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These Frequently Asked Questions have been developed to assist employees in understanding the role of the APS Workforce Management Taskforce and what temporary mobility as part of the COVID-19 response and the APS surge workforce means for them. Additional queries can be directed to APSWorkforceMgt [at] apsc.gov.au.

Temporary mobility as part of the surge workforce

Why has the Taskforce been established?

The Workforce Management Taskforce is coordinating the movement of the APS workforce across agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The APS is mobilising its resources to ensure our staff are dedicated to delivering the most critical government services to the Australian community.

As part of this process, APS agencies are required to advise the Taskforce of their critical functions and identify staff who can temporarily postpone their current work to move into critical functions.

What is a surge workforce and what are temporary mobility opportunities?

A ‘surge’ workforce refers to a cohort of APS staff who are currently working in functions that are not currently critical for  their agency, and who can move across the APS to roles considered to be critical to the response to COVID-19.

These movements are referred to as a temporary mobility opportunity. Temporary mobility opportunities are being coordinated by the APS Workforce Management Taskforce

How are critical functions identified? 

Agencies have and will continue to review their own critical functions based on their current and emerging needs including response to COVID-19. The response to COVID-19 is rapidly changing and agencies are monitoring critical functions and evaluating the requirements of emerging critical functions.

What is a ‘home agency’ vs a ‘host agency’?

A home agency is where the employee currently works. A host agency is where an employee may be temporarily redeployed, to assist with delivering critical government functions.

Information for Employees

Who can undertake a temporary mobility opportunity as part of the surge workforce?

Most current APS employees (ongoing, non-ongoing and casual) and employees of other Commonwealth entities are eligible to undertake a temporary mobility opportunity as part of the APS COVID-19 response. In some circumstances, contractors already engaged by an APS agency through a labour hire arrangement may be eligible for a temporary mobility opportunity.

Individuals who are not a current APS employee or employee of a Commonwealth entities can view current APS vacancies and agency temporary registers on the APSJobs website. 

How do I volunteer for a temporary mobility opportunity?

If you are interested in volunteering you should speak with your immediate supervisor in the first instance. You can then engage directly with your agency HR team to volunteer for a temporary mobility opportunity.

If you have been identified by your agency as working in a non-critical function, your HR team or supervisor will approach you to discuss your availability for a mobility opportunity in a different agency for a specified time.

If you are available for a temporary mobility opportunity, your agency will talk to you about being added to the APS Temporary Mobility Register. 

Are temporary mobility opportunities compulsory?

No, temporary mobility opportunities are not compulsory. All temporary mobility opportunities should be undertaken with your agreement.

You should seriously consider a temporary mobility opportunity where your work is currently diminished as result of COVID-19.

If I need to work from home, will I still be eligible for a temporary mobility opportunity?

Vulnerable employees and/or employees with school aged children, who are currently working from home, are still eligible for temporary mobility opportunities. However, not all roles will be suitable to be undertaken while working from home. You should discuss your personal circumstances with your supervisor to determine if you are suitable for a temporary mobility opportunity.

What is the benefit of undertaking a temporary mobility opportunity?

You will be integral to assisting the Australian community through the COVID-19 pandemic.

A temporary mobility opportunity will also enable you to gain invaluable experience in different functions and maybe even a different department or agency. This opportunity will build your experience as a public servant and epitomises the APS Values, particularly commitment to service. This will help you build an understanding of how the APS directly delivers services to the Australian community.

How and when will I be notified of a temporary mobility opportunity? 

The time it takes for employees to be placed and all opportunities will differ, dependent on the critical positions to be filled, and the requirements of the positions, including role, APS level and location.

Generally, when a temporary mobility opportunity is identified for you, the host agency will contact you directly. There may be circumstances where you are contacted through your own agency’s HR team or your supervisor. However you are contacted, you will receive information about the agency you will be undertaking the opportunity with, the role, start date, location and any other relevant information.

Will I continue to undertake my current role while a temporary mobility opportunity is being identified?

You will continue in the role that your home agency directs you to perform until you are contacted for a temporary mobility opportunity. You should speak to your supervisor about what this means for you.

What is the length of a temporary mobility opportunity?  

There is no standard length of time and will vary depending on the requirements of your host agency. The intent of all temporary mobility opportunities are to be short term, to assist APS agencies to deliver critical functions. This means some movements could be for 2-3 weeks, with others being for 3-6 months, depending on the role. There is the possibility that some movements are extended due to the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Where an employee is identified as suitable for a temporary mobility opportunity, the host agency will provide them with information about the role, including its key duties, location, training requirements and estimated duration.

Will I have to work in a different location? 

You may be asked to undertake work in a different location to your usual place of work. This request will typically be within the same city or town you are located in, and take into consideration your personal circumstances.

You will only be asked to undertake a role in a different location, such as interstate, subject to your agreement.

You should also read Circular 2020/6: Temporary mobility arrangements as part of the continued response to COVID-19 when discussing the details of your secondment with your home agency.

What happens if my personal circumstances change? 

Roles identified for the surge workforce are critical functions of the APS that deliver essential services to the Australian public.

If you haves a change of personal circumstances during your temporary mobility opportunity, you should discuss these with your host agency supervisor in the first instance. Your host agency will be responsible for determining the best way to address the circumstances, and where appropriate will escalate to your home agency.

Will I return to my agency and my usual role?

Yes, you will return to your agency at the conclusion of your temporary mobility opportunity.

In most circumstances this means you will return to your usual role, however, it is important to keep in touch with your home agency supervisor before and during your temporary movement about your specific role when you return. 

How do I stay in touch with my home agency?

You and your home agency supervisor are encouraged to keep in touch on a regular basis throughout your temporary mobility opportunity, for example every two to four weeks, to stay up to date on current events, talk about how things are going and to have regular career discussions. Towards the conclusion of your temporary mobility opportunity, it is important you and your home agency supervisor have a discussion about the role you will return to.

Pay and Allowances during a temporary mobility opportunity

What will my pay and conditions be?

This will depend on the nature of the opportunity, however the default position is for these opportunities to be facilitated by secondments. 

Whether you are moved internally within your home agency, or seconded to a host agency, there will be no change to your terms and conditions – you will remain on your current workplace arrangements.

If you are temporarily transferred to a different agency under section 26 of the Public Service Act 1999, you will move onto the employment arrangements of that agency and receive the terms and conditions outlined in the agency’s arrangements.  

Will my work hours or pattern of hours change?

This will depend on the requirements of the role and may differ from your current pattern of work.

Expected work hours will be discussed with the employee, agency coordinator and host agency supervisor prior to the movement and it is expected that core business hours will apply, unless otherwise agreed.

Employees should also reference Circular 2020/6: Temporary mobility arrangements as part of the continued response to COVID-19 when discussing the details of their secondment.

Are higher duties available? 

Employees are being assessed for a range of roles at their substantive level. If you are currently acting in a role in your substantive position, you may be eligible to continue acting at that level in the critical function, given you are suitably qualified for the role.

Will I continue to receive shift penalties?

This depends on the terms and conditions you are covered by for the duration of the temporary mobility opportunity, and the pattern of work an employee is required to undertake in the required role.

Shift penalties will only be applied to those staff currently working in shift arrangements.

How do I get pay and conditions advice?

You should direct your questions to your home agency HR area for response, as they are responsible for providing pay and conditions advice to their employees for the duration of the temporary mobility opportunity.

Your host agency should not provide any pay and conditions advice to you whilst on a temporary mobility opportunity, as they do not have authority to advise you on your home agency’s workplace arrangements.

How will I submit a timesheet to be paid?

This will differ between each agency. It is recommended that host and home agencies establish a system for communication including a reporting channel, prior to a temporary mobility opportunity occurring, including process for timesheet approvals. An agreed reporting channel will allow for timely data sharing and ensure that employees’ pay and conditions are administered accurately.

Leave and Working Arrangements during a temporary mobility opportunity

Will I be required to change my work hours or pattern of work?

Each role will have different requirements and may result in a change of working hours or pattern of work, including part time arrangements. You will receive information about the expected work hours and pattern of work prior to commencing the temporary mobility opportunity and you are encouraged to discuss this with your home and host agency supervisors.

It is expected that standard business hours will apply, unless otherwise agreed. If a role requires a significant change to your pattern of hours, such as working outside the bandwidth or additional hours, this will need to be by agreement with you and approved by your home agency prior to this occurring.

What hours will casual employees work?

This will depend on the requirements of the role. The host agency will provide casual employees information about the working hours required for the role.  

Some roles may require casual employees to work different hours than they routinely work in their home agency. This could include different days than a casual employee normally works, changes to the number of hours they normally work (either daily and/or weekly), or changes to times to the casual employee normally works. The home agency should discuss the working hours with the casual employee to determine if the temporary mobility opportunity is suitable.

Will I have to work in a different location? 

You may be asked to undertake work in a different location to your usual place of work. This request will typically be within the same city or town you are located in, and take into consideration your personal circumstances.

You will only be asked to undertake a role in a different location, such as interstate, subject to your agreement.

You should also read Circular 2020/6: Temporary mobility arrangements as part of the continued response to COVID-19 when discussing the details of your secondment with your home agency.

What if I need to access personal or carer’s leave?

You will have access to existing personal and carer’s leave entitlements during your temporary mobility opportunity, in line with your usual workplace arrangements. You should contact your host agency supervisor for approval to take leave, and provide that approval to your home agency supervisor or HR area to submit the relevant request through your home agency’s payroll system.

What if I become unwell or affected by COVID-19?

APS Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements outlines the leave arrangements available to APS employees who are affected by COVID-19.

You should contact your host agency supervisor as soon as possible to discuss your circumstances. Where leave is approved by your host agency supervisor you will need to provide that approval to your home agency supervisor or HR areas to submit the relevant request through your home agency’s payroll system.

Can I access annual leave and/or long service leave?

This will depend on the requirements of the role.

You will have access to existing annual leave and/or long service leave entitlements during a temporary mobility opportunity, in line with your usual workplace arrangements. You should discuss your need to access these types of leave with your host agency supervisor. Your host agency supervisor will consider the request in line with operational needs and the continued delivery of critical functions. If the host agency supports the request, you will then need to provide that approval to your home agency supervisor or HR area to submit the request through your home agency’s payroll system.

I have annual leave or long service leave approved by my current agency, will these approvals be honoured?

This will depend on the requirements of the role. If you have an approved leave arrangement in place, you should identify this with your home agency coordinator before the temporary mobility opportunity begins.

Induction and Work Health and Safety

What induction and training will I receive during a temporary mobility opportunity?

Your host agency will provide you with detailed information on what to expect in your new role. Generally the on-boarding and induction process will include further information about what is required of you while in the role, training that will be provided, familiarisation of the workplace, work health safety requirements and how to access support in your new role.

If you require ergonomic equipment or reasonable adjustment requirements you should discuss this with your home and host agency supervisor prior to commencing a temporary mobility opportunity.

Are employees on a graduated return to work plan or those who have reasonable workplace adjustment requirements eligible for temporary mobility opportunities?

Employees on a graduated return to work plan and/or who require reasonable workplace adjustments should discuss with their supervisor and agency HR area if a temporary mobility opportunity is suitable for them. These employees should only undertake a temporary mobility opportunity where these requirements can be supported by the host agency. Home and host agency supervisors need to agree how the employee will be supported for the duration of the temporary mobility opportunity.

Information for Supervisors

How do I help determine if employees are suitable for a temporary mobility opportunity?

Ahead of a decision to proceed with a temporary mobility opportunity you should discuss individual circumstances with your employee to determine if they are if they are suitable. Considerations include links to COVID-19 higher risk categories, the ability to work in a different location, ability to change your pattern of hours, ergonomic equipment or reasonable adjustment requirements, caring responsibilities, personal heath and any planned leave. You should discuss these with your employee and provide this advice to your HR area ahead of decisions on movement.

What are my responsibilities for employees on a temporary mobility opportunity?

Prior to the movement commencing, you should speak with the employee about how you will keep in touch on a regular basis throughout the temporary mobility opportunity. For example, this may include a catch up every two to four weeks to stay up to date on current events, update on work, talk about how things are going and to have regular career discussions.

Throughout the temporary mobility opportunity, you may also be required to approve leave and/or additional hours for the employee, in line with your agency’s usual processes.

Towards the conclusion of the temporary mobility oportunity, it is important you have a discussion with the employee about the role they will return to.

How should the temporary mobility opportunity be reflected in performance agreements?

You should discuss with the employee how to best reflect the temporary mobility opportunity in their performance agreement prior to the movement commencing. This could include a discussion about the skills and experience an employee will benefit from throughout the movement, such as frontline client service experience.

Through regularly established catch-ups, you and the employee can discuss how the temporary opportunity is going and provide feedback and share key insights from the experience. You should seek input from the employee’s host agency supervisor at the conclusion of the temporary mobility opportunity to inform the next performance discussion.

Can an APS employee who has previously breached the Code of Conduct undertake a temporary mobility opportunity?

Employees who have previously been found to have breached the Code of Conduct may undertake a temporary mobility opportunity, however this depends on the nature of the allegation and the breach. Employers need to be mindful of the nature of a previous breach when proposing someone for possible movement to another agency or role. The purpose of Code of Conduct process is remedial and in the event that the breach was minor, the employee has fulfilled the sanction, and remains employed in the APS, there is no obstacle to their movement.

Can an APS employee currently subject to a Code of Conduct investigation undertake a temporary mobility opportunity?

It is not recommended that employees who are currently being investigated for an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct undertake a temporary mobility opportunity during the COVID-19 period. The Agency should manage the current investigation according to their procedures under the Public Service Act 1999 through to an appropriate conclusion before any arrangements are made to move individuals.

Last reviewed: 
7 July 2020