The Clerk of the Senate is appointed by the President of the Senate under subsection 58(1) of the Parliamentary Service Act after consulting senators. Staff are engaged under section 22 of that Act.
Additional support was provided to the department through secondment arrangements with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, with the Attorney-General’s Department (to support the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System) and by graduates participating in the Parliament of Australia Graduate Program.
Figure 19 shows that the average full-time equivalent staffing level for 2019–20 was 156, a decrease from 158 in 2018–19, reflecting the commencement of the 46th Parliament and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operations of Parliament (particularly the reduced number of casual staff employed by the Parliamentary Education Office).
Further staffing statistics are provided in Appendix 2.
Figure 19 – Full-time equivalent staff numbers, 2016–17 to 2019–20
The department’s learning and development framework supports staff to develop and maintain relevant skills and knowledge. In 2019–20, 24 learning activities were offered. The department offered eight internal training sessions that focused on parliamentary skills and knowledge. Participation in learning activities is encouraged, particularly to ensure that staff continue to develop expertise in parliamentary procedure and practice and thus support the capability of the department to provide accurate and timely procedural advice. Sixteen learning activities that focused on skills for the workplace, leadership, health and well-being and role-specific learning (e.g. subject matter conferences) were also undertaken by staff in 2019–20. Financial assistance or paid leave (or both) is available under the department’s Studybank scheme, to assist ongoing staff to undertake tertiary studies relevant to the department’s objectives. In 2019–20, 15 employees accessed Studybank.
The department is participating in the 2020 Australian Public Service Employee Census, administered by the Australian Public Service Commission, in October 2020, which was postponed from May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The remuneration of the Clerk of the Senate, who is the holder of a statutory office, is determined by the President of the Senate after consultation with the Remuneration Tribunal.
The department’s six Senior Executive Service (SES) employees are covered by determinations made under subsection 24(1) of the Parliamentary Service Act.
The department’s 178 non-SES employees (including casual or sessional employees and those on long-term leave) are covered by the Department of the Senate Enterprise Agreement 2017–2020.
On 15 May 2020, the Clerk made the Department of the Senate Non-SES Employees Remuneration Determination 2020, providing salary increases to employees commencing in May 2021 in accordance with the government’s Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018, in lieu of bargaining for a new enterprise agreement. This followed a 92 per cent ‘yes’ vote in support of a determination by eligible employees.
One employee had an Individual Flexibility Arrangement with the Clerk in accordance with clause 7 of the enterprise agreement.
Employees work at Parliament House, Canberra. Two employees identified as Indigenous, the same number as in the previous reporting period.
In addition to salary, certain staff have access to a range of entitlements including leave, study assistance, a workplace support allowance, salary packaging, guaranteed minimum superannuation payments and other allowances. Employees can also use other services offered at Parliament House including the sporting facilities and the Parliamentary Library. The department’s employment arrangements do not provide for performance pay.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Clerk made the Department of the Senate Non-SES Employees COVID-19 Determination 2020 and the Department of the Senate SES Employees COVID-19 Determination 2020, providing greater flexibility within existing leave arrangements, including the option of paid discretionary leave to casual or sessional employees. These determinations aimed to support staff who needed additional leave as a result of the pandemic and reflected similar arrangements made in relation to the Australian Public Service.
Work health and safety
In accordance with Schedule 2, Part 4 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the department reports on certain work health and safety matters. In 2019–20 there were no incidents which required the giving of notice under section 38 of the Work Health and Safety Act and no investigations or notices under sections 90, 191 and 195 of that Act.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the department’s workforce transitioned to working from home as far as practicable during the final quarter of the year. When work was required to be performed in Parliament House, appropriate hygiene and physical distancing measures were implemented.