December 13, 2019

Government

So you’re being MoG’d - the Government announced Machinery of Government (MoG) changes on Thursday 5th of December. The effective date given was February 2020 for several departments and agencies to merge.

In a MoG, the heavy lifting is really felt in the HR and finance areas. Finance in the gaining and losing agency has to haggle over finite and shrinking corporate resources and HR has to manage all of the people issues that arise.

All MoGs are complex, but the top 5 burning issues HR needs to be on top of in a MoG are:

1. Communications:

As with all change, communication is key. It is expected that there will be constructive and open communication with staff in relation to the MoG. There are also obligations to consult workers in relation to matters that may affect their health and safety (which includes mental health and safety) prescribed in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Coupled with consultation obligations in Enterprise Agreements, it is imperative that a communications strategy be developed at the earliest opportunity.

When developing your communications strategy, consider what is important to communicate to affected employees. People will want factual information and not motherhood statements. Agencies should focus on:

  • the reasons and objectives for change
  • the impact of change 
  • the timetable for specific activity relating to the change
  • the mechanism for providing the input on the implementation.

Be wary of providing communication for communications sake. When considering a communication, think ‘what has changed since we last communicated’. If nothing has changed, then consider whether anything needs to be said at all. If something has changed or been clarified, focus on that.

That said, deliver on your promises. If a timeframe for communications has been detailed to the workers, ensure you adhere to it.

2. Pay:

Literally the first or second thing an employee will do on hearing they are being MoG’d is look at the gaining agency’s salary scale. Will they be paid more or less on the move?

Joy and rapture if you are moving to a higher paying agency as APS employees will be paid the higher of the salary for the same classification and increment.

But no need for devastation if you are moving to a lower paying agency. APS employees will still be paid the higher amount, but they will not be entitled to any increments they may have been entitled to had they stayed with the losing agency. They will need to wait until the gaining agency ‘catches up’. Some departments allow for a ‘bonus’ if an employee is not entitled to an increment (eg at the top of their band).

We recommend that HR check the gaining agency’s Enterprise Agreement as soon as possible to get on the front foot of these kinds of queries and ensure they have consistent answers to these questions.

3. Workers Compensation:

People follow the function. If a function has been MoG’d to a new agency, then all employees who have sustained their injury in that function will become the responsibility of the gaining agency.

This will have an effect on the premium of both the gaining and losing agency. We highly recommend that affected employees be identified as soon as possible and consultation begin with the gaining agency regarding the support to be provided to the affected employees so there is a seamless transition of rehabilitation and any reasonable adjustments are implemented and maintained on the MoG. This applies to employees who are suffering from non-compensable conditions and disabilities as well.

A change in department can also be a good opportunity to re-engage with affected employees who have become disenchanted with the losing agency. Remember, the affected employee’s incapacity becomes the responsibility of the gaining agency and so a focus on an early return to work is the best way to mitigate any premium increases.

4. HR Delegations:

This is a key issue for losing agencies. Any delegations and authorities attached to employees from a losing agency will obviously have no effect when those employees are in the gaining agency.

An audit of delegations is highly recommended in the planning stages of a MoG. Particularly where the delegations and authorities require a legislative process. Interim delegations should be effected as soon as possible.

5. Code of Conduct and underperformance:

If you are in the middle of:

  • A code of conduct investigation;
  • Imposing a sanction or having a sanction with ongoing effect;
  • Suspending an employee due to a potential Code breach;
  • Performance management process.

Then the Australian Public Service Commissioner has the discretion to determine the measures (if any) that are to be taken in relation to those processes after the employee has moved to the new Agency.

We recommend that losing agencies consider whether or not it would be better to complete these processes before the MoG or in the losing agency, if possible, rather than potentially losing momentum and control of the process. This will be a judgement call, however we would consider that the more serious the problem, the more consideration ought be given to keeping it within the losing agency if possible and properly completing the process.

MoG’s are hard. For all staff involved there is an element of fear of the unknown and fear of the inevitable IT issues! However, with good planning and good will, these challenges can be anticipated and overcome.

If you need assistance in the transition, please reach out. We can help you with an Enterprise Agreement comparison, review communications, audit your delegations, advise on Code of Conduct and performance and your workers’ compensation strategy. The sooner you get on top of any issues, the smoother the process will be.