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Agri College News: Department of Agriculture Investigates Sickies.
Canberra: The Department of Agriculture has pinpointed its high number of sickies as a significant challenge going into 2016.
The organisation had launched an investigation into why it ranked so badly, with some reports in the past year saying it was the third-worst in the public service for unscheduled absences, according to department's 2014-15 annual report. The report also says investigating the causes was a difficult task because of Agriculture's diverse workforce, which included biosecurity officers, meat inspectors, veterinary officers and staff located in overseas offices who had complex attendance patterns.
New leave management guidelines were being given to managers to help them better deal with staff not turning up to their jobs.
The report says "The department is reviewing arrangements for shift workers to improve access to leave during peak periods. We have also reviewed training and development to enable flexible staff deployment while meeting operational demands."
The department also revealed its internal redeployment register was not able to fill all job vacancies with people who had put their names on the list. The register was set up during a redundancy program in 2014-15 to give staff in cost-pressured business areas the chance to move to a job in another part of the organisation.
The report also says, the register listed staff with a variety of experience in different fields but due to demand for staff with specific skill sets, not all vacancies within the department could be filled from the register and broader expressions of interest were advertised internally.
Despite a small number of challenges the department also named a number of clear victories. According to department, it was pleased with its ability to continue serving taxpayers in the face of large disruptions, a facet that was tested for several weeks in April when severe thunderstorms in Sydney damaged the central east region office.
Agriculture has also pushed hard to raise the profile of Minister Barnaby Joyce by increasing the number of its media releases by 39 per cent and the volume of speaking materials by 186 percent. This in turn led to 41 percent more correspondence last financial year compared to 2013-14. The department continued its five-year trend of reducing the number of compensation claims made to and accepted by Comcare mainly through its policy to manage minor workplace incidents internally.
In August 2014, Agriculture introduced a new performance appraisal model which had the flexibility to be used during and after future organisational change.
For the first time created consistency across the department by bringing all non-SES staff into the same performance system.
The model concentrates on productivity, participation, communication and development.