A positive workplace culture has many benefits. The organisation is seen as a good place to work and can therefore attract the best candidates. Good staff remain with the organisation, become its best ambassadors and work together effectively to achieve the organisation’s objectives.
One of the foundations of a positive workplace culture is the organisation’s written employment policies. These define the relationship between the employer and employees. They cover all aspects of the employee life cycle from attraction to separation. They ensure that employees are treated fairly and consistently.
In Victoria, public sector employers must have employment processes that are consistent with the public sector employment principles. The Victorian Public Sector Commission has issued standards to help guide employers when they are reviewing or developing their employment processes.
What are the public sector employment principles?
The principles underpin employment processes within the Victorian public sector. Section 8 of the Public Administration Act 2004 (the Act) requires Victorian public sector employers to establish employment processes that will ensure that:
- Public sector employees are treated fairly and reasonably.
- Employment decisions are based on merit.
- Equal employment opportunity is provided.
- Human rights as set out in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities are upheld.
- Public sector employees have a reasonable avenue of redress against unfair or unreasonable treatment.
- In the case of public service bodies, the development of a career public service is fostered.
What are the standards?
The standards guide the development of employment processes. Section 62 of the Act requires the Victorian Public Sector Commission to issue binding standards concerning application of the public sector employment principles.
The standards identify the essential concepts that must be incorporated in an organisation’s employment processes to ensure that the principles apply at work.
What else do public sector employers need to consider?
The principles and standards are to be considered in conjunction with any integrity regulations, award, enterprise agreement or national employment standard that also applies to the Victorian public sector organisation. Additionally any privacy or occupational health and safety legislation will also apply.
General considerations for public sector employers applying the principles
Public sector employers must ensure:
- They comply with the principles and standards.
- Their employees are aware of the requirements of the principles and standards, how they apply to decisions and actions in which they are involved, and the manner in which those decisions and actions may be reviewed.
- All managers are provided with adequate information, guidance, training and support in applying the principles and standards.
- Relevant processes are regularly reviewed for effectiveness.
- The quality of decision making is monitored against the requirements of these standards.
- Workplaces are harassment-free.
- No person is subject to threats or other detriment as a result of bringing a complaint regarding a possible breach of the values, code, principles or these standards.
Employees are treated fairly and reasonably when:
- Processes are fair, clear, and applied consistently in comparable circumstances.
- Criteria are relevant, objective and readily available to the people subject to the decision.
- Decisions and actions are free of bias and unlawful discrimination.
- Documentation is sufficiently clear and comprehensive to make decisions transparent and capable of effective review
- There are no other grounds which contribute to unfair and unreasonable treatment.
Employment decisions are based on merit when:
- Individuals’ work-related qualities, abilities and potential are assessed against the genuine requirements of the employment opportunity.
- Employees are appointed or promoted on the basis of relative ability.
- Processes are transparent and designed to identify a suitable field of qualified candidates.
- Employees are appointed or promoted from a limited field of candidates only where candidates are identified based on objective criteria.
- Employees are assigned duties or transferred to roles at an equivalent level based on a proper assessment of the employee against the genuine requirements of the duties or role.
Equal employment opportunity (EEO) is provided when:
- An EEO policy statement is in place, available and reflected in all relevant processes.
- Policies comply with applicable equal opportunity laws and support diversity across the workforce.
- EEO strategies are incorporated into workforce plans and promoted throughout the workplace.
- Decisions and actions affecting employees are not influenced by irrelevant personal characteristics.
- Employers are notified of any discrimination or sexual harassment complaints in their organisation and the findings of associated investigations.
- EEO data is monitored and evaluated on a regular basis.
Human rights as set out in the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities are upheld when:
- Decisions give proper consideration to relevant human rights.
- Decisions and actions are compatible with human rights.
- Any limits put on a right are reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate.
Employees have a reasonable avenue of redress against unfair or unreasonable treatment when:
- Employee workplace issues are addressed in an effective and timely manner.
- A written procedure, detailing the review process and the rights and responsibilities of participants, is available and communicated to all employees.
- Procedures encourage parties to resolve workplace issues locally and informally, before applying more formal local or external processes.
- Reviews are based on a consideration of all relevant facts and evidence.
- Appropriate delegation and accountability is assigned to enable a workplace issue to be effectively considered.
- The principles of natural justice and procedural fairness are applied throughout a review process.
In public service bodies, the development of a career public service is fostered when:
- Career information is readily accessible in ways, in locations and at times that reflect the diverse needs of current and potential employees
- Career information is relevant to people of all ages and at different points of their life but particularly during transitions such as entry to the workforce, return from parental leave or planning for retirement.
- Performance management conversations are used to develop employees’ career-management skills by encouraging them to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications and abilities in relation to possible learning and work opportunities.
- The focus is on life-long learning and sustained employability so that employees can more readily move across occupational boundaries or change careers.
Applying the principles to specific employment processes
This chart gives examples of how the principles apply throughout the employee life cycle from attraction to separation. Managers will generally need to consider the application of each principle, and when they compete, decide which takes precedence. For example the aim of attracting a competitive field of candidates may be balanced against the aim of advancing a disadvantaged group. In this situation, applications might only be sought from the disadvantaged group, if that aim took precedence. These examples are not exhaustive.
The principles are inter-related
In many cases, the principles complement one another. For example when a selection panel focuses only on factors that are relevant to a person’s ability to perform a job, they avoid unlawful discrimination and can more readily select the best candidate. These examples are not exhaustive.
The standards and principles use terms that are in common usage: (Source: Oxford Dictionary)
Career: An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress
Equal: Having the same status, rights, or opportunities
Fair: Treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination
Human rights: A right which is believed to belong to every person (Human rights are defined in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006)
Merit: The quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward
Reasonable: Having sound judgement; fair and sensible
Redress: Remedy or set right (an undesirable or unfair situation)
Public Administration Act 2004
Standards Issued by the
Victorian Public Sector Commissioner
I, Belinda Clark, Victorian Public Sector Commissioner, under section 62 of the Public Administration Act 2004 (“the Act”), issue the Standards for Application of the Public Sector Employment Principles 2017 (“2017 Standards”) as attached, in substitution of the Standards previously issued on 31 August 2006.
I determine that the 2017 Standards apply to and are binding on all public sector bodies and the persons they employ unless excluded by a specific declaration issued by the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner.
The 2017 Standards take effect on 1 February 2017.
Belinda Clark QSO
Victorian Public Sector Commissioner
Date: 11 January 2017
Text version of Images
The image is a chart representing the relationship between the employment principles and the way in the principle applies to the specific employee life cycle stage, from attraction to separation.
If the principle is Fair and Reasonable Treament, the employment process of
Attract = Any limits on advertising are justified
Select = Candidates are rated against clear criteria in a written selection report
Induct = Employees are provided with relevant information and resources
Manage = Workload is manageable and consistent with classification
Develop = Employees have an opportunity to develop their skills in formal or on-the-job training
Reward = Rewards are applied consistently and fairly
Separate = Decisions to terminate employment are based on operational needs
If the principle is Merit in Employment, the employment process of
Attract = Advertisements attract a competitive field of candidates
Select = The best available candidate is selected
Induct = Induction reinforces that all employment decisions are based on merit
Manage = Work is assigned based on interests and capability
Develop = Development opportunities are fairly contested
Reward = Good performance is recognised
Separate = Surplus employees are redeployed to jobs that match their skills where possible
If the principle is Equal Employment Opportunity, the employment process of
Attract = Advertisements are inclusive and based on inherent requirements
Select = Reasonable adjustments are made to the selection process when necessary
Induct = Reasonable adjustments are made to the workplace when necessary
Manage = Requests for flexible work arrangements are accommodated whenever possible
Develop = Age, gender and other protected attributes are no barrier to development or advancement
Reward = No example provided
Separate = Particular groups are not targeted in efforts to reduce the workforce
If the principle is Human Rights, the employment process of
Attract = Measures may be taken to advance disadvantaged groups
Select = Selection processes do not unnecessarily interfere with candidates’ right to privacy
Induct = Employees have the right to practice their religious customs at work
Manage = Employee views are sought on matters that affect them
Develop = No example provided
Reward = No example provided
Separate = Employees are protected from discrimination
If the principle is Avenues of Redress, the employment process of
Attract = Candidates may seek feedback on their application
Select = Unsuccessful candidates may appeal an unfair selection process
Induct = Induction encourages employees to raise concerns at any time
Manage = Employees may appeal a decision that adversely affects them
Develop = No example provided
Reward = Employees may appeal an unfair performance management decision
Separate = Employees may appeal an unfair dismissal
If the principle is Career Public Service, the employment process of
Attract = Advertisements promote the advantages of a career in the public service
Select = Successful candidate is committed to a public service career
Induct = Induction covers the Westminster system of government, the public service and local arrangements
Manage = Mobility within the broader public service is encouraged
Develop = Life-long learning and development are encouraged
Reward = Rewards include interesting assignments, career progression and development
Separate = Separation interviews provide data to improve the workplace
The chart displays the relationship between the employment principles, demonstrating an example of the way in which they complement each other and interact.
Fair and Reasonable Treament and Merit in Employment = Decisions to select someone can be justified
Fair and Reasonable Treament and Equal Employment Opportunity = The workplace is free of discrimination
Fair and Reasonable Treament and Human Rights = Decisions are compatible with human rights
Fair and Reasonable Treament and Avenues of Redress = Unfair situations are remedied
Fair and Reasonable Treament and Career Public Service = Working conditions are fair
Equal Employment Opportunity and Merit in Employment = Irrelevant factors are ignored
Equal Employment Opportunity and Human Rights = Employees are equal before the law
Equal Employment Opportunity and Avenues of Redress = Employees can complain about discrimination
Equal Employment Opportunity and Career Public Serfvice = The workforce is diverse
Human Rights and Merit in Employment = Processes do not interfere arbitrarily with candidates’ privacy or reputation
Human Rights and Avenues of Redress = Employees have a right to a fair hearing
Human Rights and Career Public Service = Employees are free to join a union or other group
Avenues of Redress and Merit in Employment = Employees can complain about a flawed selection process
Avenues of Redress and Career Public Service = Employees can raise any workplace concerns
Career Public Service and Merit in Employment = Employees have opportunities to progress in their career