US feds remote working stats, Australian officials underpaid by $400,000, and Ireland’s ‘constipated’ civil service: management & workplace news roundup

By on 13/01/2022 | Updated on 01/02/2022

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of all the news you need to know but might have missed

Nearly half of US federal employees worked remotely in the government’s 2020 fiscal year

According to data published by the US federal government’s Office of Personnel Management, 45% of all US federal employees worked remotely at some point during its 2020 fiscal year, which ran from October 2019 to the end of September 2020.

The data is published in the annual Status of Telework in the Federal Government Report to Congress report but, as OPM director Kiran Ahuja noted, this latest publication is the first to cover the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, when many employees were instructed to work from home.

“Yet just as federal employees have always done, they rose to the occasion and demonstrated their resiliency,” she said. “Agencies carried out their missions effectively, and Federal employees continued to perform their jobs, at the highest level, from locations other than their regular duty station, apart from their managers, supervisors, and colleagues.”

She said that telework and remote working formed a “critical component of this success”, adding that “agencies used telework as a strategic management tool to enhance their capability to achieve critical outcomes during an unprecedented time.

“Where appropriate, agencies throughout the federal government expanded telework to the maximum extent possible to protect the health and safety of the federal workforce and the American people. Indeed, 90% of eligible federal employees participated in telework – a significant increase compared to previous years.”

The report was published as Ahuja also confirmed that full implementation of a  skills-based recruitment reforms in US federal government would be delayed to the end of 2022. The reform requires US government agencies to hire candidates based on skills and expertise in fields relevant to a position.

Significant change at the top of the Canadian public service

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced 18 changes in the senior ranks of the public service, with four top-rank officials among those switching departments.

The moves of deputy ministers – the role equivalent to permanent secretaries in the UK and departmental secretaries in Australia – includes Graham Flack, formerly the deputy minister of employment and social development, who has become secretary of the Treasury Board, the principle employer of Canadian public servants, where he replaces the retiring Peter Wallace.

Jean-François Tremblay, ex-deputy minister of Natural Resources, has succeeded Flack as the department head at Employment and Social Development Canada, while John Hannaford, the deputy minister of International Trade before the changes, has stepped into Tremblay’s shoes at Natural Resources Canada. Bill Matthews, formerly the deputy minister of public services and procurement, has moved to the Department of National Defence.

You can read the changes in full here

Australian public servants underpayments revealed

An Australian government department has been underpaying staff by hundreds of thousands of Australian dollars for media monitoring work done outside work hours.

The Department of Social Services underpaid 67 staff, including both former and serving employees, according to documents revealed under freedom of information rules. The officials were due both overtime and meal allowances agreed to in their EBA totalling about AS$400,000.

In a letter to the Australian Public Service Commission, the department said staff were now being correctly paid and an external accounting firm had undertaken an independent review to find the total amount of underpayments.

The former and current employees were due to receive the underpayments as a lump sum by the end of April 2021, the letter said.

Sinn Fein leader takes aim at ‘constipated’ public and civil service

The leader of the main opposition party in Ireland has said that public sector officials need a “jolt” to become more efficient.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mary Lou McDonald said there was immense talent in the country’s public administration, “but we have, in many respects, a system that is constipated, a system that is slow, and a system that needs to be jolted into more efficient actions.”

Sinn Fein leads in polls on who would form the next Irish government, and McDonald set her sights on civil service reform if she became the country’s leader.

“I think that will be one of our biggest challenges if we get the opportunity to be in government. We’re very clear that systemically and in terms of the processes of government and public policy that we need to have a very sharp focus on that and we need to speed things up.”

McDonald highlighted issue such as slow recruitment in the health service and planning delays for capital projects as illustrating that the country has “not found the art of balancing efficiency and due diligence”. She added: “We shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other, we need both, because obviously when you’re dealing with public resources and systems, public monies, you need to be sure that you have the right accountability, that the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, but things can take forever.”

About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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