Go to top of page

Strategic priority one: ensuring good governance

Good governance with genuine transparency and accountability is pivotal to the professional performance of the APS and its ability to deliver the services Australians count on.

Under Strategic Priority One, three focus areas illustrated the Commission’s work to ensure good governance. The areas of focus included the employment framework, diversity and inclusion, and workplace relations.

Of the five targets set for 2019-20 one was achieved and four were partially achieved.

Performance Analysis

Employment Framework

Insights from stakeholders and end users indicates there has been increased knowledge and confidence in using more contemporary SES employment practices. Since the release of the APS SES HR Practitioners Guide, the Commission has observed a shift in general enquires received about SES matters, through both the advice phone line and mailbox, from day-to-day to more targeted and case-by-case queries in nature. A number of agencies have provided feedback on the implementation of the new APS SES HR Practitioners Guide during 2019-20 that notes the structure and tone of the guidance is succinct and easy to interpret, indicating existing published employment policy content is dense and regulatory in nature. The method applied with updating the SES HR Practitioners Guide has resonated with senior governance committees and will be applied against updating further guidance material in the next financial year.

The HR Working Group has played a key advisory role to the COO Committee in the development of APS-wide policy and guidance in response to COVID-19, including overcoming implementation challenges. It has also actively contributed to the development of strategic guidance relating to the implementation of contemporary HR approaches during, and with a view towards recovery, COVID-19 related leave arrangements, performance management, mobility and COVID-safe workplaces. The agenda is guided by the priorities of the Chief Operating Officers Committee (COO Committee), Head of the HR Profession and emerging HR issues identified in the APS; meeting fortnightly to progress these objectives, sharing contemporary HR practices and experiences to develop suitable solutions. The group is also a key consultative body for the Commission in policy and strategy development and implementation, including APS Review reform initiatives. Members consist of senior HR professionals from across the APS, primarily at the SES Band 1 and Band 2 level. This group actively champions these contemporary practices in their workplaces and more broadly in the APS HR Professions Network.

For example, the development and release of a one-page streamlined Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) supporting a mobilised workforce has been integral in responding to workforce changes of the APS over the 2019-20 period, particularly during the COVID-19 period. The MOU is simple and offers a baseline alternative for agencies to facilitate movement where necessary. Increased movement throughout the APS over this period with relatively low queries about how to use or apply the MOU indicates there is an increased knowledge and confidence in using more contemporary employment practices, specifically around movement. Beyond the COVID-19 response, this streamlined MOU can be implemented by agencies in their general HR practices.

The Commission continues to work with APS agencies to develop, advise and share information on contemporary employment practices, as we well as assisting agencies with implementation. This has been facilitated through direct engagement, updated guidance and development of streamlined mechanisms to mobilise staff quickly. The APS has adapted its operating model in response to COVID-19 and the Commission has responded with a long-term view of implementing forward thinking policy, particularly breaking down traditional barriers to mobility.

Mobility

The target for this financial year was an increase in mobility opportunities and collaboration reflected in Census results. Mobility within the APS occurs in several ways – internal movements within an agency; movement between agencies; and movements between the APS and other sectors. These movements happen through a few mechanisms, but the most common are internal transfers, followed by inter-agency secondments, then temporary transfers under s26 of the Public Service Act 1999.

Due to COVID-19, the Census has been delayed to October 2020. However, 2019-20 was a significant year for APS mobility, and saw a large increase in the number of mobility opportunities available to staff. Mobility within the APS has been of great importance during the pandemic response, which triggered large-scale mobilisation within and between agencies. To support this, the APSC established the APS Workforce Management Taskforce to facilitate movements between agencies, supplemented by the streamlined MOUs and administrative processes described in the Employment Framework section above.

During the response to COVID-19, the Commission has collected data on COVID-19-related movements through a survey of APS agencies. While the data has some gaps (surveys were not completed by all agencies each time), it provides a broad estimate of COVID-related mobility over the three months to 30 June 2020. At the pandemic’s peak in May 2020, survey results and cumulative totals from the APS Workforce Management Taskforce indicate approximately 11,000 APS employees were redeployed either within their agency or between agencies on COVID-19-related work.

Collaboration between agencies on staff movements to support COVID-19 work has also been a feature of the APS response. At least 2,200 APS employees had moved between agencies on COVID-related work by 30 June 2020. Employees were strongly supportive of this mobilisation, with the APS Mobility Register listing more than 5,000 APS employees who had nominated by 30 June 2020 to participate in a COVID-19 related inter-agency mobility opportunity.

A Commission survey of staff who had participated in a COVID-19 related move found a key motivation for many was wanting to help serve Australians in need of support. Two-thirds of respondents said they would volunteer again in the future.

Diversity and Inclusion

As the 2020 APS Census has been postponed, the Commission cannot evidence that all employees have experienced positive shifts in perception. However, in addition to supporting the SEDC in the development of the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy and APS Disability Employment Strategy, training on APS Ethics and Values continued to be delivered through 2019-20 resulting in increases of self-reported capability from pre-training to post-training.

The 2019 APS Agency Survey indicated that APS employees who identified as LGBTI+ had similar perceptions about inclusion in the workplace as those who did not identify as LGBTI+ and that 39 of the 97 participating APS agencies indicated they had an LGBTI+ inclusion strategy, plan or policy in place. Additionally, 36 of the 97 participating APS agencies reported having an action plan, strategy and / or policy in place to support culturally and linguistically diverse employees.

Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020-24

The draft Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020-2024 was reviewed by the Secretaries’ Equality and Diversity Council (SEDC) on 4 October 2019 and endorsed by the Prime Minister on 28 February 2020 prior to its launch on 1 July 2020. The Strategy has an increased focus on bolstering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment opportunities and experiences in the Commonwealth public sector. It sees a renewed focus on developing and retaining a strong leadership cohort, by building a talent pipeline with clear opportunities for career advancement.

Together with specific targets, the Strategy focusses on three priority areas: Cultural Integrity, Career Pathways, and Career Development and Advancement.

APS Disability Employment Strategy 2020-25

The APSC, in collaboration with the Department of Social Services, has developed an APS-wide strategy for the purpose of increasing recruitment and retention and creating an inclusive and accessible environment for people with disability. The APS Disability Employment Strategy 2020-2025 Framework was endorsed by the SEDC on 7 February 2020.

APS Gender Equality Strategy

The Commission established a cross-agency project team to develop a refreshed APS Gender Equality Strategy. The project is co-sponsored by the Commission and the Office for Women. The new strategy will build upon an evaluation of the previous strategy, lived experience, feedback and broad consultation.

Workplace Relations

Workplace Relations Group surveyed agencies it provided advice to during the 2019-20 financial year. The survey measured agency satisfaction with the advice and guidance they were provided in relation to the Government’s Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018, enterprise bargaining and determinations issued under Section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999 as well as determinations issued under agency specific enabling legislation.

Results showed that the vast majority of agencies were satisfied with the responsiveness, comprehensiveness and clarity of the advice provided and professionalism and helpfulness of APSC Workplace Relations Group staff.

Performance Summary

Table 3 Employment Framework

Performance Measure

Transform the APS employment framework

Area of Focus

Employment Framework

Approach

Support the Government’s policy agenda

Target

Feedback from stakeholders indicates an increased knowledge and confidence in using more contemporary employment practices

APS Census results indicate an increase in mobility opportunities and collaboration across the APS

Source

Australian Public Service Commission Corporate Plan 2019-2020, p 8; 2019-20 Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio Budget Statements p. 139

Performance Achieved

Partially Achieved

The APSC has implemented a number of initiatives to increase knowledge and confidence of contemporary HR practices. While formal feedback has not been requested from stakeholders, key achievements in 2019-20 include:

  • The establishment of the HR Working Group to support the work of the COO Committee, COVID-19 Taskforces and Commission more broadly in the development of current and future HR guidance, reform projects and advice that will enable the APS to continue to deliver for Australians.
  • A contemporary SES HR Practitioners Guide was developed to assist with lifting capability of HR practitioners in the APS to operationalise SES employment policy. This guide was developed in consultation with key agencies and endorsed by the HR Working Group.
  • Since the release of the SES HR Practitioners Guide, the Commission has observed a shift in general enquires received about SES matters through both the advice phone line and mailbox, from day-to-day queries to queries which are more targeted and case-by-case in nature.
  • The development of a one-page MOU and Secondment Standard Terms and Conditions facilitated the successful movement of more than 2,234 staff across the APS in response to COVID-19.

Partially Achieved

The 2020 APS Census was delayed to October 2020 due to COVID-19, however experience during the pandemic showed large scale mobility across the service.

Table 4 Diversity and Inclusion

Performance Measure

Transform the APS employment Frameworks

Area of Focus

Diversity and Inclusion

Approach

Support the Government’s policy agenda

Target

Diversity and gender strategies endorsed by the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council

Census results for diversity and inclusion reflect a positive shift in the perceptions of all employees, and employees from specific diversity groups

Source

Australian Public Service Commission Corporate Plan 2019-2020, p 8; 2019-20 Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio Budget Statements p. 139

Performance Achieved

Partially Achieved

The APSC has undertaken a range of activity with the intent to improve the perceptions of all employees, and while not able to fully demonstrate this achievement as the Census was not conducted at the time of this report, key achievements include:

  • The draft Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020-2024 was reviewed by the Secretaries’ Equality and Diversity Council (SEDC) on 4 October 2019 and endorsed by the Prime Minister on 28 February 2020 prior to its launch on 1 July 2020. The Strategy represents the Commonwealth’s continued contribution as an employer to the “Closing the Gap” agenda.
  • The APSC, in collaboration with the Department of Social Services, has developed a whole-of-APS Strategy for the purpose of increasing recruitment and retention and creating an inclusive and accessible environment for people with disability. The APS Disability Employment Strategy 2020-2025 Framework was endorsed by the SEDC on 7 February 2020.
  • The Commission established a cross-agency project team to develop a refreshed APS Gender Equality Strategy. The project is co-sponsored by the Commission and the Office for Women. The new strategy will build upon an evaluation of the previous strategy, lived experience, feedback and broad consultation.

Partially Achieved

The 2020 APS Census was delayed to October 2020 due to COVID-19, as such Census data to evidence a positive shift in perceptions is not available. However, initiatives have been undertaken to increase the positive shift in perceptions related to diversity and inclusion across the APS including for specific diversity groups; culturally and linguistically diverse, people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTI+.

Table 5 Workplace Relations

Performance Measure

Shape the APS Workforce

Area of Focus

Workplace Relations

Approach

Partner with agencies to achieve compliance with the Government’s bargaining policies

Support agencies to improve their workplace relations skills and performance

Target

100% of new agreements made are compliant with Government policy

Source

Australian Public Service Commission Corporate Plan 2019-2020, p 8; 2019-20 Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio Budget Statements p. 139

Performance Achieved

Achieved

100% of new agreements made were compliant with Government Policy. Feedback from agencies was positive about the timeliness and quality of advice.