Management of human resources

Workforce planning

There were no significant changes to the department's staffing arrangements during 2007–08. As in previous years, the number of non-ongoing staff increased at various times to meet the additional workload generated by the sittings of the Senate.

Figure 19 shows that the full-time equivalent (FTE) staffing level increased slightly this year, returning to the 2005–06 level of 152. Small increases were experienced in both the Procedure Office and the Committee Office. The FTE staffing level fell to a low of 145 in October 2007 during the election period, and rose to a high of 158 during the June sittings. It is anticipated that staffing levels will need to be increased next year to support the expected higher level of activity by select committees.

A breakdown of the FTE staffing level by office can be found in Appendix 3. Staffing levels were supplemented by ongoing Australian Public Service officers (two in 2007 and three in 2008) who participated in the department's Working in the Senate (WISE) executive development program, and by an apprentice who participated in the 2008 Australian Public Service Information and Communication Technology Apprenticeship Program.

Figure 19 Full-time equivalent staff numbers, 2003–04 to 2007–08

 Full-time equivalent staff numbers, 2003–04 to 2007–08

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

The department implemented a new workforce planning process this year. While the data collected was not new to departmental managers, the process brought a useful focus to matters such as the department's ageing workforce, succession planning, training, recruitment and retention. The process will be repeated annually.

The department also reviewed its recruitment and selection practices during the year. Staff selection processes were streamlined through changes to the ways in which referee comments are sought and selection committees report.

The number of staff separations in 2007–08 was fewer than in the previous two years. The number of staff completing temporary employment contracts continued to account for the highest number of separations. Table 6 shows the trends in separations.

Table 6 Reasons for separations from the department, 2005–06 to 2007–08
Reason 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08
Resignation 9 9 12
Retirement (age) 2 7 6
Retirement (other) or death 1 1
Return to home agency 4
End of non-ongoing employment 22 14 13
Transfer or promotion to another agency 12 11 4
Total 45 42 40

Occupational health and safety

Two compensable injuries occurred during 2007–08: a foot injury and a back injury. One notifiable incident, involving machinery in the print room, was investigated by Comcare. The recommendations made by Comcare have been implemented. No claim for compensation was made in relation to the incident.

A range of measures were taken to minimise workplace injuries, including:

  • an ergonomic assessment of all new employees' workstations
  • an annual occupational health and safety (OH&S) inspection of all work areas
  • regular publication of OH&S information in the department's bulletin, which is distributed to all staff
  • prompt action by staff to report early signs of injury
  • provision of an in-house training course on manual handling.

In accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth) Amendment Act 2006, the department promulgated new Health and Safety Management Arrangements in October 2007. These were developed in consultation with the department's OH&S Committee and Workplace Consultative Committee.

The department's OH&S Committee met four times during 2007–08. During the year the committee conducted an audit of first aid boxes in the department, as a result of which two additional boxes were installed to improve access for staff. The committee reviewed all OH&S incident reports to ensure that appropriate follow-up action was taken. A parliament-wide OH&S Committee meeting was held in December 2007 to discuss issues affecting building occupants.

Under the terms of the department's collective agreement, flu vaccinations were made available to staff in April 2008. The department also participated in a National Prescribing Service campaign—'common colds need common sense, not antibiotics'—with boxes of tissues and information leaflets distributed to all staff.

Employee Collective Agreement 2006–2010

The department's ECA commenced in July 2006 and will operate until July 2010. The agreement delivered a 4 per cent salary increase to staff in May 2008: 2 per cent based on 'effective or better' individual performance over the May 2007 to April 2008 assessment period, and 2 per cent based on productivity improvements arising from implementation of the objectives of the collective agreement.

Senior Executive Service remuneration

The department's Senior Executive Service (SES) staff remain covered by individual Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). In accordance with their AWAs, and consistent with the provisions of the department's collective agreement, SES staff received a 4 per cent pay increase in May 2008 in recognition of individual and departmental performance outcomes. The salary ranges for SES staff are shown in Appendix 3.

Performance pay

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

Training and development

The department's training and development program during 2007–08 comprised formal training for new supervisors, a series of in-house information sessions for managers and supervisors, and, where relevant to individual performance improvement objectives, access to external training programs.

Senior departmental officers also delivered a series of seminars for staff at Australian Public Service Level 6 and above and for WISE participants, to broaden their knowledge of the Senate and its committee system.

The department implemented new induction arrangements whereby managers and supervisors were provided with more detailed checklists to help them introduce new employees into their work areas.

During the year, the department's Studybank scheme granted financial assistance or paid leave, or both, to 15 employees, to help them complete tertiary studies relevant to the department's objectives.