Training and development
OPC sees training and development as contributing significantly to the consolidation and improvement of its capability. OPC undertakes its training and development activities in order to:
- make the best use of human resources available to OPC; and
- enhance career and development opportunities for all staff.
Staff development arrangements
OPC’s Staff Development Plan establishes the following institutional arrangements for OPC’s staff development activities:
- a senior drafter is designated as the Director of Drafter Training;
- the Director of Drafter Training and the General Managers have joint responsibility for staff development matters generally (including monitoring expenditure on staff development activities);
- staff development decisions in relation to particular staff are, by and large, made by supervisors jointly with either the Director of Drafter Training (for staff who are drafters) or the General Managers for other staff;
- staff development decisions are made by reference to the development needs of staff, as identified in the Individual Development Plans that are settled as part of the Performance Management Programs;
- the Director of Drafter Training and the General Managers have the function of reviewing the Staff Development Plan to ensure it is up-to-date and properly focused on OPC’s needs; and
- the Director of Drafter Training also ensures that drafters receive a program of internally provided training for drafters occurs.
These arrangements have the advantages of:
- involving supervisors in all aspects of staff development decision-making (including resource implications);
- linking staff development closely to the Performance Management Programs;
- ensuring a high level of consistency in staff development decisions;
- ensuring there is proper equity and balance in the resources devoted to training staff who are drafters and to other staff; and
- ensuring that the program of internally provided training for drafters is properly focused, well-planned and regular.
Program of internally provided training for drafters
In consultation with drafters in OPC, a program of internally provided training for drafters has been developed. The program involves a mix of presentations by drafters within OPC and external presenters (with an emphasis on the areas of law that hold special interest and importance for drafters).
Responsibility for drafter training continued to be shared by two drafters. The Director of Drafter Training coordinated attendances at external conferences and seminars. Another senior drafter coordinated presentations by drafters within OPC and arranged for technical drafting issues to be discussed at drafter meetings.
During the year, the program of presentations by drafters within OPC dealt with:
- referencing constitutional limitations in Commonwealth legislation;
- section 55 of the Constitution and the imposition of tax;
- special features of court rules;
- geographical issues in legislation;
- legislative design;
- time, periods and sequencing;
- dealing with instructors; and
- project management.
There was a range of external presenters who also gave presentations:
- Andy Beattie, Director of the Parliamentary Counsel Office of Scotland, who spoke about drafting for the Scottish Parliament;
- Tshepo Mokgothu, legislative drafter in the Attorney-General’s Chambers of Botswana, who spoke about drafting in Botswana;
- Dr Suzanne Akila, Dr Helen Watchirs, Prof Asmi Wood, Ms Stacey Nation and Ms Alison Whittaker, who discussed Choice Words: statutory language and cultural diversity in Australia; and
- Yellow Edge, who discussed communication, giving presentations and providing feedback.
In addition, in recognition of the relatively high number of newer drafters in OPC at present, the discussion group focusing on the development needs of newer drafters continued to be run approximately each month.
Conferences and seminars
OPC drafters participated in a range of external conferences and seminars organised by the Australian Government Solicitor (such as the AGS Constitutional Law Forum), leading academic institutions and law firms.
OPC has also continued its involvement with the Australian Government Legal Network (AGLN). Ms Toni Walsh is a Member of the AGLN Board and one of the two Board members sponsoring the AGLN Professional Development Committee. OPC has assisted in the work of the AGLN Professional Development Committee by presenting at the Foundational Government Lawyer Training Program.
Staff undertaking higher studies under Studies Assistance Scheme
During the year, four OPC staff members accessed OPC’s Studies Assistance Scheme to pursue higher studies relevant to their current work and career development.
OPC’s legislative drafting capability relies heavily on our staff’s IT proficiency to undertake research and to prepare Bills and legislative instruments.
During the year, OPC provided substantial training in IT. Most of that training was provided in-house, enabling it to be both cost-effective and responsive to the particular needs of staff.
The feedback provided by staff attending the various training sessions was resoundingly positive in terms of the content and presentation of the training and its relevance to current work.
OPC’s professional IT staff also undertook external training during the year to ensure that their skills were maintained.
Productivity gains have been achieved through:
- the review and continued updating of finance and other Corporate Services processes;
- improved liaison with key stakeholders;
- continued improvements through the application of IT; and
- cooperative agency procurement of goods and services.
The staffing statistics for OPC at 30 June 2020 are in Appendix B.
All staff employed by OPC are located in the ACT.
Coverage of workplace agreements
All non-SES employees are covered by an Enterprise Agreement which commenced on 12 May 2016, and a Determination made under subsection 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999 which commenced on 12 May 2019 for a period of three years. This was affected by a determination by the Prime Minister under that Act which delayed any pay rises by 6 months.
SES employees are covered by an Enterprise Agreement which commenced on 18 October 2016 for a period of three years and a Determination made under subsection 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999 which commenced on 18 October 2019. However, in accordance with Government policy, another determination was made fixing SES remuneration at the amount that was payable to each SES employee on 25 March 2020.
The full range of salaries available under OPC’s Enterprise Agreements and Determinations as at 30 June 2020 is set out in Appendix B.
Non-salary benefits for APS employees
SES staff have the option of a fully maintained, privately-plated vehicle, or an allowance in lieu, and are provided with free on-site parking.
Staff occupying designated positions closely involved with the legislation process receive a telephone allowance to cover the cost of any work-related calls. SES staff have had an amount included in their salary to replace this entitlement, on condition that they maintain a home phone and allow the number to be circulated to any person who may need it in the course of business.
To support the work of OPC, staff can obtain remote access to OPC’s IT system. Recognising that staff need to have internet access to use remote access, OPC pays an allowance to remote access users.
Other non-salary benefits available to staff were:
- employer-sponsored superannuation;
- the cost of prescription spectacles or other eyewear up to the value of $568 every 2 years or each time a new prescription is issued if that happens sooner; and
- dependent care costs arising from working arrangements that are required in specific circumstances.
There is no provision for performance pay for APS employees in OPC’s Performance Management Programs.
However, OPC has comprehensive Performance Management Programs covering all staff, under which salary advancement is dependent on staff being rated as at least “fully effective”. An experience loading for SES staff is also dependent on those SES staff being rated as at least “fully effective”.
Staff changes and recruitment
During 2019-2020 the following staff were recruited/promoted:
- one Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, Grade 1;
- five Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, Grade 2;
- two Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, Grade 3;
- one Director, Human Resources;
- one Business Operations Lead;
- one Corporate Services Officer;
- two Assistant Corporate Services Officers;
- one Senior Finance Officer;
- one Business Operations Partner;
- two Senior Publishing Officers; and
- seven Assistant Publishing Officers.
OPC’s workforce planning document is an integral part of our broader planning processes and ensures that OPC has a workforce capable of delivering on the objectives of OPC now and into the future.
OPC’s strategies for ensuring that it has sufficient human resources to maintain its legislative drafting capability include:
- providing support for the Director of Drafter Training to coordinate the training and development of drafters;
- giving assistant drafters intensive on-the-job training in legislative drafting as well as formal training in other relevant areas (such as IT);
- supporting each assistant drafter appointed to act as a senior drafter by providing access to another senior drafter as a mentor;
- recognising that the contribution individual drafters make to achieving OPC’s outcome increases as their level of drafting experience increases; and
- giving staff access to flexible working hours if they do not have access to flex-time.
Effect of workplace agreements on staff retention
Retention of drafting staff has been aided by:
- providing more flexible leave arrangements, including annual leave and personal/carer’s leave;
- recognising the value of experienced senior drafters by providing for payment of an experience loading;
- allowing some time off in recognition of the excess hours often worked by drafters (without providing a full flex-time scheme for drafters);
- providing flexible working hours arrangements that allow drafters to better manage their work and personal commitments; and
- permitting part-time arrangements for drafters (and other staff) to allow them to balance their work and personal commitments (these arrangements are available not only to staff with caring responsibilities, but also to any staff member whose wish to work part-time can be accommodated by operational requirements).