. The department provides employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through initiatives like affirmative measures recruitment. The new Reconciliation Action Plan will be launched in July 2020 and implemented over the next two years.
The department’s Indigenous Employee Network is a source of counsel on workplace issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. Network members also contribute to building awareness of indigenous culture and achievements through celebrating and commemorating significant events such as NAIDOC Week, National Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week.
Our SES-level champion represents the Indigenous Employee Network internally through her membership of the AGD Diversity Council and externally through the APS Indigenous Champions Network.
Supporting employees with disability
As at 30 June 2020, three per cent of the department’s employees identified as a person with a disability.
The department is committed to breaking down barriers that might prevent our current and potential employees from fully participating in the workplace. We have continued to implement our Disability and Mental Health Action Plan during 2019–20, which is led by a steering committee. The committee strengthens inclusive workplace culture, particularly for people with disability or ill health and carers of people with disability. This year, a significant initiative was the introduction of live captioning for all staff events and open and/or closed captioning for events that are filmed. In addition, we piloted affirmative measures (disability) recruitment as part of our 2021 graduate recruitment campaign to provide employment opportunities to people with disability. Our Celebrating Ability Network is a strong source of support to employees with disability and carers of people with disability.
The department is a gold member of the Australian Network on Disability and was the major sponsor for its 2020 National Virtual Conference. We have participated in the Access and Inclusion Index three times since 2017. Strong progress has been made, particularly in the areas of agency commitment, communications and marketing and workplace adjustments.
Disability reporting is included the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au.
Multicultural access and equity
Our Multicultural Access and Equity Plan is a commitment to multicultural access and inclusion in the way we work and in the outcomes we deliver. The plan fulfils our obligations under the Australian Government Multicultural Access and Equity Policy.
The department promotes cultural and linguistic diversity to build a strong and cohesive workforce. As such, staff in our Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Network actively promote awareness of multiculturalism by celebrating days of significance such as Lunar New Year and Harmony Day.
This year, we participated in the Australian Workplace Equality Index for the fourth consecutive year. The index is Australia’s definitive national benchmark on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTIQ) workplace inclusion. The assessment is conducted by Pride in Diversity of which the department is a member. The index gauges the overall effectiveness of LGBTIQ inclusion and identifies opportunities to improve our culture of inclusion. In 2020, we achieved positive results in the areas of LGBTIQ employee networks and resource groups, visibility of inclusion and executive leadership and engagement.
We support LGBTIQ inclusion and awareness in the department through initiatives such as Inclusive Leadership and Ally training. The PRIDE in AGD Network leads celebrations of significant days including International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia and Wear it Purple Day.
Work health and safety
We provide and maintain safe and healthy workplaces and meet our obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) (WHS Act) and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act1988.
The department’s National Health and Safety Committee met five times during 2019–20, and held an extraordinary meeting in April 2020 to consider implications of the COVID-19 pandemic as related to work health and safety.
In July 2019, Comcare conducted a Work Health and Safety Management System Initial Assessment. The department requested the assessment to evaluate the maturity and effectiveness of current work health and safety policies and practices to assess how it meets and maintains due diligence responsibilities. The assessment was conformance rather than compliance based and found that appropriate work health and safety processes and procedures are in place. Comcare noted that areas identified as non-conforming were largely due to gaps in documented evidence and the need for a review. A Corrective Action Plan was implemented to address areas of non-conformance.
Health, safety and wellbeing initiatives
The department’s Mental Health Wellbeing Program provides a structured model for identifying, assessing and mitigating risk to people’s psychological wellbeing. The program includes training, early intervention support and wellbeing assessments that mitigate risks for employees, including employees engaged by royal commissions.
Our contract for an Employee Assistance Program has been extended. The program provides employee access to free, confidential and professional counselling services. This includes trauma and critical incident debriefing to help resolve work and other issues that may affect an employee’s work performance or wellbeing.
During 2019–20, 274 workstation assessments were conducted, with 85 conducted internally by our Health and Safety Representatives and external providers undertaking more complex assessments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these assessments were extended to help staff with remote work arrangements.
Employee influenza vaccinations were conducted in April and May 2020 and 960 employees were vaccinated (47.6 per cent of total staff).
Reporting incidents and enforcement measures under the WHS Act
no notifiable incident was reported under section 38 of the WHS Act
no enforcement measures were taken or improvement notices issued under Part 10 of the WHS Act (which provides for the issuance or taking of Improvement Notices, Prohibition Notices, Non-disturbance Notices, Remedial Action and Injunctions)
no enforceable undertakings under Part 11 of the WHS Act applied to the department’s operations.
Workers’ compensation performance
We were successful in reducing the department’s workers’ compensation premium for 2019–20. The premium rate for the financial year was 0.25 per cent of payroll costs, which compares favourably to the scheme average premium of 0.85 per cent. Claim costs across the four premium impacting years were substantially lower than previous years in recognition of improved claims performance.
Compliance with the Carer Recognition Act
We promote an awareness and understanding of the Statement for Australia’s Carers by publishing the Carer Recognition Act 2010 guidelines on our intranet. We are cognisant of, and have regard to, those guidelines in reviewing internal human resources policies and ensure our policies are consistent with the government’s commitment to support carers.