CPSU in the news

Home Affairs Department staff morale low in census results – Canberra Times, Doug Dingwall

Home Affairs Department staff have given a blistering assessment of their workplace in a set of employee census results flagging low morale in the agency.

The department's staff are less likely to be proud to work at their agency or recommend it as a good place to work compared to bureaucrats at other large public service workplaces, the results show.

Federal government agencies on Wednesday released the findings of their 2020 employee surveys, conducted during the public service's response to the health and economic crises of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home Affairs received below-average ratings from workers quizzed on their views of workplace culture, staff inclusion, and workplace conditions.

Less than half of respondents said they were fairly remunerated for their work, and satisfaction with non-monetary employment conditions was below that for other public service agencies.

Only half of the staff surveyed said they would recommend their agency as a good place to work - 18 percentage points less than the rest of the APS overall. Less than half of the respondents said their agency inspired them to do their best work every day.

About 40 per cent of respondents said staff were consulted about change at work, and that internal communication with the agency was effective.

Half of the staff responding to the census survey agreed that the Black Summer bushfires and the COVID-19 crisis clarified their sense of purpose in working for the APS, a result that was below the public service's overall.  

Community and Public Sector Union deputy national president Brooke Muscat said it was not surprised by the results indicating low morale shown in Home Affairs.

"Home Affairs management routinely display contempt for their workforce, and despite returning census results like this year after year, refuse to acknowledge the impact poor management has on the safety and confidence of staff," she said.

"Our members in Home Affairs do important and sometimes dangerous jobs, they have real concerns for their workplace health and safety and are pleading with the minister and department to act on important issues like commuted marine allowance and safety at sea."

The Home Affairs Department said that its census results had improved across all themes and on almost all comparable questions from 2019.

"This is the key measure for the department we are improving on our own previous results. We have also seen greater improvement in some areas, than the broader APS," a spokesperson said.

"Feedback shows that areas requiring ongoing focus are consistent with the focus areas identified in our corporate planning documents, including strategic leadership, people and culture, as well as capable collaboration and engagement."

The APS employee census measures the views of public servants about job satisfaction, leadership, employee engagement, and well-being in the public service.

Public service commissioner Peter Woolcott said agencies had shared the results to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accountability, and that the 2020 census was shaped to reflect the environment of COVID-19.

"It was like no census we have seen before, so it was encouraging to see nearly 80 per cent of agencies have elected to share their results publicly," he said.

The public service commission said the 2020 census showed increases in positive perceptions among staff of effective communication, senior leadership, change management, and employee engagement. Almost half of all respondents indicated their productivity had improved since COVID-19.