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Management of human resources


At 30 June 2020, the Court engaged 1,091 employees under the Public Service Act 1999. This figure includes 758 ongoing and 333 non-ongoing employees.

Additional support was provided to the Courts by undergraduate volunteers who seek placements in judges’ chambers to gain experience required as part of their study.

The Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 designated all employees of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court to be employees of the Federal Court of Australia. Employees are also engaged by the Federal Court to support the operation of the National Native Title Tribunal.

More information is provided in Appendix 9: Staffing profile.

During 2019–20, refinements were made to the structure of the Court. Operational reviews commenced and adjustments made as new Chief Operating Officers and Principal Registrars were appointed and following the retirements of some other senior officials. The further implementation of standardisation of practices and organisational efficiencies were mostly put on hold as the focus changed to the management of pandemic-related control measures. Staffing levels were generally maintained during the pandemic.

The Court’s study assistance program also supports employees to improve their skills so they are more productive in the workplace.

In addition to these changes, a number of other initiatives were implemented including new induction modules, pandemic-related services and support materials; further upgrades and enhancements to human resource systems; finalising the drafting of work health and safety-related policies and guidelines; and the delivery of a range of training including resilience training and support delivered to staff as they work from home. The training was well received by employees, with positive comments being provided.

Consultation on the new work health and safety policies concluded. The Court proposed amendments to work groups which are described in the proposed Policy on Work Health and Safety. Agreement on the proposed changes could not be reached and the Court requested that Comcare appoint an inspector to determine them.

The Court has a range of strategies in place to attract, develop, recognise and retain key staff, including flexible work conditions and individual flexibility agreements available under the enterprise agreement.

The engagement of a large number of non-ongoing employees is due to the nature of engagement of judges’ associates, who are typically employed for a specific term of 12 months. This arrangement is reflected in the Courts’ retention figures, as those engaged for a specific term transition to other employment once their non-ongoing employment ends.

Structural and operational changes also resulted in some redundancies during the reporting period.

Further, the Court engages casual employees for irregular or intermittent courtroom duties. This fluctuates as needed.

Disability reporting mechanism

Since 1994, non-corporate Commonwealth entities have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the APS State of the Service reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au. From 2010–11, entities have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level, two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. The first of these progress reports was published in 2014 and can be found at www.dss.gov.au.

Employment arrangements

The remuneration of the CEO and Principal Registrars for the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court, and the Registrar of the National Native Title Tribunal, who are holders of statutory offices, is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.

The Courts’ Senior Executive Service (SES) employees are covered by separate determinations made under s 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

The Federal Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2018–2021 covers most non-SES employees and commenced on 7 August 2018.

One undertaking was made in relation to the enterprise agreement in respect to the minimum number of hours that part-time workers must be paid per occasion.

Individual flexibility arrangements are used to vary the effect of certain provisions in the enterprise agreement. Employees and the Court may come to an agreement to vary such things as salary and other benefits.

Some transitional employment arrangements remain, including those described in Australian Workplace Arrangements and common law contracts.

At 30 June 2020, there were:

  • five employees on Australian workplace agreements
  • eight employees on common law contracts
  • one hundred and twenty one employees on individual flexibility arrangements
  • eighteen employees on s 24 determinations, and
  • one thousand and seventy employees covered by an enterprise agreement.

In addition to salary, certain employees have access to a range of entitlements including leave, study assistance, salary packaging, guaranteed minimum superannuation payments, membership of professional associations and other allowances.

The Court’s employment arrangements do not provide for performance pay for all employees. However, one employee’s employment arrangement provided for a bonus, subject to their completion of a project. The bonus paid was $27,480. Another employee is eligible for a retention bonus each year ($2,000 per annum).

Work health and safety

In accordance with Schedule 2, Part 4 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Court reports on certain work health and safety matters.

In 2019–20, there were no incidents that required the giving of notice under s 38 of the Act; and no investigations or notices under sections 90, 191 and 195 of that Act.

The Court uses its Health and Safety Committee and other consultative forums to liaise with employees about changes that affect them. The committee met five times during the reporting period.

The Court also supports employees’ wellbeing by providing access to free, confidential counselling services, and influenza vaccinations. The program was refreshed and a new provider engaged.

Comcare audited the Court’s rehabilitation management system during the previous reporting period. Corrective actions from that audit have now been implemented.