Insights

Australian Public Service Commission's Statement of Common Conditions represents breakthrough for enterprise bargaining

Workplace Relations & Safety
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In late 2023 the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) finalised the Australian Public Service (APS) Statement of Common Conditions (the Statement). This represents a breakthrough for enterprise bargaining within the APS as it now creates greater commonality for APS employees and increased equity in their pay and employment conditions.

The Statement is a result of months of sector-wide bargaining, where the Australian government collaborated with employees and bargaining representatives to establish a set of common pay and employment terms that will uniformly apply to employees across all APS agencies. While each APS agency will keep its own distinct enterprise agreement, these agreements must now incorporate any common conditions that are agreed during APS-wide bargaining.

Historically, enterprise agreements for APS agencies have been negotiated at the agency level. This had the effect of fragmentation in terms and conditions across the APS. The movement towards sector-wide bargaining - through the publication of the Statement - aims to reduce this fragmentation by creating a number of fair and equitable conditions of employment for APS employees.

The Statement includes a list of:

  • 59 "common conditions" agencies must include in their new enterprise agreement, aimed at improving the commonality of pay and employment terms across all APS agencies
  • 24 employment conditions that can be bargained for at the agency level
  • 22 employment conditions that each APS agency is required to maintain and that cannot be bargained for when negotiating the terms of a new enterprise agreement.

Common conditions

The 59 "common conditions" will be consistently included in enterprise agreements across all APS agencies and apply uniformly to all APS employees. These conditions are "pro forma", although agencies are permitted to tweak their wording to ensure they are tailored appropriately to the respective agency.

Commonwealth pay increase

The most significant common condition relates to an APS-wide pay rise of 11.2% over three years (4% in the first year, 3.8% in the second and 3.4% in the third). Employees will also receive a one-off payment equivalent to 0.92% of their salary. A common clause regarding the salary increase is set out in the Statement and must be incorporated into each agency's respective enterprise agreement.

Flexible working arrangements

A new procedure for APS employees to request flexible work arrangements has now been included as a common condition. Agencies will now be required to genuinely consider requests for flexible work and approve them where possible, reflecting the amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) as a result of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay reforms.

Safeguarded more generous entitlements

APS agencies that have bargained for terms and conditions that are more beneficial than those included as common conditions must maintain these terms and conditions in their new enterprise agreements.

Personal and carer's leave improvements

Full-time employees will now be entitled to 18 days of personal/carer's leave per year (pro rata for part-time employees). Agencies that have provided an entitlement greater than this are to retain the more beneficial leave entitlement.

An ongoing employee's personal/carer's leave entitlement is to be credited upon commencement and will accrue daily after the first 12 months of service.

Enhanced paid parental leave

The Statement introduces significant enhancements to parental leave conditions, offering primary carers 18 weeks of paid parental leave. Secondary carers will receive eight weeks of paid parental leave, increasing gradually to 18 weeks over the nominal life of an agreement.

Qualifying periods for paid parental leave will be removed, which means that APS employees will not be required to work for a specific duration before being eligible to take paid parental leave.

Other leave entitlements

Other common conditions include the provision of uncapped paid family and domestic violence leave, up to three days of paid cultural leave for attending significant religious or cultural obligations associated with the employee's faith or culture, and the option to request emergency response leave for volunteering for emergency management duties.

Improved support for First Nations employees

There is now a common condition where an employee is entitled to six days of paid First Nations ceremonial leave (over two calendar years), one day of paid NAIDOC leave, and an amendment to the definition of family to include traditional kinship. The harmonisation of these employment conditions across the APS aims to offer more enhanced cultural safety and support for First Nations employees.

Job security protections for casual employees

There are now common conditions for an entitlement to 25% casual loading, and other pathways to permanent employment to promote ongoing employment as the standard for all APS employees.

Consultation and consultative committees

The Statement introduces a dedicated APS consultative committee for union members to directly influence key APS matters and the creation of strong, clear, and enforceable consultation rights for all APS employees.

Conditions referred to agency-level bargaining

Agency-level bargaining remains valuable because it enables each APS agency to negotiate specific conditions that best support their unique operational requirements. In agency-level negotiations, every agency will appoint a lead negotiator to act as the representative for the agency as an employer bargaining representative.

Employees will vote on the negotiated conditions settled in APS-wide talks and the specific terms from agency-level discussions simultaneously. Employees will cast their vote on the agency-level agreement, including everything negotiated during APS-wide bargaining. This voting process takes place at the end of the agency-level discussions, managed by each agency.

Working hours

Agencies with standard working hours of more than 7.5 hours per day can negotiate to decrease to 7.5 hours per day, in the interest of flexibility and work-life balance.

Through agency-level bargaining, agencies with particular operational requirements may bargain specialised hours of work for particular cohorts of employees.

Overtime and shift work

Agencies may negotiate conditions relating to overtime triggers, overtime rates, eligibility for overtime, and minimum overtime payments.

Shift workers' conditions, including annual leave, can be negotiated without parameters, ensuring fair treatment and flexibility.

These have been referred to agency-level bargaining to account for the unique demands of various employees across different APS agencies.

Professional qualifications

Due to the unique professional qualification requirements of each agency, this is referred to agency-level bargaining covering eligibility, reimbursement for accreditation and membership fees, professional development costs, and study time.

Performance management and KPIs

Both are subject to agency-level bargaining without specific parameters, except for eligibility for incremental advancement, offering necessary flexibility in performance evaluation for diverse employees across distinctly different APS agencies.

Conditions to be maintained

Agencies may retain existing conditions and will not need to bargain or vote on amendments relating to the following key matters:

  • Safe workplaces claims
  • Disability, pandemic and volunteer leave claims
  • Gender affirmation leave claims
  • Employees with caring responsibilities claims
  • Leave without pay (all aspects other than the period that counts as service)
  • Payment of salary (characterisation of pay and frequency of pay)
  • Redeployment, retraining and redundancy
  • Labour hire claims
  • Regional jobs claims
  • Gender equality and diversity claims
  • Working hours (four-day work week or trial claims)
  • Capability and labour market shortages claims
  • Climate change claims
  • Menstrual and menopause support and leave claims.

Next steps

The finalisation of the Statement is a positive development for APS agencies and their employees, who have faced challenges with protracted bargaining for their wages and employment conditions to date.

There have also been several breakthroughs following the publication of the Statement, with the Department of Treasury, Department of Education, Department of Health and Aged Care, and Administrative Appeals Tribunal recently having their new enterprise agreements approved by the Fair Work Commission following APS-wide bargaining.

A copy of the Statement is available here.

If you'd like more information on enterprise agreements and bargaining, please contact a member of our experienced Workplace Relations & Safety team.

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.

Key contacts

Marica Ratnam

Marica Ratnam

Lawyer