People

People are at the core of everything the Department does. The Department understands the importance of its people working to achieve a shared vision and strives to create an inclusive workplace in which diversity is valued and all employees are supported. The Department’s people have resources to help them maintain a workplace that is flexible, fair, respectful and rewarding.

The Department’s People Branch provides guidance and support to managers and other employees to ensure the workforce is fully capable of supporting government, the Minister and the community. The Department’s leaders and employees uphold and promote the APS Values and demonstrate leadership, integrity and responsiveness.

In 2016–17, the Department’s primary areas of focus included strengthening the capabilities of its workforce, a renewed emphasis on diversity, creation of a flexible and safe workplace, and enhancing leadership capabilities.

In response to Balancing the Future: The Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19, the Department now has its first Gender Equality Action Plan and has reaffirmed its commitment to reconciliation.

Another important departmental priority is accreditation as a White Ribbon workplace. This accreditation supports workplaces in adapting their organisational culture, policies and procedures to equip employees with the knowledge and skills to respond to the problem of violence both in the workplace and in the broader community. Accreditation complements the launch of the Department’s first Family and Domestic Violence Policy on 18 October 2016.

To reinforce the Department’s commitment to workplace flexibility for all employees—regardless of gender, classification or personal situation—a six-month Flexible by Default trial started on 27 February 2017. It is envisaged that the trial, being run across five branches, will encourage more conversations about workplace flexibility, change attitudes within the organisation to ‘if not, why not?’ and ensure that managers are supported and encouraged to accommodate flexible working conditions within operational requirements.

Staffing statistics

At 30 June 2017, the Department had a headcount of 2,077 employees—2,006 ongoing and 71 non-ongoing.

Table 17. Employees by employment status, at 30 June 2016 and 2017
30 June 2016 30 June 2017
Employment status Female Male Total Female Male Total
Ongoing
Full-time 805 800 1,605 812 877 1,689
Part-time 244 41 285 270 47 317
Subtotal 1,049 841 1,890 1,082 924 2,006
Non-ongoing
Full-time 35 34 69 21 26 47
Part-time 15 11 26 15 9 24
Subtotal 50 45 95 36 35 71
Total 1,099 886 1,985 1,118 959 2,077

At 30 June 2017, 56 departmental employees identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, accounting for 2.7 per cent of the total workforce; this compares with 49 employees at 30 June 2016. Forty-five of these employees are engaged on an ongoing basis and 11 are engaged on a non-ongoing basis.

Table 18. Employees by classification, at 30 June 2016 and 2017
30 June 2016 30 June 2017
Classification Female Male Total Female Male Total
Trainees 0 0 0 2 0 2
Indigenous Australian Government Development Programme Trainees 4 3 7 4 3 7
Graduates 24 19 43 16 16 32
APS Level 1 7 4 11 1 0 1
APS Level 2 2 5 7 4 6 10
APS Level 3 36 38 74 35 31 66
APS Level 4 117 84 201 140 89 229
APS Level 5 207 117 324 190 143 333
APS Level 6 265 248 513 273 232 505
Executive Level 1 265 236 501 286 288 574
Executive Level 2 93 70 163 92 80 172
Information Technology Specialist 2 14 16 2 13 15
Government Lawyer 11 3 14 8 5 13
Senior Government Lawyer 17 5 22 16 10 26
Principal Government Lawyer 19 9 28 18 11 29
SES Band 1 20 26 46 22 24 46
SES Band 2 8 4 12 7 7 14
SES Band 3 1 1 2 1 1 2
Secretary 1 0 1 1 0 1
Total 1,099 886 1,985 1,118 959 2,077
Figure 10. Employees by location, at 30 June 2017 (and 30 June 2016)
Figure 10. Employees by location, at 30 June 2017 (and 30 June 2016)

2017:

  • Australian Capital Territory—1,607
  • New South Wales—152
  • Victoria—62
  • South Australia—48
  • Western Australia—30
  • Northern Territory—10
  • Queensland—82
  • Tasmania—14
  • Overseas—1

2016:

  • Australian Capital Territory—1,607
  • New South Wales—152
  • Victoria—51
  • South Australia—44
  • Western Australia—30
  • Northern Territory—11
  • Queensland—72
  • Tasmania—17
  • Overseas—1

Our workforce strategy and priorities

The Department’s enterprise workforce plan, Workforce for the Future 2016–17, was launched during the reporting year. As a result of an environmental scan, the plan describes how the Department can continue to maintain a workforce that is best placed to meet its future business priorities. Among the themes expressed in the workforce plan are:

  • Changing community expectations of government. This encompasses the notion of ‘public value’ by increasing stakeholder engagement in the work the Department does through user-centred design projects.
  • Harnessing technological change. This entails technological change and digital transformation opportunities that will bring productivity improvements and improve the delivery of departmental programs and services.
  • Competition for talent. It is vital to build a strong workforce that can meet the needs of the Australian community and position the Department as an employer of choice.
  • Complex policy challenges. A professional, agile and adaptable workforce that will collaborate widely to develop evidenced-based policies, programs and services.

Development of the workforce plan led to consultations with each group and branch to determine current and future workforce planning concerns. This information will also help with devising the Department’s next workforce plan, which will span three years.

Learning and development

During 2016–17, the Department continued to invest in developing its people. Corporately funded learning and development programs were aligned to outcomes in the Department’s Strategic Plan. The Department recognises that there are many ways that people learn and uses a variety of learning options including face-to-face and online learning modules.

A total of 1,256 APS Level 1—Executive Level 2 employees (62 per cent of all APS Level 1—Executive Level 2 employees) participated in face-to-face learning and development programs during the year (see Table 19). Six new face-to-face programs were introduced: Positive Attendance; Domestic and Family Violence—The Role of Managers; Unconscious Bias; Presenting with Influence; Change Management; and Working Collaboratively. The Department also increased the proportion of learning and development provided by Indigenous businesses from one in 2015–16 to six in 2016–17; this represents 38 per cent of total corporate learning and development contracts for APS Level 1—Executive Level 2 employees. 

Table 19. Participation in face-to-face learning and development programs, 2015–16 and 2016–17
2015‑16 2016‑17
Total number of participants 1,193 1,256
Total number of programs 26a 19
108 individual courses

During the year, the Department assessed the effectiveness of the programs offered through program evaluations and the 2016 APS Employee Census results. It also introduced 360-degree feedback to survey behavioural change against the Department’s leadership statement for participants in two flagship supervision and management programs. This demonstrated the value of the Department’s programs to managers.

The Department delivers a highly customisable learning management system, Learnhub, for 39 agencies (including itself ). Learnhub has won two awards—the Platinum LearnX Impact Award 2016 for Deployment of a Hosted Learning Management System and the Gold LearnX Impact Award 2016 for eLearning Widespread Adoption. In addition to providing a platform for employees to book into a number of face-to-face courses, the Learnhub system allows employees to learn at their own pace using a range of e-learning tools, Lynda.com, Skillsoft and GoodPractice, and is also accessible from portable devices. Table 20 shows details of employee engagement from 1 July 2016 to 31 May 2017 as compared with 2015–16.

Table 20. Employee engagement with e-learning, 2015–16 and 1 July 2016 – 31 May 2017
2015‑16 1 July 2016 to 31 May 2017
Number of in-house courses completeda 2,786 3,855
Number of active individual users of Lynda.comb 673 819
Number of active individual users of Skillsoftc na 268

In keeping with its Leadership Statement, the Department supports the leadership development of its Executive Level and SES cohorts. Forty-three employees from these cohorts participated in a range of executive training programs in 2016–17, including programs for SES members conducted by the Australian Public Service Commission and programs run by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government. The Department engages in post-program appraisal of executive leadership programs: feedback suggests that the programs are of high calibre and encourage reflection and the transfer of knowledge.

Remuneration and conditions of employment

All non-SES employees in the Department are covered by the Department of Employment Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019, which came into effect on 28 March 2016. It encourages performance and provides for a range of flexible working arrangements to help employees balance their personal and professional lives. The arrangements have been promoted and used extensively during the Department’s Flexible by Default trial. Figure 11 shows the employee agreement statistics as at 30 June 2017.

Figure 11. Employee agreement statistics, 30 June 2017
Figure 11. Employee agreement statistics, 30 June 2017

2017:

  • Enterprise agreement—1,985
  • Individual flexibility arrangements—28
  • Section 24(1) determinations (SES)—64

2016:

  • Enterprise agreement—1,901
  • Individual flexibility arrangements—24
  • Section 24(1) determinations (SES)—64

The Department has 28 individual flexibility arrangements in place for non-SES employees; these recognise specialised capabilities and additional responsibilities.

Remuneration and conditions for SES employees are provided for in section 24(1) determinations. In 2016–17 all SES employees had section 24(1) determinations in place.

The Department’s remuneration framework does not provide access to performance pay for SES or non-SES employees.

Non-salary benefits

The Department offers a range of flexible working arrangements to help employees balance their personal and professional lives. These include part-time working hours, flex-time, purchased leave, parental leave, cultural leave and community volunteer leave. Employees also have access to studies assistance and salary packaging.

Employee retention

To support the Department’s commitment to creating a flexible and innovative workforce, it is important that the Department’s workforce balances retention of existing knowledge and expertise with some injection of new capabilities to meet future priorities. The voluntary separation rate for the Department in 2016–17 was 10.29 per cent, which is low compared with long-term averages.

Analysis of the Department’s entry and exit surveys shows that factors attracting employees to the Department are comparable with those applicable to the broader APS: the type of work, job–skill match, the nature of the work the Department does and career development opportunities are the top four ‘pull factors’. Less important were the position being a promotion and remuneration benefits. The top four factors encouraging employees to leave the Department are a desire to try a different type of work or have a career change, the person feeling they have achieved all they can in the agency, lack of career opportunity, and interests not matching the person’s job. Less important were the ability to adequately balance work and life, ineffective supervisors and remuneration benefits.

Salary ranges

Table 21. Employee salary ranges, by classification, at 30 June 2016 and 2017
Classification 2016 ($) 2017 ($)
APS Level 1 27,987—51,001 28,547—52,021
APS Level 2 54,786—58,380 55,882—59,548
APS Level 3 61,182—63,726 62,406—65,001
APS Level 4 66,553—71,176 67,884—72,600
APS Level 5 73,482—78,559 74,852—80,130
APS Level 6 82,610—90,843 84,262—92,660
Executive Level 1 101,583—112,271 103,615—114,516
Executive Level 2 119,538—143,490 121,929—146,360
Information Technology Specialist 117,885—123,498 120,242—125,968
Government Lawyer 63,726—90,483 65,001—92,660
Senior Government Lawyer 101,583—124,438 103,615—126,927
Principal Government Lawyer 136,372—147,078 139,099—150,020
SES Band 1 150,665—250,066 153,678—255,067
SES Band 2 235,483—276,009 212,885—276,009
SES Band 3 270,000—310,000 300,000—330,000

Entry-level recruitment programs

The Department builds its workforce by offering a range of entry-level programs, among them the Graduate Program and the ICT Internship Program, as well as participating in whole-of-government programs such as the ICT Apprenticeship Program, the Australian Government Indigenous Graduate Recruitment Program and the Indigenous Australian Government Development Program. These programs allow the Department to develop and maintain capability and give participants the chance to gain specific skills and knowledge through on-the-job training and formal learning and development.

The 10-month Graduate Program offers workplace learning and development tailored to working in both the Department and the wider APS. It allows graduates to experience two job rotations in areas that will enhance their knowledge and capability. For the 2016 program, 42 participants celebrated successful completion on 9 December 2016. The 2017 program began in February with 32 participants.

The ICT Internship Program provides work experience opportunities for final-year university students to complement their studies. The Department employed four ICT interns in 2016. Interns who successfully complete the program may be offered a position in the Department’s Graduate Program—ICT Discipline. Three 2016 ICT interns were invited into the 2017 Graduate Program; two accepted the offer.

The Department recruited two ICT apprentices as part of the Department of Finance’s Information and Communications Technology Entry Level Programs (ICT Apprenticeship and Cadetship Programs). The apprenticeship is a three-year program in which participants work and study part-time while completing a diploma qualification.

The Australian Government Indigenous Graduate Recruitment Program, administered by the Australian Public Service Commission, offers the Department a way to attract Indigenous graduates to participate in the Graduate Program. Indigenous graduates have the added benefit of learning, development and networking opportunities within the Department and with other Indigenous employees throughout the APS. The Department has one Indigenous graduate from this program on the 2017 Graduate Program.

The Indigenous Australian Government Development Program, administered by the Department, is a targeted employment and development program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Under the program, new participants are recruited each year and employed in various APS agencies. Program participants are offered ongoing employment and the opportunity to undertake a Diploma of Government and engage in other professional and personal development activities. In the reporting year the program continued to attract new APS agencies and a large number of participants. The 2015–16 program, which ended in December 2016, had 105 commencing participants who were placed in 24 participating APS agencies. Seven of these people were employed in the Department. There are six participants in the 2016–17 cohort.

The 2016 Indigenous Australian Government Development Program graduation, with former program participants Alarna Barratt, Lauchlan Barrett, and Wiradjuri Echoes performer Bevan Smith.
The 2016 Indigenous Australian Government Development Program graduation, with former program participants Alarna Barratt, Lauchlan Barrett, and Wiradjuri Echoes performer Bevan Smith.
The 2016 Indigenous Australian Government Development Program graduation, with the Department’s program participant Skye Clayton and Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
The 2016 Indigenous Australian Government Development Program graduation, with the Department’s program participant Skye Clayton and Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

Diversity and inclusion

The Department respects and values the contribution of people from diverse backgrounds. It is committed to creating an inclusive workforce that upholds the APS Values by encouraging people to treat each other with respect and honesty and to work together to achieve the Department’s vision.

The Department’s Diversity Strategy 2015–2017 sets out the overarching framework for developing workplaces that support and embrace all elements of diversity. The strategy encompasses a variety of approaches, including maintaining a workplace that is flexible, fair, equitable and respectful; promoting lifelong learning; leveraging technology and equipment to support staff; addressing barriers to gaining access to career development opportunities; and ensuring that workplace adjustment requirements are met.

The strategy has a strong emphasis on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and people with disability, while acknowledging the need to accommodate other areas of diversity such as gender, age and ethnicity. It is an integral part of a suite of corporate strategies, policies and plans that make up the Department’s diversity program, and it links directly to the Department’s Disability Action Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan and the Multicultural Access and Equality Policy. The current strategy ends in December 2017 and will be reviewed and refreshed in early 2017–18.

The Secretary is a member of the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council, established under the Secretaries’ Board in 2016. The council’s purpose is to drive initiatives to break down formal and informal barriers to ensure the APS provides an inclusive and respectful workplace for everyone. The Council will implement APS-wide equality and diversity strategies such as the Gender Equality Strategy, the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy and the APS Disability Employment Strategy. It is supported in its work by an Equality and Diversity Working Group consisting of senior representatives of all departments. The Group Manager, People and Communication, is the Department’s representative.

The Gender Equality Action Plan

The Department supports and promotes workplace gender equality. Achieving gender equality will allow us to realise the benefits of diversity in leadership and decision making, enhance our ability to attract and retain the best people, and establish our credentials as a thought leader on gender and diversity in the workplace.

The key actions and principles set out in the APS Gender Equality Strategy complement the commitments in the Department’s Diversity Strategy 2015–2017, Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019, and Enterprise Workforce Plan—Workforce for the Future 2016–17. The Gender Equality Action Plan offers another way of ensuring that the Department is providing a supportive and enabling organisational culture.

As at 30 June 2017, the Department’s staff was 53.8 per cent female (1,228 employees) and 46.2 per cent male (959 employees); the SES cohort accounted for 31 females (48.4 per cent) and 33 males (51.6 per cent).

There is an active gender equality employee network in the Department, geniE, and our census results show that the majority of employees are satisfied with their non-monetary employment conditions (including flexible working arrangements).

The Action Plan will be in operation for three years, from December 2016 to December 2019. It will be reviewed in June 2017 with a view to refining if necessary.

Senior leaders are committing to a panel pledge to support gender balance at internal and external panels, forums, committees and events. The panel pledge is a joint initiative between Chief Executive Women, Male Champions of Change and the Women’s Leadership Institute of Australia. The Department’s Secretary is a member of the Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council, which has also agreed to adopt the pledge.

The Disability Action Plan

The aim of the Disability Action Plan is to develop a culture of support and respect in the Department for people with disability—one that reflects a person’s contribution and ability and allows for workplace adjustments to be made to maximise their contribution.

The plan focuses on strategies designed to support, attract and retain employees with a disability, to promote disability awareness and to build disability confidence throughout the Department. Through flexible workplace practices, the Department is also committed to supporting employees who care for people with a disability. The plan has three core areas of activity:

  • raising awareness and understanding of disability issues among employees, building manager capability and ensuring that processes are efficient and effective
  • attracting, recruiting and retaining employees with disability
  • improving leadership across the Department.

At 30 June 2017, 77 departmental employees identified as having a disability, making up 3.71 per cent of our total workforce. This compares with 69 employees (3.48 per cent of the workforce) as at 30 June 2016. Seventy-four of these employees are engaged on an ongoing basis and three are engaged on a non-ongoing basis.

The Department appointed a Disability Champion, Helen Willoughby, Group Manager, Delivery and Engagement Group, to provide leadership and support to its employees with disability and to represent the Department externally. Helen uses her role to help improve outcomes for people with disability by raising awareness of their work and needs as employees of the Department.

The Department supports a Disability Employee Network that offers peer support and helps to raise disability confidence. The network is the primary advisory group for the People and Capability Committee on matters affecting employees with disability.

In the reporting year, progress continued to be made on meeting the actions outlined in the Disability Action Plan, including the following:

  • providing corporately funded training to employees and managers—for example, face-to-face training for managers on disability confidence and workplace mental health, as well as e-learning programs on disability awareness and confidence offered by the Australian Public Service Commission
  • applying the RecruitAbility scheme to all vacancies the Department advertises and seeing an increase in the number of applicants who apply to the Department through the scheme
  • raising awareness through promotion of days of significance, such as Hearing Awareness Week, R U OK? Day, World Mental Health Day and the International Day of People with Disability
  • establishment of internal communication tools such as a regular blog and a Disability Employee Network group in Yammer so that employees can share personal stories and articles on initiatives to support people with disability and to raise awareness of disability issues
  • continued participation in the Stepping Into Program—a paid internship designed specifically for university students with disability and coordinated by the Australian Network on Disability, of which we are a gold member
  • refreshing the Workplace Adjustment Policy, providing corporately funded workplace adjustments and introducing a workplace adjustment passport, which enables the recording of workplace adjustment details so that important settings can be easily referenced if an employee relocates to another work point
  • holding a ‘Five plus Five’ forum, involving four employees with disability and one carer of a person with disability meeting with five members of the Executive or SES and telling of their experiences of working in the Department
  • participating in the AND Access and Inclusion Index, which provides a snapshot of the Department’s accessibility, inclusiveness and disability confidence for employees and customers across 10 business areas. The outcomes from this index will contribute to setting priorities for the Department for 2017–18.

The Reconciliation Action Plan

The Department is committed to achieving reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community. It continues to make efforts to connect Indigenous Australians to work and to foster its own Indigenous workforce at all levels.

The Department’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2014–2016 included a number of practical actions and targets for promoting reconciliation within the Department and creating opportunities for our Indigenous employees. To enable Indigenous Australians to share equally in our vision, the Action Plan set out commitments to:

  • deliver policies and programs that achieve strong outcomes for Indigenous Australians
  • build the knowledge, awareness and cultural capability of all staff
  • support the recruitment, retention and career development of Indigenous employees.

During 2016–17, the Department continued to progress actions set out in the Action Plan. These were monitored by the Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group of the People and Capability Committee. Some of the key achievements included:

  • The Department introduced its Skilled Volunteering Program, which matches its employees’ skills and experience with projects in local Indigenous organisations. The program offers a unique opportunity for Canberra-based employees to participate in a cultural immersion experience working with local Indigenous community organisations that can benefit from external input. The expectation is that volunteers will have the skills, abilities and positive approach needed to build capability in the organisation they are placed with. In return, the volunteers will be able to enhance their cultural knowledge and experience in line with actions in our Reconciliation Action Plan and the broader government agenda to support Indigenous businesses. To date, five employees have been involved in the program; another five placements are available in 2017. In National Reconciliation Week volunteers shared their experiences and insights with other staff at a lunchtime ‘yarning circle’.
  • In July 2016, the Department offered its first advanced cultural awareness one-day course. The course builds on employees’ knowledge and cultural capability by exploring contemporary issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Employees also have access to, and are strongly encouraged to complete, the Core Cultural Learning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia e-learning module for Commonwealth agencies.

The Department is continuing its efforts in procuring goods and services from Indigenous suppliers. Examples are obtaining sit-stand desks from Kulbardi Pty Ltd and the Department’s Graduate Program using an Indigenous supplier, Canberra Furnished Apartments, for temporary accommodation when possible.

In June 2017, the Department launched its second reconciliation plan, the Reconciliation Action Plan 2017–2020, re‑affirming its commitment to reconciliation and setting out the next steps it will take in its reconciliation journey to:

  • create an inclusive workforce that values and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture
  • provides opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and suppliers to prosper
  • delivers policy and programs that achieve stronger outcomes for Indigenous Australians
  • connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to careers in the Department.

The Department is seeking to increase its Indigenous workforce and create a workplace that is inclusive and focused on career progression for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment and Career Plan 2016–18 outlines how the Department will improve recruitment practices, identify and develop talent, and build a versatile and engaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.

The Department has also set a target to increase its Indigenous workforce to 3 per cent (currently sitting at 2.7 per cent) by 2018. The priorities and practical actions outlined in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment and Career Plan 2016–18 provide the foundation for ensuring the Department delivers on this promise. The plan supports and complements the Reconciliation Action Plan in helping the Department remain an employer of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The following are some of the activities the Department is working on under the Employment and Career Plan:

  • establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment merit register, whereby candidates apply to be part of the register and are assessed using a competitive merit process. Employment Cluster is trialling the Indigenous Merit List at the APS 5 and 6 classification levels for Program Officer and Policy Officer roles
  • implementing a Talent Management Program for our Indigenous employees at the APS 4 and 5 classification levels to build their capability to move through classification levels.

The Department’s Graduate Program has developed marketing materials to attract Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates by attending career fairs, using Indigenous designs in marketing material, and advertising in the Generation One Career Guide for Indigenous Graduates.

The Department has also started to work on telling its story in order to encourage more Indigenous people to consider a career with it, offering Indigenous Australians a chance to influence change and contribute to the development of policies and programs that have a positive impact on the lives of Australians. Improved employment opportunities are also being realised within the Department as it refreshes and streamlines the way it recruits. These initiatives reinforce the Department’s commitment to reconciliation and creating parity in employment between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Supporting our Indigenous workforce and reconciliation

The Department’s Indigenous Leader, Robert Willmett, Branch Manager, Employer Mobilisation Branch, has an important role in advising on developing and implementing policies and programs that improve the lives of Indigenous Australians and incorporating a commitment to reconciliation in the Department’s work. The Indigenous Leader also has a key role in representing the interests of the Department’s Indigenous employees to the Executive, including taking part in governance committees and jointly chairing the Indigenous Staff Committee.

The Department appointed a new Indigenous Champion, Greg Manning, Group Manager, Youth and Programmes Group, in early 2017. The Indigenous Champion plays an important role in efforts to increase, retain and develop the Indigenous presence in the Department. As chair of the Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group, this position also takes forward the key actions in our Action Plan and is actively involved in representational and leadership work across the APS.

Work health and safety

The Department is committed to providing a safe working environment for all its workers and visitors. An internal compliance audit of the Department’s work health and safety arrangements in 2016–2017 confirmed that internal governance arrangements meet legislative and regulatory standards and that approaches to employee health and wellbeing are well targeted. Initiatives offered to employees to promote health and wellbeing include annual flu vaccination reimbursement, health and wellbeing seminars, campaigns aligned with national health awareness days, and subscription to a monthly health-at-work newsletter.

In 2016–2017, the Department engaged a new Employee Assistance Program provider through an open tender process that enabled a number of other APS agencies to piggyback from a centralised contract. The Employee Assistance Program offers all employees and their immediate families access to free counselling and other support services.

The Work Health Safety Committee continues to be the primary mechanism for consultation and collaboration with departmental employees and other areas of the Department responsible for work health and safety services such as first aid, emergency management, and property and environment services. The Work Health and Safety Committee reports quarterly to the People and Capability Committee, allowing for ongoing monitoring of organisational health and safety and provision of advice to the Executive where required.

Work health and safety incident reporting

Fifty-five work health and safety incidents were reported for 2016–17, with ‘Miscellaneous and uncategorised’ accounting for the highest proportion (21.8 per cent) of reported incidents (see Table 22). There was an increase in reported incidents of ‘Other contact with chemical or substance’ (9.1 per cent of total reported incidents compared with 2.1 per cent in 2015–16), resulting primarily from several notifications about the same incident involving fumes emanating from IT equipment.

No notifiable incidents were reported to Comcare pursuant to section 38 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which requires notification of dangerous incidents or those resulting in serious injury or death.

Table 22. Work health and safety incidents, by type, 2015–16 and 2016–17
Mechanism of incident 2015‑16
(%)
2016‑17
(%)
2016‑17
(number)
Falls on the same level (including trips and slips) 20.8 12.7 7
Miscellaneous and uncategorised mechanisms 25.0 21.8 12
Vehicle accident 2.1 7.3 4
Unspecified mechanism of injury 4.2 9.1 5
Repetitive movement with low muscle loading 4.2 9.1 5
Being hit by moving objects 2.1 3.6 2
Other muscular stress 6.3 3.6 2
Single contact with chemical or substance (excluding insect and spider bites and stings) 2.1 5.5 3
Hitting objects with the body 16.7 10.9 6
Other and multiple mechanisms of injury 10.4 1.8 1
Exposure to mental stress factors 2.1 0 0
Other contact with chemical or substance (includes insect and spider bites and stings) 2.1 9.1 5
Contact or exposure to heat and cold 2.1 5.5 3
Exposure to sharp, sudden noise 0 1.8 1
Total 100 100 55

Attendance

The Department’s unscheduled absence rates compare favourably with those of other policy agencies, as reported in the State of the Service Report. The Department remains committed to building employee engagement and removing barriers to participation in the workplace.

Training continues to be delivered to managers on how to foster a positive attendance culture and how to have effective attendance conversations. This focus on manager capability—along with a range of early intervention strategies designed to help employees remain at or return to work as quickly as possible following an illness or injury—provides a sound platform for managing unscheduled absences for the year ahead.