Mobilisation of staff during COVID-19 Alert Levels is necessary to ensure the public service continues to deliver on the Government’s elimination strategy in New Zealand.   Getting skilled people to where they are needed most, in a smooth and efficient manner is critical to our effectiveness. Mobility also supports personal and professional development and can provide opportunities for career development across the public service.

This guidance provides mobilisation advice for public service agencies and employees when New Zealand is operating under COVID-19 Alert Levels. This guidance does not override employment agreement entitlements.

Mobility of people may take the form of:

  • temporary deployment (short- or long-term); or
  • permanent redeployment.

The opportunity for long-term deployment or permanent redeployment may also help agencies to limit or avoid the need to make redundancies, enabling retention and development of skilled employees in the public service. This may reduce the time, resources and human impact of structural change programmes as well as the financial impact of that change.

This guidance has been prepared with input from agencies and the Public Service Association (PSA).

Key considerations

The Public Service should operate in a unified way, providing an agile response to events while valuing our public servants and appropriately allocating public funds.

Cross-system deployment adds value for the system, for home and host agency, and for the employee themselves.  Managers are encouraged to support employees to take up these opportunities, where available, balancing system, agency and employee need.

An employee’s employment terms and conditions with their home agency remain the same while they are temporarily deployed to another agency, recognising that the location and hours of work may change.

The home agency will normally continue to pay the employee directly during temporary deployments.  Note – see also section on Ensuring authority/delegation below.

Longer periods of deployment may require alternative approaches (for example, for the host to reimburse the home agency for the cost of the deployed person). Agencies should work closely with their Chief Financial Officer and remain alert to guidance from Treasury with regard to financial treatment of deployment.

Agencies should take into account the individuals’ circumstances and needs when considering deployment. Employees on deployment to another agency are still subject to the Public Service Code of Conduct and the relevant codes of conduct and policies of the home and host agencies.

Deployments may be for short-term support for critical workforces, or for longer periods. The need for deployment will not necessarily be a direct result of COVID-related change.

The home and host agencies’ responsibilities for health and safety arrangements, vetting checks, and provision of equipment continue to apply. Individual responsibility for conduct, recording and reporting hours and other processes, respecting privacy and ensuring security of information also continue to apply.

Ensuring authority/delegation

When a person is temporarily deployed to another agency, it is important to ensure that the necessary appropriations are in place so that the employee cost is funded from the right source. In most cases where the host agency pays for the employee (either by putting them on the host payroll or by reimbursing the home agency for the salary) this isn’t a problem. However, sometimes a situation requires a rapid/immediate deployment where the employee is not being paid from the “appropriation” which is benefitting from their labour/service. For short term emergencies, the home agency may charge this to overhead, but if this continues for longer than a month, you should work with your Finance specialist to ensure that Treasury guidelines are followed and that the cost is charged to a relevant output appropriation.


Temporary deployment – fixed period, followed by return to the home agency

Agencies that are able to release employees to help support other parts of the system or enable a development opportunity to be progressed, need to work with their employees and their unions (where applicable) on the work arrangements that will apply.

The general principle for temporary deployment is that an employee’s core terms and conditions with their home agency remain the same, while recognising that the location and hours of work may change. In general, the employee should not be disadvantaged by the deployment. This includes, if possible, being paid for the normal hours for that employee even if deployment is for fewer hours per week. It could include compensating an employee for additional costs incurred where the deployment involves a change in location. Additional costs arising from the deployment (eg overtime or TOIL accrual, if such an agreement is made) should be met by the host agency.

For longer term temporary deployments agreement will be required around cessation of variable or supplementary payments which are circumstance or event-based such as overtime, shift allowance, unsocial hours payments etc where these are not applicable in the deployment role.

For temporary deployments, the home agency will normally continue to pay the employee directly and agree any invoice/re-charge arrangement with the host employer. For longer term deployments and those to help staff development, the agencies may agree an alternative approach.

Home agency responsibilities

  • Seek employee agreement. The employee’s existing terms and conditions apply.
  • Continue to pay the employees involved and provide necessary payroll and leave administration, taking account of Treasury guidance relating to appropriations. Extended periods are likely to require the host agency to agree to reimbursement of employee cost.
  • Provide the host agency with relevant contact and emergency contact details.
  • Agree health and safety arrangements and procedures with the host agency as both will have Persons Conducting Business or Undertaking (PCBU) responsibilities for the employees being deployed.
  • Only put forward employees that have not been subject to a serious misconduct investigation, concluded and upheld or currently under investigation.
  • Ensure the employee is aware that the ordinary channels for raising a concern about wrongdoing remain open to the employee. This includes the employee’s ability to raise concerns with the home agency while on deployment and to receive support.
  • Provide assurance to the host agency that the employees have relevant police/credit checks where appropriate.
  • Agree a plan with the employee and host agency on how performance will be assessed/development progressed during the deployment to prevent disadvantage.
  • The provision of personal information about the redeployed employee to other agencies requires the agreement of the employee.

Host agency responsibilities

  • Provide a safe and healthy working environment in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Provide clear role responsibilities and accountabilities and role profile for the deployed employee/s including clarity around required competencies.
  • Stay in contact with the home agency regarding any health and safety or disciplinary issues.
  • Provide equipment, security access and training as required.
  • Capture leave and hours worked by deployed employees and notify the home agency to ensure applicable terms and conditions are applied.
  • Escalate any employment relations issues to the home agency contact.
  • Provide structured support for development if a development deployment.
  • Assess performance of the employee in line with agreed approach of home agency.
  • Ensure the employee is aware of the host agency’s applicable policies and procedures including those for Speaking Up.

Individual responsibilities

  • Existing employment terms and conditions apply including adherence to the Public Service Code of Conduct. The host agency will notify home agency if hours or days of work change.
  • Record hours using home agency’s payroll recording mechanisms if required.
  • Notify host agency immediately if feeling unwell and report any health and safety incident or concern as per the process agreed between the host and home agencies.
  • Respect confidentiality for any personal or sensitive information of both agencies.
  • Comply with host agency’s policies.
  • Ensure security of information from both the home and the host agency at all times.
  • For long-term deployments, continue to take leave during the period of deployment (ie not to increase leave liability during the deployment).
  • Declare possible conflicts of interest to the host agency.

Note: Where the temporary deployment is longer term (generally expected to be longer than three months’ duration), home and host agencies may wish to modify some of their responsibilities but must ensure all arrangements are clear for all parties to the deployment.

Permanent redeployment/appointment to a new employer

Agencies are encouraged to make opportunities visible and available to employees in the sector, through the Te Kawa Mataaho Workforce Mobility Hub. Agencies are strongly encouraged to consider public service people at risk of redundancy before wider external advertising.

Permanent “redeployment” to another employer is made through offer and acceptance. An individual’s entitlement to redundancy payment may be affected by an offer of redeployment – agencies should seek their own legal advice in these cases.

Te Kawa Mataaho Workforce Mobility Hub

The Workforce Mobility Hub provides central coordination of requests across the public service by brokering between the agency requiring urgent resources and those agencies that can supply these resources working with nominated Agency Workforce Leads.  Ongoing management and support for deployed people remains with and is shared by both home and host agencies.

The Workforce Mobility Hub can be contacted at: deployment@publicservice.govt.nz.

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