COVID-19 is causing a shift in demand for services and reduction in revenue in a number of public sector agencies. Some have seen demand increase, while others will be facing a short or medium-term downturn. To date, under Alert Levels 3 and 4 we have asked all agencies to provide all staff with special leave where the staff cannot work (including from home) or be redeployed. We recognise it may not be possible for all agencies to continue this as we move to Alert Level 2 and beyond.

This provides principles and guidance to support agencies that need to actively manage workforce pressures for their permanently employed workforce arising from changes or decreases in demand related to COVID-19.

This advice is primarily for core Public Service agencies but is provided as general guidance to the wider State services, excluding the Health and Education sectors.

Principles:

  • Retention of skilled public servants in employment wherever possible is a priority at the present time.
  • Restructuring primarily as a result of COVID-19 (volume, revenue drops or other related reasons) that might lead to redundancy should be avoided for the next three to four months.
  • Temporary measures should be considered to lessen the impact of funding pressures while retaining staff in employment.
  • Proposals for changed staffing arrangements should be developed and agreed with staff impacted and their union/s.
  • Options including secondments and deployment to alternative roles in the agency or across the system should be considered in preference to redundancy.

Detailed guidance

  • Over the next few months we are encouraging agencies not to implement processes to permanently restructure or actively reduce the size of their workforce as a result of changes in demand due to the impact of COVID-19. Pausing will allow time to better estimate the longer-term impact of COVID‑19 changes and the timeframe for a potential return to more settled work volumes.
  • Non-COVID related change programmes can continue, in line with your agency’s usual polices and employment agreement processes.
  • Agencies that see a reduction in demand for services and therefore workload are encouraged to take steps to temporarily manage that change while longer term measures are explored. The preferred approach is for agencies to consider a range of options to manage excess staffing including identifying opportunities for redeployment within the home agency or the wider State sector.
  • Any agency starting to consider measures to manage excess staffing must engage with their staff and unions on the approach proposed in line with change management provisions in employment agreements.
  • Agencies may want to consider options including those outlined below:
    • Pausing recruitment processes where there is no immediate need to recruit.
    • Using available vacancies for internal deployment, including training and retraining where needed.
    • Temporary change in roles or location of work.
    • The use of TOIL or other leave relating to working arrangements.
    • Enable staff to use any annual leave entitlement.
    • Temporary reduction or change in hours for permanent hours staff (with associated reduction in remuneration), to no less than 80 percent of the employee’s stipulated work hours.
    • Reduction in hours for variable hours staff, in line with their agreements.
    • Temporary job-sharing arrangements to accommodate a reduction in hours.
    • Longer term furlough periods or agree Leave Without Pay arrangements with an undertaking to accommodate return to a role in the agency following that period.
    • Allowing voluntary terminations by staff who do not intend to re-enter the workforce, including early retirement where the value of the package does not exceed any redundancy entitlement in the employment agreement.
    • Consideration of other options that may arise through discussions with staff and their union.
  • Agencies are encouraged to consider the different impacts of the options on the different groups of employees eg. women, Māori, Pacific.
  • Where workforces are temporarily redeployed, we are encouraging agencies to take steps to ensure that their workforces remain connected to their home agency and are able to return to their home agency when demand for services increases again.
  • Permanent redeployment to available vacancies in other agencies should be considered where the reduction in staffing is likely to be long term.

SSC supported deployment

Our overarching goal is to ensure through the period of adjustment and change ahead that we work together to ensure skilled public servants are retained in roles across the system.

Following the work done by the Critical Workforce team as part of the response to COVID-19 which is winding down, SSC has stood up a ‘System Workforce Deployment Update’ newsletter as an interim solution to provide workforce deployment support. This newsletter will assist agencies with available resources to connect with agencies with resourcing needs where recruitment is planned or getting underway. We expect this approach will evolve over time and as our new landscape becomes clearer.  For queries on the deployment service please email deployment@publicservice.govt.nz.

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