- The Australian Government’s Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy 2020 (the Policy) was released on 13 November 2020.
- The Policy reflects the Government’s key objectives for workplace arrangements in the public service. Specifically:
- remuneration adjustments in the Commonwealth public sector are to be in step with the broader economy, and remain affordable, within agencies’ existing budgets;
- workplace arrangements are to support flexible, modern workplaces – they are not to contain restrictive work practices or unduly limit workplace flexibility;
- terms and conditions of employment are to be reasonable, reflecting community expectations; and
- freedom of association is to be respected.
- The Policy introduces a revised approach to setting remuneration adjustments in the Commonwealth public sector:
- Annual wage adjustments in new Commonwealth public sector workplace arrangements may be up to the private sector Wage Price Index (WPI) annual percentage change for the immediately preceding June quarter.
- Annual wage adjustments are likely to vary each year, depending on movements in WPI-Private.
- The APSC will publish advice each year notifying agencies of this figure. Agencies may negotiate a lower value based on affordability.
- Existing workplace arrangements will run their full course. The Policy will be implemented to new arrangements as they fall due.
- The Policy also fully implements the 9 April 2020 wage increase deferral decision. Agencies yet to implement the Government directed six month wage increase deferral must delay the first non-SES wage increase delivered under this Policy for six months.
- The Policy retains the core elements of the Government’s previous policies, including:
- Coverage: the Policy applies to all Australian Public Service (APS) and non-APS Australian Government entities and Members of Parliament Staff. It does not apply to the Australian Defence Force. Government Business Enterprises and the Reserve Bank of Australia are only required to apply the Policy to the extent practicable, and must keep their portfolio Minister and the APS Commissioner informed;
- Framework: agencies are able to adopt any form of workplace arrangement, such as making determinations instead of bargaining a new enterprise agreement, which suits their business needs;
- Governance: the APSC continues to implement and advise on the Policy, and the approval of the APS Commissioner is required at key stages of the process. Agencies are responsible for their own compliance with the Policy;
- Content: workplace arrangements are not to contain restrictive work practices, unduly limit flexibility or otherwise impede workplace reform. Freedom of association must be respected; and
- Terms and conditions: flexibility is available to bargain terms and conditions outside of remuneration. Within an overall policy of no enhancement, conditions of employment may be traded in exchange for gains in other areas, subject to the prior approval of the APS Commissioner. Certain conditions will not be considered appropriate for trading including, but not limited to, exchange for a higher salary increase, introducing hour-for-hour Time-Off-In-Lieu for Executive Level employees and reducing hours of work.
- The Policy applies to workplace relations policies and practices in agencies. Agencies are responsible for ensuring their policies and practices comply with the Policy. Of particular importance are arrangements for right of entry, freedom of association, consultation, dispute resolution and employee representation.
- Agencies are also responsible for ensuring workplace arrangements meet all legislative obligations.
- Workplace arrangements for Senior Executive Service (SES) employees, and equivalent, are to be consistent with this Policy. The stay on increases in SES remuneration, requested by the Government on 25 March 2020, remains in place.
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13 November 2020