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Pause on wage increases in Commonwealth agencies

On 9 April 2020, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Hon Ben Morton MP, announced the Government’s decision to pause general wage increases in Commonwealth agencies for six months. For APS agencies the Minister has made a determination made under subsection 24(3) of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act) which will commence 14 April 2020.

A copy of the determination can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation.

The Assistant Minister has asked the APS Commissioner to exercise his authority under the Government’s bargaining policy to ensure that wage proposals approved over the next 12 months are consistent with the Government’s expectations of a pause. This to ensure the Government’s decision is also applied to non-APS agencies.

This follows the Government’s decision to implement a stay on increases in remuneration, entitlements and allowances for all Senior Executive Service officers.

The determination will operate for 12 months from its date of commencement. During this period, increases to wages and salary-related allowances are deferred by six months as they fall due. The pause applies to enterprise agreements, individual flexibility arrangements, common law contracts and determinations made under the PS Act. This includes determinations made in lieu of bargaining.

Agencies should contact their APSC Relationship Manager for more information on the determination, or write to workplacerelations [at] apsc.gov.au.

Further information for APS agencies and employees on COVID-19 is available on the COVID-19 page.

Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018

Commonwealth enterprise bargaining mid-year summary

The Government's Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018 provides each agency the flexibility to adopt any form of workplace arrangements that best suits its employees and business needs.

In the first half of 2020, 12 agencies have chosen, with employee support, to introduce determinations that provide employees with timely pay increases. This includes the Australian War Memorial, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Screen Australia, IP Australia, Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation and the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Staff in six agencies voted up six new enterprise agreements over the same period. Successful ballots were held at the National Disability Insurance Agency, Airservices Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Currently 6 agencies are bargaining. Of these 2 are APS agencies and 4 non-APS agencies.

Since the Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018 commenced, 58 new enterprise agreements have been made.

Agencies using determination to provide pay increases

The Government's Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018 provides the flexibility for an agency to adopt any form of workplace arrangements that best suits its employees and its business needs.

Since the Policy commenced, 55 agencies, with employee support, to introduce determinations that provide employees with timely pay increases. These determinations are made under either the Public Service Act 1999 or an agency's enabling legislation. The determinations sit on top of enterprise agreements past their nominal expiry dates.

In these cases, the underlying agreements continue to operate while the determinations simply provide pay increases without needing to bargain for a new agreement. Terms and conditions of employment continue to exist in enterprise agreements. Moreover, employee rights to collectively bargain are protected in the Fair Work Act 2009.

Before making a determination, these agencies have undertaken extensive consultation with their employees to ensure they are comfortable with this approach and support it. Further information on using determinations is contained in the Using determinations Bargaining Q&A.

Agency discretion to apply pay increases

On 30 October 2018, the APS Commissioner advised agencies of a change to the application of the Government’s Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018 following discussions with a number of agencies.

In certain circumstances, agencies will have discretion to apply the first pay increase of their newly approved enterprise agreements at an earlier date. This approach is to ensure staff in agencies receive fair and timely pay increases.

Agencies will continue to apply the Government’s policy. These administrative arrangements only apply after staff vote up new enterprise agreements.

This decision allows that if more than 12-weeks elapse between employees voting up a new agreement and Fair Work Commission approval, a new enterprise agreement’s first pay increase may apply from the 12-week mark. The increase will be paid upon commencement of the new agreement. Agencies that have commenced bargaining can include a clause in their proposed enterprise agreement to enable this decision.

The Government’s decision to pause public sector wage increases by six months affects the application of the APS Commissioner’s decision to allow agencies to apply the first pay increase early in certain circumstances.

If an agency is eligible to apply the first pay increase early due to Fair Work Commission approval exceeding 12 weeks from the ballot date – the early application of pay increase must also be delayed by six months.

Agencies should contact their APSC Relationship Manager for more information on the decision, or write to workplacerelations [at] apsc.gov.au.

APS remuneration reports

A census of APS employee remuneration is conducted annually. The census provides participating agencies with agency-specific and APS-wide data that informs their remuneration practices.

Award modernisation

Information about the process of award modernisation in the Commonwealth public sector. 

Allowance subscription service

We provide an allowance subscription service on a fee-for-service basis which updates a range of employment-related allowances. 

Legislative framework

The legislative framework for employment in the APS. 

Enterprise Bargaining Guide

The APSC's Enterprise Bargaining Guide developed as part of the Workplace Relations Capability Program.

Last reviewed: 
14 July 2020