Guidance for employees
This guidance forms part of the APS Mobility Framework and is for employees of any Australian Public Service (APS) classification or level interested in a temporary move, preparing for a temporary move, or returning to their team after a temporary move within the APS or external organisation.
The benefits of a temporary move
Temporary moves take many forms, including secondments, temporary transfers, short-term moves within your organisation, and leave without pay (LWOP) arrangements; these moves can be at-level, a higher classification, or lower classification if all parties agree.
Taking short-term positions outside of your usual role can provide new experiences and perspectives, allow you to support a Government priority or even an APS surge response to a national crisis, and/or contribute to work with an immediate, direct impact on the Australian community.
The benefits of temporary moves can help improve your:
- knowledge and specialist skills
- versatility and adaptability
- leadership capability and professional networks
- decision-making, interpersonal skills, and resilience
“Finding different experiences, challenging yourself, taking yourself out of your comfort zone, working with different people—all of that leads to better collaboration. It leads to you having good networks. It leads to you being able to be an interpreter. And that is not only of benefit to you, it’s absolutely of benefit to the APS.”- Helen Wilson, Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics
How to pursue a temporary move
Express your interest if you see an opportunity where you can add value and help your organisation deliver on its strategic objectives - moves are more likely when there is value for the employee, home and host organisations. Before talking to your supervisor, manager or relevant SES, evaluate the opportunity for usefulness, cost effectiveness and overall benefit to your own development, your team, and the host organisation.
“For me and for the managers that I’ve worked with, mobility is about making you more effective, it’s about building up your confidence and about helping you to have more impact [especially] if you want to move into more senior roles across the service.”- Katrina Di Marco, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Treasury
Open, honest communication is the best way to secure yourself an opportunity for mobility. If you’re considering a temporary move, or are approached by another organisation for an opportunity, familiarise yourself with the current processes and requirements of your home organisation, and have a conversation with your manager to explain what sort of move you’re interested in, and why.
Some tips you should consider for this conversation:
- One-on-one or performance management or career discussion meetings are a good time to start a discussion about mobility, though you can raise your interest at any time.
- Ask your manager which skills and experiences they would recommend you focus on, to support capability gaps and your own learning objectives identified in any performance agreements.
- Try to establish a time of year that might suit both you and your manager for a move. You can then work to identify, or be considered for, an opportunity in that period.
- Communicate the potential benefits of your participation in a particular project or initiative; how it may fit in the context of business needs, workforce plans and talent management programs.
- If you’re interested in joining the APS Surge Reserve, or agencies that experience peaks in demand, for experience in another business area or to provide support in times of crisis, discuss any plans that would need to be put in place to carry out normal business functions if you needed to move suddenly.
“It has given me an incredible opportunity to experience first-hand how APS staff directly support the Australian community.”- Holly White, Department of Defence graduate, who was deployed to Services Australia in 2020.
To have the best chance of securing an opportunity, you should make a strong business case on why it will be a great return on investment:
- Draw a clear alignment between the temporary move and your organisation’s strategic goals.
- Be clear about the skills and capabilities you can bring to another organisation, and the skills you can develop to benefit your home organisation when you return.
- Provide supporting information, where possible, on how your role can be backfilled, or workflow re-organised to cover your absence, so that operations will not be disrupted.
Where to look for opportunities
Make sure you have an up-to-date CV or resume that lists all your skills and experience. You’ll be able to show what you can offer a potential host organisation, and identify any skill gaps you need to develop to bring back to your team. When you’re ready to look:
- Use your networks; you may find someone that is open to a job swap, or who knows someone in the field you’re interested in. The people you meet at events, your colleagues in your organisation or elsewhere, and other members of your profession may know about possible opportunities.
- Seek guidance from your manager; they may be aware of an opportunity coming up in your organisation, know of taskforces and project teams that might be suitable, or find something through their networks.
- Speak to managers of other areas in your organisation about a potential placement.
- Find out if your organisation has a mobility program, and how you might get involved. Where available, you may be able to use your organisation’s mobility register, or search expression of interest pages to find roles and opportunities.
- Define the organisations you are interested in working for; contact their People or Recruitment team to see if they support temporary moves. For organisations outside the APS, the most common opportunity will be as a non-ongoing employee on leave without pay from your home organisation.
- Look for other organisations, across sectors, with opportunities to help develop your skills in a specific area.
- Keep an eye on APSJobs; non-ongoing roles can often be taken as temporary transfers.
- Check the list of current mobility initiatives and programs open to APS employees to see if there’s anything suitable.
- Join the APS Surge Reserve.
- Consider pursuing an opportunity through one of the APS Professional Streams.
If you’re interested in a temporary position that requires you to apply, you may find it helpful to consult the Cracking the Code guide to applying for jobs in the APS.
How to assess a temporary move
If you’ve been approached about a mobility opportunity, or have been encouraged to take one by your manager, it’s important to take some time to assess whether this move is right for you. One way to do this is by asking yourself these four questions:
- What are the reasons I should take this move?
- What are the reasons I shouldn’t take this move?
- What will I gain from taking the move?
- What will I gain from staying where I am?
These questions will help you identify whether you are open to the experience. It can be useful to work through the questions and your responses with your manager, mentor, or a trusted colleague. If, after completing the process, you feel that the opportunity isn’t right for you, you can either decide not to apply, or if it’s been offered to you, discuss your concerns with the person offering the role.
What if I’m being mobilised for a temporary move that I don’t feel is right for me?
Your agency’s enterprise agreement and policies will determine your options in this situation and your HR practitioners will be able to give you advice about the implications of any moves.
Broadly speaking, temporary moves will require your agreement, but Agency Heads do have certain powers under the Public Service Act 1999 to reassign duties. If you’ve been identified as a candidate for a temporary move that you feel will negatively affect you, it’s important to communicate your concerns in writing to your manager in the first instance.
Before your temporary move
Once your mobility application has been approved, you can begin preparing for your new temporary role. Everybody’s experience with mobility is unique, but there are a few things you can do to help make the most of your opportunity, and ensure a smooth transition.
Before you start
- Understand your new working arrangement, what it means for you, and how it affects your employment conditions. Informal arrangements and secondments mean you’ll stay an employee of your home organisation and within your current performance management framework. Temporary transfers mean you’ll be on the host agency’s enterprise agreement. Similarly, moves outside the APS are likely to put you on the host organisation’s arrangements. Regardless of the arrangement, you’ll be expected to comply with the APS Code of Conduct.
- Identify and work through any potential conflicts of interest or integrity risks with your home and host managers. Further information on disclosing material interests can be found on the Conflict of Interest page.
- Discuss potential impacts to your entitlements, such as leave, flex time or TOIL, with your manager and HR practitioners. Temporary transfers may also affect any salary packaging arrangements you may have, such as a novated lease. If you are working somewhere else while on leave without pay (LWOP), there may be impacts on your long service leave accumulation or superannuation.
- Discuss expectations, key deliverables, and opportunities for learning or sharing your skills with both home and host managers. Depending on the focus of your move, this could be as simple as a quick conversation, or for a professional development focused move, you can complete and agree to a Mobility Plan.
- Discuss how you will keep in touch, and your re-integration strategy with your manager. You and your manager should both be clear about how you will connect during your move, when and how you will return to your team, what opportunities you will have to apply your new skills, and what role you will be returning to.
- Complete a handover list of tasks with your home team before you go. If you don’t know who will replace you, it can help to do this in writing.
- Learn as much as you can about your new role and responsibilities. The easiest way to do this is to have a chat with your host and home manager. If you are moving to another APS organisation, your responsibilities should be in line with your current classification and experience. To understand what this might entail, consult the APS work level standards. If you’re moving outside the APS, your duties may differ greatly from the APS norm, so it will be especially useful to confirm expectations early.
- Research your host organisation and their stakeholders. Search the internet for context, read articles, and consider public sentiment towards the sector, the services it offers, or the organisation’s history and functions. This will help you understand what your new team is working on.
- If you’re starting work in a taskforce or project team, consult the Taskforce Toolkit.
Common forms for temporary moves
The below may not apply in every instance; your home or host organisation’s HR practitioners will share with you the relevant forms for your situation. If your arrangement is a temporary transfer or leave without pay, it’s a good idea to start collating your information for a faster on-boarding process. Keep in mind that some processes, such as security clearance arrangements, can have long processing times.
If you’re moving outside of your home organisation, you may need:
- Tax file declaration form
- Standard Choice Superannuation form
- National Police check (if you’re taking LWOP to the private sector, your employer may request a recent check. If you’re moving within the Commonwealth, your host organisation will arrange this for you).
- Working with Children checks (if applicable). Note each State and Territory has its own arrangements.
Background checks will require copies of your identification, and may need to be certified by a Justice of the peace or someone authorised to sign statutory declarations, such as a legal practitioner, pharmacist, police officer, etc.
You may now have the option to complete tax declaration and superannuation forms on-line. Further information can be found on the ATO website for New employees.
If the host organisation requires you to maintain a security clearance, consider collating all the information early, and consider the processing times. Agencies may have their own screening processes even if you already have been screened or cleared separately. The Australian Government Security and Vetting Agency (AGSVA) is the central vetting agency, and details of what you need to provide can be found on their Vetting assessment process page. The AGSVA recommends you get started as early as possible, particularly if you need to collect documents from interstate or overseas. The AGSVA website provides guidance on processing times. You cannot request faster processing times, and the host or home organisation must sponsor your security clearance; you aren’t able to sponsor yourself, unlike a police check for a private sector organisation.
During your temporary move
On-boarding conversation checklist
In your first one-on-one meeting, remember to ask your new manager or supervisor the following questions:
- What are your responsibilities in your temporary role and immediate expectations?
- What are your team’s longer-term goals?
- What are your manager's priorities? What projects or work will be the most important?
- What working relationship style suits you and your supervisor?
- What is the working style of your team? Are they highly collaborative or independent workers?
- Is there anything happening in the organisation that you should know about?
- What key people should you meet across the broader organisation?
- What key resources or standard operating procedures do you require for your role?
“Take charge of your own career and commit yourself when you have moved into a new role to learn everything you can about that role, speak to all of the people you can, make a deliberate effort to establish a network. Understand how the work connects to you; your career and you developing as an individual, how it creates options for you as well as delivering on the corporate outcomes.”-Rachel Houghton, General Manager, Services Australia
In the first week, if you haven’t been assigned one, find a buddy to take you through the employee HR information management system, intranet, records management system, resources, learning centre, and standard procedures.
Regularly check in with your home manager. Staying in touch will help you feel connected, and make it easier to return at the end of your move.
Build your networks and contacts, get to know what employees and managers are working on outside of your immediate team.
Take time regularly to think about what you’re learning and to stay on top of your Mobility Plan objectives. If you don’t have a Mobility Plan, think about what you want to take away from the move.
The HR systems of your home and host organisation may not talk to each other. Keep a record of important HR information such as leave, flex time or overtime.
If you would like to return early from your temporary move, speak to your home manager or your organisation’s HR practitioners to discuss the circumstances.
Just before you complete your temporary move:
- Complete a handover of any tasks you were working on.
- Request an exit interview with your host organisation. This is an opportunity to extend and share lessons learned across both home and host organisations.
- Have a discussion with your home manager, preferably about four weeks before returning, so they anticipate your return and prepare to welcome you back to your home organisation.
- Confirm what’s changed while you’ve been away. Restructures, machinery of government changes, and shifts in government priorities can happen while you’re on a temporary move. Your home manager will be able to tell you how any changes affect your role.
- Discuss with your manager the skills you have gained, how you can integrate these skills into your work, and continue to build them. Talk about any current skills gaps within the group to see if your new capabilities can help fill these gaps.
After your experience
Returning to your home organisation can feel strange and unfamiliar. Having been stretched in a new environment and broadened your skills, you may feel unchallenged when returning to your role.
If you have a Mobility Plan in place, you should aim to follow up with your home manager about reintegration.
If you don’t already have a plan for reintegration, or circumstances have changed while you’ve been on your temporary move, there are a few things to consider that may assist you in transitioning back:
- Consider taking a short break before you return, especially after high intensity work. Even a couple of days can help you process the change.
- Share your experience and new skills with your team and discuss opportunities to use new capabilities, but do consider privacy and security before sharing the details of your work.
- Evaluate your experience to help other employees seeking an opportunity. This is helpful in supporting the overall approach for optimal mobility across the APS.
- Write an internal news article or do a presentation with your peers on the positive outcomes of your experience, to encourage others to consider a temporary move.