About the Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner
The Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner (Parliamentary Service MPC) is an independent statutory office holder established under Part 6 the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 (the Act) to perform duties and functions for the Parliamentary Service. These mirror the duties and functions of the Australian Public Service Merit Protection Commissioner under the Public Service Act 1999.
The Parliamentary Service MPC aims to assist parliamentary service departments to meet their obligations to provide a fair, flexible, safe and rewarding workplace. It does so by providing an independent system of review of employment- related decisions. The Parliamentary Service MPC also has complaint and inquiries functions and can provide recruitment and employment-related advice and services.
About the office of the Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner
The staff who work with the Parliamentary Service MPC are employees of the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission). Under Section 49(2) of the Public Service Act 1999, the Australian Public Service Commissioner must make staff available to assist the Parliamentary Service MPC to exercise its functions. Under this arrangement, staff are accountable to the Parliamentary Service MPC. The Commission provides all corporate support and services to the Parliamentary Service MPC. There is no separate budget appropriation for the Parliamentary Service MPC.
Statutory functions and responsibilities
The following statutory functions of the Parliamentary Service MPC are set out in the Act and in the Parliamentary Service Determination 2013.
Review of action scheme
Parliamentary Service employees are entitled to seek a review of an action or decision that relates to their employment (excluding termination). Three types of reviews are available:
- Review of a promotion decision(promotion review)
A decision by a Parliamentary Service Secretary to promote a Parliamentary Service employee to a classification mentioned in groups 1 to 6 in Schedule 1 to the Public Service Classification Rules 2010, or to engage an ongoing APS employee as an ongoing Parliamentary Service employee at a higher classification mentioned in any of the groups 1 to 6.
- Direct review of a decision or an action \(Parliamentary Service MPC direct review) These are:
- determinations about a breach of the Code of Conduct and resulting sanction decision
- an action or decision where it was not appropriate for the department to conduct an internal review, such as when the Secretary was involved, the action was very serious, or when the action was alleged to be retribution for having previously applied for review of an action
- a review of an action taken by a statutory officer who is managing the employee.
- Review of an action following an internal review (Parliamentary Service MPC secondary review): When a Parliamentary Service employee is required to seek an internal review by their department before seeking a review from the Parliamentary Service MPC. Disputes about leave applications, performance reviews and flexible working arrangements mostly fall within this category. An employee can also apply for a secondary review if the department refuses to conduct an internal review on the grounds their action was not reviewable.
Independent Selection Advisory Committee
If asked to do so, the Parliamentary Service MPC may assist a Parliamentary Service Secretary with a recruitment process by establishing an Independent Selection Advisory Committee (ISAC). An ISAC can perform a staff selection exercise and make recommendations about the suitability of candidates for engagement or promotion (for classifications mentioned in any Groups 1 to 6). Any promotion or engagement decision resulting from an ISAC recommendation are excluded from the scheme and cannot be reviewed. The Parliamentary Service MPC will usually recover the cost for this service.
Inquiry and complaint functions
Former Parliamentary Service employees can ask the Parliamentary Service MPC to investigate a complaint about the entitlements received on leaving the service.
The Parliamentary Service MPC may also conduct inquiries into allegations that are:
- public interest disclosures relating to a breach of the Code of Conduct by employees of the Parliamentary Service
- a breach of the Code of Conduct by the Parliamentary Service Commissioner
- at the request of the Presiding Officer into an action by the Parliamentary Service
- a breach of the Code of Conduct by Parliamentary Service employees.
Performance and outcomes
During 2021–22, the Parliamentary Service MPC did not receive any applications from a Parliamentary Service employee under the Review of Actions scheme. This is consistent with previous financial years where review numbers were nil or generally low.
The Parliamentary Service MPC did not receive any requests to form an ISAC nor any complaints.
No inquiries were conducted. Table 1 details the number of applications received from Parliamentary Service employees from 2017–18 to 2021–22.
Table 1: Number of applications by statutory function from 2017–18 to 2021–22
|Applications for review of a workplace action received||0||0||1||1||0|
|Applications for promotion and engagement decisions received||0||3||0||0||0|
The Parliamentary Service MPC completed a review that was on hand as of 1 July 2022. The Parliamentary Service MPC recommended that the original decision be varied, and this was accepted and implemented. Table 2 shows the number of reviews of workplace decisions and their outcomes from 2017–18 to 2021–22.
Table 2: Review of workplace decisions completed and outcomes from 2017–18 to 2021–22
In 2021–22, the Parliamentary Service MPC, through a range of strategies, continued to focus on improving ways of working and communicating with its stakeholders more effectively.
Increasing awareness of the entitlement to seek a review is critical to achieving the vision of the Parliamentary Service MPC, which is to support and contribute to safe, productive and harmonious workplaces in the APS and Parliamentary Service.
In 2020–21, the Parliamentary Service MPC piloted the Reach Out program for public sector employees to highlight key information about the review of workplace decisions and promotion decisions. The very effective pilot was developed into a calendar-year program of webinars and workshops, launched in February 2022. Reach Out continues to be further developed and refined.
The webinars are an effective way to introduce the Review of Actions scheme and the role of the Parliamentary Service MPC to new employees. Equally important, they are awareness sessions for existing employees, either as refresher training or for those who may not have received information during their induction about the scheme or Parliamentary Service MPC functions. Departments continued to be encouraged to incorporate webinar attendance into induction programs and promote attendance to existing employees.
The Parliamentary Service MPC attended 3 meetings of the Parliamentary Information Communications and Technology Advisory Board as the representative of the Commissioner.
The Parliamentary Service MPC met with the Secretary of the Department of the Parliamentary Services on 2 occasions.
Staff of the Parliamentary Service MPC gave a presentation to the Department of the House of Representatives on the role and function of the MPC. The Parliamentary Service MPC also presented to the Senior Executive team of the Department of the House of Representatives on good decision-making with a focus on procedural fairness and performance management.
On 6 September 2021, the Parliamentary Service MPC launched a new website – www.mpc.gov.au. It included refreshed content and improved navigation for key stakeholders.
Main features of the new website include:
- extensive review and refresh of content and resources
- simplified online application forms accessible from the landing page, making it easier for employees to apply for a review, or to lodge a complaint about final entitlements
- webinar registration page for employees to sign up to join information sessions on the Review of Actions scheme
- video explainers to better communicate eligibility and the Parliamentary Service MPC’s role in supporting employees.
Tip sheets and video explainer
Through its review casework, the Parliamentary Service MPC identified the need for guidance material. Subsequently, 2 tip sheets were developed and published:
- Determining review eligibility – for agency decision makers holding a delegation to determine if an application from an employee for a review under Section 33 of the Act is reviewable.
- Drafting formal directions – for human resources practitioners and managers considering issuing a formal direction to an employee to assist them with framing clear and comprehensible directions.
The Parliamentary Service MPC also developed and published 4 short entertaining and informative video explainers that can be viewed on its website. To better communicate with stakeholders, the Parliamentary Service MPC developed these to set out expectations and the steps required for:
- the entitlement to apply for a review of workplace decisions
- the entitlement to apply for a promotion review
- how performance management decisions are reviewed
- how breaches of the Code of Conduct or decisions to impose a sanction are reviewed.
The year ahead
The Parliamentary Service strives to be a model employer. This objective is underpinned by the Parliamentary Service Values and Employment Principles enshrined in the Act. The Parliamentary Service MPC plays an important role in ensuring that these values and principles are ‘lived’ and complied with both by employees and agencies. The Parliamentary Service MPC and the Review of Actions scheme also form part of the broader Parliamentary Service integrity framework.
Key priorities are driven by the statutory functions the Parliamentary Service MPC performs.
Priorities are informed by the challenges and trends facing the Parliamentary Service. In 2022–23, the Parliamentary Service MPC will continue to provide guidance on good practice in decision making and people management and conduct effective and expert reviews. It will do this through the activities listed below.
Engaging with and supporting stakeholders
- Implement a targeted communication and engagement strategy to better engage with stakeholders
- Continue to implement and refine the Reach Out program with a focus on the webinar sessions to raise public sector employee awareness of their entitlements and how the Review of Actions scheme operates
- Inform the Parliamentary Service about MPC services that can assist with the conduct of high-quality recruitment processes (for example, Independent Selection Advisory Committees and provision of highly experienced recruitment panel convenors and members)
- Continue to inform the Parliamentary Service and its employees of new initiatives, projects and resources.
Delivering new services and resources
- Develop a suite of online information and training products to support a range of statutory functions for educational and awareness-raising purposes.
- Start a project about merit policy and its implementation. A key focus will be on translating promotion review outcomes into services or resources to assist the Parliamentary Service with the evolution and development of modern recruitment practices, and to engage with the Commission and/or public sector reform processes relating to recruitment and merit- based selection and appointment.
- Publish new tip sheets, case studies and other resources for decision makers and employees.
Improving ways of working
- Undertake a post-implementation review to identify enhancements to further refine the website’s content and functionality. The Parliamentary Service MPC plans to have regard to user experience and feedback and relevant data analytics in identifying website improvements.
- Identify and implement a software solution to better manage promotion review applications and cases.
- Continue to receive and use feedback about reviews of workplace decisions from applicants and agencies to inform Parliamentary Service MPC work and continuously improve.
- Develop a Parliamentary Service MPC business continuity plan to operate in conjunction with the Commission’s business continuity plan.