The APS bargaining taskforce will table its proposal for a common flexible work clause on Thursday, per the latest bargaining newsletter from the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC).
Flexible work, normalised during the COVID-19 pandemic, is anticipated to be a critical issue during bargaining. The taskforce said it expected it to be an “interesting week”.
Meanwhile, the CPSU said negotiations on flexible work arrangements were the first test of the government’s commitment to being a”model employer”.
The union’s national secretary, Melissa Donnelly, said the APS had “everything to gain and nothing to lose” in the negotiations when it comes to flexibility.
“Flexible working arrangements, including working from home, are becoming the status quo in modern employment and Thursday’s meeting will be an early indicator as to whether or not the government is ready to lead the way on that or if they’ll be playing catch-up later,” Donnelly said.
“Flexible work creates opportunities for a more diverse and inclusive workforce, particularly for those who may face barriers associated with traditional or full-time office-based employment, including people with disability, people with caring responsibilities and people in rural and regional areas.
“It is no secret that the APS is facing an attraction and retention crisis, and that current APS employees are bearing the brunt of that with burnout, turnover and workloads all sitting higher than they should be. But fully embracing flexible work and opening the doors of APS employment to new parts of the population could be a game-changer.”
The secretaries board acknowledged flexibility was a “key element” of the bargaining process when it endorsed an APS-wide approach to flexible work.
The Principles of flexible working document characterised flexible work as a two-way street, with five principles endorsed by the board.
Those five are:
- Flexibility applies to all roles, with different types of flexibility suitable for different roles.
- Flexibility needs to be mutually beneficial.
- Organisational and team needs frame conversations about individual flexibility arrangements.
- Flexible work arrangements value meaningful and regular face-to-face contact.
- Flexibility is embedded, modelled and refined.
The secretaries board said flexibility helps the APS be an “employer of choice”, noting flexible work’s role in recruiting and retaining talent.
“We encourage staff to be open-minded and purposeful in finding creative flexible working solutions that meet organisation and team needs,” the board added.
“Alongside flexible work, we also need to consider improving many other aspects of how we work, including recruiting from diverse national talent pools, mobility, learning and development, performance management, accommodation, technology and more.
“We support our people to be agile, innovative and to create solutions to overcome barriers.”
As for what has already been discussed, negotiations last week focused on leave, including emergency response, bereavement, jury duty, pandemic, defence reservist, defence service sick, and leave without pay.
Gender affirmation leave was also discussed, which has already been implemented in some sections of the private sector.
ANZ last year introduced gender affirmation leave to allow its employees time off for medical, legal, and social processes related to transitioning their gender, instead of using sick or personal leave.
Back to APS-wide bargaining, unions and employee bargaining representatives (EBRs) also asked for disaster leave and witness leave to be considered.