Online version of the 2014-15 Department of Health Annual Report

3.4: People Management

We value the commitment, achievements and development of all staff, and our ability to apply our skills and training to the delivery of better health outcomes

Page last updated: 17 July 2019


As at 30 June 2015, the Department of Health employed 3,598 staff, 20 per cent of which are part-time. This figure compares with 3,464 as at 30 June 2014, and includes staff on leave and secondment, and inoperative staff.

A total of seven staff from Health Workforce Australia and 33 staff from General Practice Education and Training Ltd transferred to the Department in 2014.

At 30 June 2015, a total of 3,267 people were employed on an ongoing basis and 331 were non-ongoing.

Staff retention

The ongoing employee retention rate remains high, with 91 per cent of ongoing employees remaining in the Department for the past 12 months. This is a small increase from 89 per cent in 2013-14.

Staff turnover

The ongoing staff turnover rate is 9 per cent, a decrease from 11 per cent in 2013-14.

Workforce planning

The Department’s Workforce Plan 2013-2015 maps existing and anticipated business outcomes against current and future workforce capabilities. This informs strategic workforce planning decisions throughout the organisation. The underpinning strategies include a Learning and Capability Development Strategy, a Talent Management Strategy (to build future leadership), a Critical Role Skills Development Framework (to mitigate critical role risk), and a programme for the development of middle managers.

The Department is currently developing a Workforce Strategy, replacing the existing Workforce Plan, which will examine the Department’s workforce context in line with the Strategic Intent 2015-19. It will include a high-level, strategic view of the Department’s operating context, and identification of the critical roles, skills and capabilities required to deliver against the Strategic Intent.

Managing performance

The Department is committed to a culture of high performance and all staff engage in a formal Performance Development Scheme (PDS) process twice a year to discuss their achievements, work responsibilities and development.

In response to recommendations arising from the Capability Review, the Department has an increased focus on individual performance. This includes dedicated human resource support for managers, targeted training to enhance managerial capability and a comprehensive intranet portal. In August 2015, the Department implemented a new PDS system, in conjunction with the start of the new PDS cycle. This system provides increased levels of flexibility and functionality and will assist the Department in achieving a high performance culture.

Workforce inclusivity

The Department is committed to building an inclusive culture and to acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of all staff. Our commitment to workplace diversity is outlined in our Workforce Diversity Programme.

In March 2015, the Department held its second Health Diversity Conference, building on the successes of the 2014 Conference and opening up to staff from other Commonwealth entities. The conference was held over two days with the theme of diversity is everyone’s business. It provided an opportunity for staff to come together to recognise and celebrate diversity within the Department and to share and learn from other colleagues across the Australian Public Service (APS). The conference also provided an opportunity for our diversity staff networks (Disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and Health Pride) to work together to build inclusivity in the workplace.

The Department is undertaking a number of projects under the banner of workplace diversity, including the development of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Workforce Action Plan and a review of the Disability Workforce Action Plan. In response to changes to the whole-of-government Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Strategy, the Department’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2013-2017 is also under review.

To support the Department’s Workforce Diversity Programme 2013-2016, the Department has two Senior Executive Diversity Champions whose role includes promoting inclusivity within the Department and advocating on diversity issues when required.

Supporting staff with a disability

The Department is committed to increasing opportunities for people with disability to participate more broadly in employment opportunities, working with the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to implement the As One Australian Public Service Disability Employment Strategy. This includes participating in whole-of-government programmes, including the roll out of Recruitability, a major APSC initiative to attract and develop applicants with disability. Actions to improve recruitment and retention of staff with disability, and for those with carer responsibility for people with disability, are implemented through the Department’s Disability Workforce Action Plan which is currently under review. The Department also participates in the APS Disability Champions Network.

In November 2014, the Department was the recipient of an APS Diversity Award, winning the Disability Employment Award. Our submission demonstrated how we, over the past seven years, have changed employment practices, culture and levels of support to staff with disability.

The Department is a gold member of the Australian Network on Disability and has an active Staff with Disability Network. Supported by two Senior Executive Disability Champions, the Department provides support for the network, and works with the members to deliver inclusion activities for staff and awareness raising events such as International Day of People with Disability.

Supporting staff from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds

The Department continues to implement actions identified in the Reconciliation Action Plan 2013-2017 and has commenced a process for review.

During 2014-15, the Department continued to support the APSC Indigenous Pathways Programme and the Indigenous Australian Government Development Programme, recruiting graduates and trainees to increase the participation rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff within the Department.

Under these programmes, three APSC Indigenous Pathways Programme graduates and two Indigenous Australian Government Development Programme trainees were engaged in 2014-15. To increase our ability to engage higher numbers of new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff into the future, the Department has also signed up to participate in the Department of Human Services Indigenous Apprenticeships Programme.

The Department has an active National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff Network, and associate memberships are available for non-Indigenous staff in the Friends of the Network. Associate members support the Network in delivering major cultural events and promote reconciliation in the Department. The Network also has the support of two Senior Executive Champions, who actively advocate on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, attend and support cultural activities and celebrations as well as representing the Department in external Commonwealth Government forums.

During the year, the Department recognised days of significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including National Apology Day, Reconciliation Week and National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week which included the annual Secretary’s NAIDOC Week Awards. A target of delivering at least five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events per year is indicated in the current Reconciliation Action Plan with a total of 15 events delivered in 2014-15.

Supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) staff

The Department has established the Health Pride Network for LGBTI and other staff, and is developing an LGBTI Workforce Action Plan to implement the Department’s responsibilities to its staff. The Department is a member of Pride in Diversity, a member based organisation that supports the Department to meet its responsibilities to staff, by assisting the new network to develop work plans and conduct awareness sessions and events.

This work is supported by two Senior Executive Health Pride Champions, who advocate and support the Health Pride Network.

In May, the Department participated in events to mark the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia with invited guests from TranzAustralia and young members of the ANU Queer Collective sharing their stories. Their presentation focused on the challenges faced by transgender and gender diverse youth living as themselves without fear, and supporting others to do so.

Also in May, the Department engaged a Workplace Education & Relationship Manager from Pride in Diversity to run LGBTI and Gender Diversity presentations to staff. These were broadcast to State and Territory offices through videoconference facilities. The Department also hosted a facilitated discussion with the Health Pride Network committee to progress the Network’s annual work plan.

Championing diversity

The Department is committed to reflecting the diversity of the Australian community in its workforce to build an inclusive culture. The Department acknowledges the differences in every employee and encourages diversity in our backgrounds, skills, talents and views to enrich our working environment and quality of work.

As part of this commitment, a number of Senior Executive Service officers have volunteered to undertake the role of Diversity Champions and Champions of our staff networks including the Staff with Disability Network, the Health Pride Network and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff Network.

Champions have a range of roles. They promote diversity in the workplace, raise awareness and understanding, and educate colleagues within their areas and across the Department. They are available to meet with staff networks and individuals to support their work, and advocate where required in relation to diversity issues.

Champions also ensure there is a strong awareness and consideration of diversity and inclusion across the Senior Executive to ensure its importance, impact and value is recognised across the Department.

Employment arrangements in the Department

The Department’s practices for making employment arrangements with its staff are consistent with the requirements of the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy (the ‘Bargaining Policy’) and the Fair Work Act 2009. The types and main features of employment arrangements either in operation or available to Departmental staff during 2014-15 are outlined below.

Enterprise Agreement

Terms and conditions for employment of non-Senior Executive Service staff are provided through the Department’s Enterprise Agreement, which began on 30 November 2011 and nominally expired on 30 June 2014. Though past its nominal expiry, coverage under the existing Agreement has continued in the interim.

Negotiations for a new Agreement are ongoing as at 30 June 2015.

The Agreement contains an individual flexibility arrangements clause, which enables the Department to provide additional or varied terms and conditions to individual non-Senior Executive Service staff where necessary and appropriate.

See Part 3.5: Staffing Information for details on the inclusions of the Enterprise Agreement.

Individual determinations

The Department’s new Senior Executive Service staff are provided with comprehensive terms and conditions of employment via individual determinations made under Section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. The determinations are made following negotiations between the staff member and the Department.

See Part 3.5: Staffing Information for more information on individual determinations.

Australian Workplace Agreements

While the Department no longer offers or varies Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), there remain some Senior Executive Service staff with AWAs. Section 24(1) determinations are used to supplement the terms and conditions of Senior Executive Service staff covered by an AWA, where new terms and conditions have been negotiated.

Common law contracts

The Department does not generally use common law contracts. However, they may be used where necessary to establish and/or supplement conditions and entitlements.

Employment arrangements currently maintained following Machinery of Government changes

Machinery of Government (MoG) changes announced on 18 September 2013 resulted in the transfer of functions between entities.

To avoid uncertainty regarding terms and conditions of employment, and support the orderly transfers of employees between agencies, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, made two Determinations under section 24(3) of the Public Service Act 1999 (one covering Senior Executive Service (SES) employees, and one covering non-SES). These Determinations act to maintain the terms and conditions of employment (including remuneration) of all employees affected by that particular MoG change to those they had immediately before the making of the Administrative Arrangements Orders on 18 September 2013. These arrangements will remain in place until such time as those affected are removed from coverage under the relevant section 24(3) Determination or a new approved Departmental Enterprise Agreement covers them.

The functions and associated employees of Health Workforce Australia (HWA) and General Practice Education and Training Limited (GPET) were separately moved into the Department during 2014. As these MoG changes required the functions and employees of those agencies to be moved into the APS, the provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 relating to the transfer of business applied. This means that the majority of transferred employees remain covered by the terms and conditions provided under their respective former Enterprise Agreements and will remain so until such time as:

  • those transferred employees no longer carry out work transferred from HWA or GPET; or
  • the HWA and GPET Enterprise Agreements are replaced by a new approved Departmental Enterprise Agreement; or
  • the HWA and GPET Enterprise Agreements are terminated.

Remuneration for senior officers

The Department maintained a remuneration position consistent with equivalent public sector agencies during 2014-15. Base salaries and inclusions, such as the allowance paid in lieu of a motor vehicle, complied with Government policy and guidelines. Individual salaries are negotiated on commencement and reviewed annually by the Department’s Executive Committee. Total remuneration for Senior Executive Service staff may have included non-monetary inclusions or reimbursements for mobile phones and laptops/tablets.

Performance pay

From 1 July 2014, the Department commenced a process to remove access to performance pay for all staff in receipt of the payment (including Senior Executive Service staff), and has ceased offering performance pay to new staff.

Performance pay was an annual one off payment made to eligible ongoing Executive Level (and equivalent) and Senior Executive Service (and equivalent) staff members who had individual agreements or determinations which provided access to performance pay. To be eligible to receive performance pay, a staff member must have completed at least three months of observable performance during a Departmental performance assessment cycle and achieved the required PDS rating at the end of the cycle. The amount of performance pay was determined by the performance rating the staff member received at the end of the performance assessment period.

Learning and development

Capability development within the Department is driven by the Learning and Capability Development Strategy. The Strategy includes contemporary approaches to meeting current and emerging development needs in line with APS best practice. To ensure quality outcomes, the Department undertakes a needs analysis with internal business areas to inform the scope, design and delivery of learning and development activities.

Off-the-job training courses are designed to develop practical knowledge and skills that participants can use in the workplace. Core capability development programmes include support for on-the-job learning, in recognition that it is a key component in the development of a learning culture. The Department is continuing to emphasise the importance of on-the-job and social learning through the development of coaching and mentoring programmes.

In 2014-15, the Department continued to offer a comprehensive learning and development curriculum that has consistently supported Departmental change initiatives including the Health Capability Programme. In 2014-15, the Department has increasingly used APSC core skills programmes to ensure value for money and consistency with the broader APS.

In total, 2,388 training places were taken up across the following subject areas:

  • information technology (26%)
  • writing and communications (24%)
  • people management (21%)
  • planning and policy (17%)
  • finance, procurement and grants (12%).

The Department’s face-to-face training has continued to be well attended and positively evaluated by staff. This has been particularly evident in new courses, such as those in parliamentary writing, which have been specifically developed to meet identified capability needs.

Online learning programmes were accessed 4,638 times by staff during 2014-15, covering a range of subjects including: fraud awareness; APS Values; cultural awareness; work health and safety; financial management; and IT systems.

A new induction programme was developed in line with the Health Capability Programme and will be rolled out progressively during 2015-16. Framed around the Department’s Behaviours in Action and Strategic Intent 2015-19, the induction programme will support new starters to work productively to help build the Department into a high performing organisation.

Training has continued to be delivered to staff with important corporate responsibilities including First Aid Officers, Health and Safety Representatives, and Harassment Contact Officers. The Department used its membership with Supply Nation for the first time to procure a training provider for First Aid Officers.

The Department provided training support for staff from diversity groups in writing and first aid as a result of feedback from Departmental stakeholders. These offerings have included customised courses and modifications to existing courses to best fit the capabilities and development needs of participants. This supports the Department’s Reconciliation Action Plan commitment to promoting a sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enterprise sector.

In 2013-14, the Department identified the importance of manager capability in the environment of a changing staff profile and has continued to provide a high level of capability development for managers. In 2014-15 this has included the Middle Manager Development Programme for APS6-EL2 staff and the pilot of the EL2 Talent programme. These key programmes have continued to be positively evaluated by participants and continuously updated to ensure their relevance in a changing environment.

Staff Survey

The Staff Survey (APS State of the Service Employee Census) continues to provide valuable insight into staff views. 73 per cent of staff participated in the survey between 11 May and 12 June 2015.

The Department is positioned above the APS for average staff engagement results (job, team, supervisor and agency), with a score of 6.7 compared to 6.5. Overall, there has been an improvement in staff perception of senior leaders. In particular, staff feel that senior leaders are more visible and are engaging with staff on future challenges.

There has also been an improvement in the way staff are working together to offer ideas, collaborate with and help each other. More staff are satisfied with the recognition they receive for doing a good job. These are key demonstrations of the Department’s Behaviours in Action.

The Staff Survey results show the Department is well placed to achieve its objectives and meet future challenges.

Ethical standards

During 2014-15, the Department continued its commitment to ensuring the highest ethical standards. This included the development of an online training course focused on providing all staff with information and guidance on their responsibilities under the APS Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct; emphasising the workplace behaviours expected of all staff.

The Department provided education and training sessions on the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 and refresher training provided to Authorised Officers and Investigators.

The managing conduct and complaints intranet site provides comprehensive information for complainants, managers and respondents. This content also highlights the responsibilities of staff in respect of their conduct and compliance with the APS Code of Conduct, Values and Employment Principles and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013. Information sessions continue to be provided across the Department on respect and appropriate behaviour in the workplace.

The Department takes all alleged breaches of the APS Code of Conduct seriously and manages processes in accordance with best practice. The majority of complaints received were managed through local management action or preliminary investigation. The Department undertook and finalised three formal investigations during 2014-15 for breaches of the APS Code of Conduct.

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