Commissioner's Instruction 1: Employment Standard

Policy
Minimum standards of merit, equity and probity when filling a public sector vacancy.

This Commissioner’s instruction establishes the minimum standards of merit, equity and probity to be complied with by the employing authority of each public sector body when filling a vacancy. 

Commence: 21 February 2011
Review:  21 February 2012

Statement of Intent

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This Commissioner’s instruction (CI) establishes the minimum standards of merit, equity and probity to be complied with by the employing authority of each public sector body when filling a vacancy.

Scope and application

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This CI applies to public service officers appointed under Part 3 of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (PSM Act) and to employees otherwise employed by employing authorities of public sector bodies, as defined in the PSM Act.

This CI repeals under section 21(2) of the PSM Act (and replaces):

  • Public Sector Standards in Human Resource Management 2001 - Recruitment, Selection and Appointment Standard;
  • Public Sector Standards in Human Resource Management 2001 - Transfer Standard;
  • Public Sector Standards in Human Resource Management 2001 - Secondment Standard; and
  • Public Sector Standards in Human Resource Management 2001 - Temporary Deployment (Acting) Standard.

References

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When making employment decisions and exercising employment powers and functions the employing authority of each public sector body and its employees must comply with the minimum standards of merit, equity and probity established by the Commissioner under the Employment Standard, set out below, and the CI on Filling a Public Sector Vacancy. This requirement is in addition to compliance with the PSM Act (particularly section 8(1)(a), (b) and (c), section 8(3) and section 9), the Western Australian Public Sector Code of Ethics and other relevant legislation.

Supporting information produced by the Public Sector Commission may assist the employing authorities of public sector bodies fill vacancies. Such material is explanatory and does not form part of the legislative framework. A list of products is available at the end of this CI.

The Employment Standard

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The Employment Standard applies when filling a vacancy (by way of recruitment, selection, appointment, secondment, transfer and temporary deployment (acting)) in the Western Australian Public Sector.

The Employment Standard requires four principles to be complied with when filling a vacancy:

Merit Principle

The Western Australia Public Sector makes employment decisions based on merit. Merit usually involves the establishment of a competitive field.

In applying the merit principle a proper assessment must take into account:

a.  the extent to which the person has the skills, knowledge and abilities relevant to the work related requirements and outcomes sought by the public sector body; and

b.  if relevant, the way in which the person carried out any previous employment or occupational duties.

Equity Principle

Employment decisions are to be impartial and free from bias, nepotism and patronage.

For secondment the employee consents.

For transfer employment conditions are comparable.

Interest Principle (applies to secondments, transfers and acting)

Decisions about an employee’s secondment, transfer or acting take account of the employee’s interests and the work related requirements of the relevant public sector body.

Transparency Principle

Decisions are to be transparent and capable of review.

Terminology

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Acting

The temporary movement of an employee to the same or a higher classification level within the same public sector body.

Competitive Field

A field which includes more than one person who meets the requirements of the vacant position; competitive fields are generally achieved through the advertising of a vacancy.

Employee

Includes an officer, in which case 'employment' is to be taken to include 'appointment'.

Employment decision

A decision to recruit, select, appoint, transfer, second or act an employee.

Employment Standard

Sets out the minimum standards of merit, equity and probity to be complied with by the employing authority of each public sector body when filling a vacancy by recruitment, selection, appointment, transfer, secondment and temporary deployment (acting) activities.

Public sector body

As defined in section 3 of the PSM Act.

Public Sector Standards

The Commissioner’s functions include the issuing of CIs that establish Public Sector Standards in Human Resource Management. The standards set out minimum standards of merit, equity and probity to be complied with in the Public Sector.

As at 21 February 2011, there are five other established standards (in addition to the Employment Standard):

i.  Redeployment Standard

ii.  Discipline Standard

iii.  Grievance Resolution Standard

iv.  Performance Management Standard

v.  Termination Standard.

Recruitment

The process used by an agency to attract, assess and select applicants to fill a vacancy.

Secondment

The temporary movement of an employee to a different employing authority or outside of the public sector.

Transfer

The permanent movement at the same classification level. Transfers occur in accordance with the employment standard, industrial awards and agreements or other applicable legislation.

Vacancy

A vacant post, office or position within the public sector. A vacancy can result from the creation of a new office, post or position or by the temporary or permanent movement of another employee.

For redeployment purposes a vacancy is defined as all offices, posts or positions, newly created, recently vacated or to be filled on a temporary basis in excess of six months.

Work related requirements

The requirements determined and documented by the CEO or the employing authority to undertake the functions of a role.

Questions and answers

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What are the principles of the Employment Standard?

The Employment Standard contains four principles to be complied with when filling a public sector vacancy. They are:

  • Merit
  • Equity
  • Interest
  • Transparency.

Application of the Standard

What does the Employment Standard apply to?

The Employment Standard applies when a public sector body fills a vacancy by way of recruitment, selection and appointment, secondment, transfer and temporary deployment (acting). It covers fixed term, casual or permanent positions.

Breach of Standard claims, however, cannot be lodged in relation to all vacancies.

Who does the Employment Standard apply to?

The Employment Standard applies to public service officers appointed under Part 3 of the PSM Act.

The Employment Standard also applies to employees otherwise employed by employing authorities of public sector bodies, as defined in the PSM Act.

Who doesn’t the Employment Standard apply to?

The Employment Standard does not apply to entities listed in Schedule 1 of the PSM Act.

These entities include, but are not limited to:

  • Local Government Authorities
  • Public Universities
  • Elected officials (members of Parliament and local government council representatives)
  • Sworn members of the Western Australian Police Force (police officers).

These bodies and their employees are covered by other legislation.

Does the Employment Standard apply to the temporary deployment of an employee at the employer’s initiative within the public sector body at level?

No. The Employment Standard does not apply to temporary deployments at the employer’s initiative within the same employing authority at the same level.

If an employee has concerns about their temporary deployment they may utilise their agency’s internal grievance resolution process. Grievance resolution processes are subject to the Grievance Resolution Standard and the breach of Standard claim process. For more information refer to the Public Sector Standards (Breaches of Public Sector Standards) Regulations 2005 and Breach Claims - An Agency Guide.

Does the Employment Standard apply when a registered employee (redeployee) is referred to a vacancy?

No. The Public Sector Management (Redeployment and Redundancy) Regulations 1994 apply to registered employees referred to a vacancy.

The Employment Standard does, however, apply when a registered employee applies outside the redeployment process for a vacancy.

Principles of Employment Standard - Merit principle

What is the merit principle?

This principle ensures employment decisions in the Western Australian public sector are based on merit.

How is the merit principle applied?

The merit principle is applied by conducting a proper assessment of the person’s skills, knowledge and abilities relevant to the work related requirements. It considers outcomes sought by the public sector body and may include previous  employment or occupational duties.

What does the merit principle mean “if relevant, the way in which the person carried out any previous employment or occupational duties”; shouldn’t this always be relevant?

No. Not every person assessed will have a previous work history, for example, a person who has not worked but has completed a course of study.

Does the Employment Standard require a job description form?

No. The Employment Standard does not require the use of a Job Description Form (JDF), however, documentation must exist which outlines the work related requirements. Documentation assists agencies to undertake a proper assessment that is transparent and capable of review. Documentation also assists in communicating to applicants how their merit will be assessed.

It is up to agencies to choose in what form the work related requirements are described and documented.

Is there a set assessment process that can be used to meet the Employment Standard, for example, a panel process?

No. It is up to the agency to decide on the assessment process to be used. When making a decision about what process to use agencies should consider the:

  • Employment Standard
  • type of job it is, for example, different jobs may lend themselves to different assessment methods
  • identified work related requirements of the job and the skills, knowledge and abilities needed to undertake the job.

What may assist an agency to conduct a proper assessment of merit?

The following may assist an agency to conduct a proper assessment of merit:

  • A person with an good understanding of the work related requirements and outcomes sought by the agency is part of the assessment process
  • Combining assessment methods, for example, an interview and work test
  • An assessment process that includes the verification of information provided by the applicant, for example, work tests, work samples, referee checks and verification of qualifications
  • An independent person to review (quality check) the process undertaken in consideration of the Employment Standard and other requirements (s.8 and s.9 PSM Act).

Principles of Employment Standard - Equity principle

What does impartiality refer to in the Employment Standard?

Generally impartiality means to be objective or not to act on behalf of any person when making an employment decision.

What does free from bias refer to in the Employment Standard?

Free from bias refers to employment decisions being based on merit rather than a pre established view, for example, for or against a person.

What does nepotism refer to in the Employment Standard?

Nepotism refers to the favourable treatment of a family member when making an employment decision.

What does patronage refer to in the Employment Standard?

Generally patronage refers to a favour given to a person when making an employment decision due to a close personal relationship or affiliation.

For transfer what do comparable conditions refer to?

Comparable employment conditions include:

  • Comparable or equivalent conditions based on salary/wage excluding allowances, penalty rates etc
  • no loss of tenure
  • no loss of service continuity.

I would like to transfer an employee into another position. Does the Employment Standard provide the CEO/Employing Authority with the power to do this?

No. The Employment Standard applies to transfers but it does not provide the CEO/EmployingAuthority with the power to transfer. The power to transfer an employee is usually found inenabling legislation, awards, employment contracts or industrial agreements.

Principles of Employment Standard - Interest principle

What is the interest principle?

This principle requires the public sector body to take account of an employee interests when making employment decisions about secondment, transfers and acting. It does not, however, oblige the employer to assent to them.

Employee interests could include career considerations, medical issues or personal circumstances.

Does an employee have to be consulted prior to the CEO/Employing Authority deciding to transfer them?

Where a decision is being made to transfer an employee, that employee should be given the opportunity to comment on the proposal. The CEO/Employing Authority should consider the employee’s comments prior to making the final decision. Consultation will assist an agency to consider an employee’s interests.

What needs to happen before an employee proceeds on secondment?

Prior to any secondment, there needs to be agreement about the period of the secondment, remuneration and the employee’s placement at the completion of the secondment. Service continuity and tenure of employment are not affected by a secondment.

Principles of Employment Standard - Transparency principle

What is the transparency principle?

This principle requires that processes undertaken and decisions made can withstand independent scrutiny. As part of supporting this principle agencies should ensure that clear and concise documentation explaining the process and how the final decision was made is available.

Documents

Page reviewed 27 September 2022