Review case—application for extension of term transfer

An employee working in a small regional office on a term transfer arrangement sought an extension for compassionate reasons. The main reason was that his aged mother had health issues and needed his support. Other reasons included that members of his immediate family had health and educational needs that would be disrupted by moving.

The employee had worked in the regional centre for nine out of the past 11 years, a period much longer than was contemplated by the agency term transfer policy. The agency policy provided for a maximum of three years. The employee was seeking a further extension, arguing that his circumstances were exceptional. The agency was intending to move the employee to a position in the capital city in the same State, a distance of 1,700 kilometres from his term transfer location.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the agency policy on term transfers was quite clear—the agency's business requirements drove the decision to offer term transfers. These business requirements included externally driven demand for the agency's services, workforce planning requirements at a regional level, and the requirement to continually refresh the workforce in small regional operations to avoid employees becoming entrenched and increasing the opportunities for fraud and corruption.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that medical evidence suggested that the employee's mother had a range of health problems common to old age and that she lived independently in her own home. The employee was her only son but his mother had other relatives and friends and access to both health and community services in a large regional centre. The Merit Protection Commissioner also noted that while the needs of elderly parents invite sympathy, the circumstances of the employee and his mother were not exceptional as many Australian families have elderly parents living in different cities from their adult children.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the needs of other members of the employee's immediate family had arisen because the family was now permanently settled in the regional centre as a result of the employee continually extending his term transfer.

The Merit Protection Commissioner concluded that the employee's circumstances were not exceptional and it was fair and reasonable that the agency gave greater weight to its business interests than the employee's personal circumstances in declining a further extension of the term transfer.