Involuntary reduction in classification - Not offering a voluntary redundancy as an alternative to reclassification to a lower level

An employee sought review of a decision to reduce her classification under section 23(4)(c) of the Public Service Act 1999 as the employee was considered excess at the higher classification.

Following a review, the agency determined that administrative work performed by the employee and others at the APS 4 level was more appropriately classified at the APS 3 level. The employee was considered for redeployment but was unable to find a suitable APS 4 position. The employee was subsequently declared excess and remained on the agency and APS redeployment registers during the retention period provided for in the agency enterprise agreement. The employee was unsuccessful in obtaining an alternative role at the APS 4 level by the conclusion of the retention period, and her classification was reduced to the APS 3 level.

On review, the employee sought reinstatement to the APS 4 classification and an offer of a voluntary redundancy. The employee argued that she should have been offered a voluntary redundancy if the agency had been unable to redeploy her at her classification.

A decision to offer an employee a voluntary redundancy is a resourcing decision and as such is not reviewable by the Merit Protection Commissioner in accordance with Item 1, Schedule 1 of the Public Service Regulations 1999.

Section 23(4) of the Public Service Act gives agency heads the power to reduce the classification of an APS employee, without the employee's consent, including on the ground that the employee is excess to the requirements of the agency at the higher classification. The employee believed she should have been offered a voluntary redundancy. The agency's enterprise agreement provided that an offer of a voluntary redundancy need not be made in circumstances where the employee's employment will not be terminated at the end of the retention period. A reduction in classification was an appropriate option as there was still a requirement for staff to perform the administrative support functions at the APS 3 level.

The employee also expressed concern that she may face discrimination when applying for promotion because of the reclassification. The Merit Protection Commissioner considered this unlikely as there was no evidence to suggest the reduction in classification was in any way related to concerns about the employee's performance at the APS 4 level.

The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that the agency had followed the procedures in its enterprise agreement prior to reducing the employee's classification, as it was required to under subsection 23(5) of the Public Service Act. The agency engaged in appropriate consultation with the employee and actively assisted her to seek redeployment at the APS 4 level. The employee was provided with the required retention period following the declaration that she was excess. Consistent with the provisions of the Act, her consent to the reduction was not required. The Merit Protection Commissioner was satisfied that the decision to reduce the employee's classification was made in accordance with the Act and the provisions for the management of excess employees in the agency's enterprise agreement, and was the correct decision.