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The COVID-19 pandemic response requires the Australian Public Service (APS) to mobilise resources and dedicate employees to the most critical government services.
The National Framework for Public Service Mobility facilitates the successful surge mobility of employees across public sector jurisdictions to enable the continued delivery of critical services to Australians.
The below questions have been developed to assist employees in understanding public sector mobility and what it means for them. Additional queries can be directed to APSWorkforceMgt [at] apsc.gov.au.
What is a surge request?
A surge request is an appeal generated by a host agency for resources to support a critical service. The request will be for a specific service (skill set) that is required. The host agency is requesting assistance due to a shortage of resources within the agency to deliver the service.
Surge requests are currently for critical workforce needs arising as a result of, or in response to, the COVID-19 pandemic. Surge requests are made when an agency requires additional employees because their critical workforce needs cannot be met through current resourcing.
What is a surge placement?
A surge placement is the movement of an employee to meet the needs of the host agency’s surge request. The placement is temporary and allows an employee to support a critical function outside of their current role.
How are surge placements facilitated?
Surge placements will generally be facilitated through secondment arrangements or in some cases through a temporary transfer. There needs to be an agreed mechanism between the home and host agencies. For secondments, this may be through the use of a Memorandum of Understanding.
What is the home agency and the host agency?
A home agency is the substantive employer. A host agency is where the surge request was generated and where the employee will work for the surge placement period, to assist with delivering critical government functions.
Who can participate in a surge placement?
Most public sector employees (including ongoing, non-ongoing and casual employees) are eligible to undertake a surge placement.
If you are a labour hire contractor interested in a surge placement, you should discuss this with your agency.
How do I nominate for a surge placement?
If you are interested in nominating for a surge placement you should speak with your immediate supervisor. Depending on the surge request and who the host agency is, the placements will be managed differently. Your home agency may share information relating to surge requests to seek nominations. If you would like further information about the nomination process you are encouraged to contact your agency’s HR team to understand the internal process for surge placements.
If you have been identified by your agency as working in a non-critical function at this time, you may be contacted by the HR team or your supervisor to discuss your availability for a specific surge placement.
Are surge placements compulsory?
All surge placements should be undertaken with your agreement. Employees are encouraged to consider the opportunities of a surge placement, in the areas with higher priorities of work.
What is the benefit of undertaking a surge placement?
There are many benefits to surge placements. If you undertake a surge placement, you will be integral to assisting the Australian community through the COVID-19 pandemic.
A surge placement will also enable you to gain invaluable experience in different functions and maybe even a different agency. This opportunity will build your experience as a public sector employee and epitomises commitment to service. This will help you build an understanding of how public sector employees directly deliver services to the Australian community and build your professional networks.
How and when will I be notified of a surge placement?
This will differ depending on the surge request. Generally, when a surge placement is identified for you, your home agency’s HR team or supervisor will contact you directly. There may be circumstances where you are contacted directly by the host agency. However you are contacted, you will receive information about the agency you will be undertaking the surge placement with, the role, start date, location and any other relevant information.
What happens while I am waiting for a surge placement?
You will continue in the role that your home agency directs you to perform until you are contacted for a surge placement. You should speak to your supervisor about what this means for you.
What is the length of a surge placement?
There is no standard length of time and will vary depending on the requirements of the surge request and the host agency. The intent of all surge placements is to be short term, to assist agencies deliver critical functions to the Australian community. This means some movements could be for 2-3 weeks, with others being for 3-6 months, depending on the role. There is the possibility that some surge placements will be extended due to the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Where an employee is identified as suitable for a surge placement, the host agency will provide them with information about the agency and the role, including its key duties, location, training requirements, estimated duration, travel and relocation costs (if relevant) and application of Work Health and Safety obligations.
Will I have to work in a different location?
You may be asked to undertake work in a different location to your usual place of work. This request will typically be within the same city or town you are located in, and take into consideration your personal circumstances.
Some critical roles might be located in a different city or in another state. You can let your supervisor know if you are willing to temporarily relocate for a surge placement. No one will be required to relocate for a surge placement without their agreement.
If I need to work from home, will I still be eligible for a surge placement?
Employees who need to work from home due to their personal circumstances are still eligible for a surge placement. However, not all roles will be suitable to be undertaken while working from home. You should discuss your personal circumstances with your supervisor to determine if you are suitable for a surge placement.
What happens if my personal circumstances change?
If your personal circumstances change during your surge placement, you should discuss these with your host agency supervisor in the first instance. Your host agency will be responsible for determining the best way to address the change, and where appropriate will escalate to your home agency.
Will I return to my agency and my usual role?
Yes, you will return to your agency at the conclusion of your surge placement.
In most circumstances this means you will return to your usual role, however, it is important to keep in touch with your home agency supervisor before and during your surge placement about your specific role when you return.
How do I stay in touch with my home agency?
You and your home agency supervisor are encouraged to keep in touch on a regular basis throughout your surge placement, for example every two weeks, to stay up to date on current events, talk about how things are going and to have regular career discussions. Towards the conclusion of your surge placement, it is important you and your home agency supervisor have a discussion about the role you will return to.
What will my pay and conditions be?
This will depend on the agreed mechanism to facilitate your surge placement and the nature of the surge request. The default position is for these opportunities to be facilitated by secondments.
A secondment means, whether you are moved internally within your home agency, or seconded to a host agency, there will be no change to your terms and conditions – you will remain on your current workplace arrangements.
Are higher duties available?
Employees are being assessed for a range of roles at their substantive level. If you are currently acting in a role in your substantive position, you may be eligible to continue acting at that level in the critical function, given you are suitably qualified for the role.
Will I continue to receive shift penalties?
This depends on the terms and conditions employees are covered by for the duration of the surge placement, and the pattern of work required to undertake in the surge placement role.
Shift penalties may apply to employees required to work shift arrangements as part of the surge placement. If applicable you will be consulted on this.
How do I get pay and conditions advice?
You should direct your questions to your home agency’s HR area, as they are responsible for providing pay and conditions advice to their employees for the duration of the surge placement.
Your host agency should not provide any pay and conditions advice to you whilst on a surge placement, as they will not be as familiar with your home agency’s workplace arrangements.
How will I submit a timesheet to be paid?
This will differ between agencies. It is recommended that host and home agencies establish a system for communication including a reporting channel, prior to a surge placement occurring, including process for timesheet approvals. An agreed reporting channel will allow for timely data sharing and ensure that employees’ pay and conditions are administered accurately.
Will I be required to change my work hours or pattern of work?
This will depend on the requirements of the surge request and the role. Expected work hours will be discussed with the employee, home agency coordinator and host agency supervisor prior to the surge placement. It is expected that core business hours will apply, unless otherwise agreed. If a role requires a significant change to your pattern of hours, such as working outside the bandwidth or additional hours, this will need to be by agreement with you and approved by your home agency prior to this occurring.
What hours will casual employees work?
This will depend on the requirements of the role. The host agency will provide casual employees information about the working hours required for the role.
Some roles may require casual employees to work different hours than they routinely work in their home agency. This could include different days than a casual employee normally works, changes to the number of hours they normally work (either daily and/or weekly), or changes to times to the casual employee normally works. The home agency should discuss the working hours with the casual employee to determine if the surge placement opportunity is suitable.
What if I need to access personal or carer’s leave?
You will have access to existing personal and carer’s leave entitlements during your surge placement, in line with your usual workplace arrangements. You should contact your host agency supervisor for approval to take leave, and provide that approval to your home agency supervisor or HR area to submit the relevant request through the payroll system.
What if I become unwell or affected by COVID-19?
You should contact your host agency supervisor as soon as possible to discuss your circumstances.
APS employees should also refer to the APSC Circular 2020/1: COVID-19 leave arrangements, which outlines the leave arrangements available if affected by COVID-19.
Can I access annual leave and/or long service leave during surge placements?
This will depend on the requirements of the surge request and the role.
You will have access to existing annual leave and/or long service leave entitlements during a surge placement, in line with your workplace arrangements. Prior to committing to a surge placement you should discuss leave plans with your home agency supervisor to determine the appropriateness of your movement at this time.
While on surge placement, you should discuss your need to access these types of leave with your host agency supervisor. Your host agency supervisor will consider the request in line with operational needs and the continued delivery of critical functions. If the host agency supports the request, you will then need to provide that approval to your home agency supervisor or HR area to submit the request through your home agency’s payroll system.
I have annual leave or long service leave approved by my current agency, will these approvals be honoured?
This will depend on the requirements of the surge request and the role. If you have an approved leave arrangement in place, you should discuss this with both your home agency supervisor and host agency supervisor before the surge placement begins.
What induction and training will I receive during a surge placement?
Your host agency will provide you with detailed information on what to expect in your surge placement role. Generally the on-boarding and induction process will include further information about what is required of you while in the role, training that will be provided, familiarisation of the workplace and agency, work health safety requirements and how to access support.
If you require ergonomic equipment or reasonable adjustment requirements you should discuss this with your home and host agency supervisor prior to commencing a surge placement.
Are employees on a graduated return to work plan or those who have reasonable workplace adjustment requirements eligible for surge placement?
Employees on a graduated return to work plan and/or who require reasonable workplace adjustments should discuss with their supervisor and home agency HR area if a surge placement is suitable for them. These employees should only undertake a surge placement where these requirements can be supported by the host agency. The home and host agencies need to agree how the employee will be supported for the duration of the surge placement.
How do I determine if employees are suitable for a surge placement?
You should discuss individual circumstances with your employee to determine if they are suitable. Considerations include: skills and experience, health including links to COVID‑19 higher risk categories, the ability to work in a different location, ability to change their pattern of hours, ergonomic equipment or reasonable adjustment requirements, personal circumstances including caring responsibilities, and any planned leave.
What are my responsibilities for employees on a surge placement?
Prior to the surge placement commencing, you should speak with the employee about how you will keep in touch on a regular basis throughout the period. For example, this may include a catch up every two weeks to stay up to date on current events, update on work, and talk about how things are going and to have regular career discussions.
Throughout the surge placement, you may also be required to approve leave and/or additional hours for the employee, in line with your agency’s usual processes.
Towards the conclusion of the surge placement, it is important you have a discussion with the employee about the role they will return to.
How should the surge placement be reflected in performance agreements?
You should discuss your employee’s performance agreement prior to the surge placement commencing. This could include a discussion about the skills and experience an employee will benefit from throughout the placement, such as frontline client service experience.
Through regularly established catch-ups, you and the employee can discuss how the surge placement is going and provide feedback and share key insights from the experience. You should seek input from the employee’s host agency supervisor at the conclusion of the surge placement to inform the next performance discussion.
Can an APS employee who has previously breached the Code of Conduct undertake a surge placement?
APS employees who have previously been found to have breached the Code of Conduct may undertake a surge placement, however this depends on the nature of the allegation and the breach. It may also depend on the surge request and the host agency. You need to be mindful of the nature of a previous breach when proposing someone for a possible surge placement to another role in a different agency. The purpose of the Code of Conduct process is remedial and in the event that the breach was minor, the employee has fulfilled the sanction, and remains employed, then there is no obstacle to their participation in a surge placement.
Can an APS employee currently subject to a Code of Conduct investigation undertake a surge placement?
It is not recommended that employees who are currently being investigated for an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct undertake a surge placement. The home agency should manage the current investigation according to their procedures under the Public Service Act 1999 through to an appropriate conclusion before any arrangements are made to move individuals.