Management of human resources

Workforce planning

No significant changes were made to the department’s staffing arrangements during 2006–07. As in previous years, the number of non-ongoing staff increased at various times throughout the year to assist with the additional workload generated by the sittings of the Senate.

Figure 20 shows that the full-time equivalent staffing level decreased slightly from 2005–06, due mainly to a reduced need for staff to assist with select committees.

Staffing levels were supplemented by ongoing Australian Public Service officers (three in 2006 and two in 2007) who participated in the department’s Working in the Senate (WISE) executive development program.

Figure 20 Full-time equivalent staff numbers, 2002–03 to 2006–07

 Figure 20 Full-time equivalent staff numbers, 2002–03 to 2006–07

Note: To allow meaningful comparisons, the figures for 2002–03 and 2003–04 have been adjusted to exclude parliamentary security and Pass Office staff, who were transferred to the then Joint House Department during 2003 and 2004.

Figure 20 text description

The department will implement annual workforce planning from 2007–08 to help overcome future recruitment and staffing challenges. In the light of reported public sector skills shortages, the department will closely monitor its ability to attract suitable staff so that timely strategies can be put in place to deal with shortages of suitable applicants.

Table 12 Reasons for separations from the department,
2004—05 to 2006—07
Reason 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07
Resignation 13 9 9
Retirement (age) 2 2 7
Retirement (other) or death 5
Return to home agency
End of non-ongoing employment 35 22 14
Transfer or promotion to another agency 5 12 11
Total 60 45 42

The number of age retirements was higher in 2006–07 than in the previous two years. Completion of temporary employment contracts continued to account for the highest number of staff separations. Table 12 shows the trends in separations.

Occupational health and safety

The department continued to perform well against the four occupational health and safety (OH&S) targets set for Commonwealth departments. These aim by 2012 to reduce the incidence of workplace injury and disease, eliminate workplace fatalities, reduce the average time lost due to injury, and reduce the time taken for rehabilitation.

Only two compensable injuries occurred during 2006–07: one the result of a trip and fall, the other from pushing a trolley. Steps taken to minimise injury included:

  • an ergonomic assessment of all new employees’ workstations
  • prompt action when staff report early signs of injury
  • an annual OH&S inspection of all work areas
  • the regular publishing of OH&S information in the department’s bulletin, which goes to all staff.

A survey was conducted in the later half of 2006 to gauge staff and supervisors’ level of knowledge of their health and safety obligations in the workplace, the appropriate action to take in a range of OH&S scenarios, emergency evacuation procedures, and the availability of first aid assistance. As a result of the survey responses, training on handling white powder incidents and chemical spills was provided to staff working in areas at risk. In addition, all staff were informed about the location of first aid kits, who to contact in a medical emergency, and what action to take if there is a ‘near miss’. They were also provided with details about health and safety representatives. Further information to address gaps in knowledge will be disseminated to staff during the annual OH&S inspections of each work area.

The department’s OH&S Committee met three times in 2006–07. The committee endorsed new guidelines for incident reporting and hazard identification and risk management, and made recommendations arising from the OH&S staff survey. The committee reviewed all OH&S incident reports to ensure that follow?up action was appropriate to avoid further incidents.

Employee Collective Agreement 2006–2010

A new employee collective agreement came into operation in July 2006 and will operate until July 2010. The agreement delivered a 5 per cent salary increase to staff in May 2007—2 per cent based on ‘effective or better’ individual performance over the May 2006 to April 2007 assessment period and 3 per cent based on productivity improvements arising from implementation of the objectives in the collective agreement.

Senior Executive Service remuneration

During 2006–07, new Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) were put in place for all staff at the Senior Executive Service (SES) level. In accordance with their AWAs, and consistent with the provision of the department’s collective agreement, SES staff received a 5 per cent pay increase in May 2007 in recognition of individual and departmental performance outcomes. The salary range for SES staff is shown in Appendix 3.

Performance pay

The department’s workplace agreements do not provide for individual or team-based performance pay.

Training and development

In 2006–07, the department delivered in-house information sessions and provided for staff access to formal studies at tertiary and other educational institutions and to external training programs to meet individual performance improvement objectives.

Senior departmental officers, including the Clerk and Deputy Clerk, conducted six seminars for staff and WISE participants to broaden their knowledge of the Senate and parliamentary processes.

Two in-house supervisor training programs for new supervisors and for supervisors who required refresher training were conducted during the year. Several induction seminars for new employees were also held during the year.

Eleven employees received financial assistance, paid leave, or both to help them complete tertiary studies in fields relevant to the department’s objectives.