COVID-19: How the APS workforce is preparing

By Shannon Jenkins

March 20, 2020


Agencies and departments across the Australian Public Service have been implementing a range of measures to ensure employees can continue to work if the coronavirus pandemic worsens, while the federal health minister has issued public servants a message.

A spokesperson from the Australian Public Service Commission’s COVID-19 taskforce told The Mandarin that employers have been implementing “sensible rostering arrangements” in their workplaces.

“APS agencies are enacting business-continuity plans to help minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and are carefully monitoring the situation in relation to COVID-19 and continue to take advice from local health authorities, the Chief Medical Officer and the Department of Health,” they said.

“At the agency level, arrangements include increased use of remote working, rostering arrangements and physical separation between employees. These are in addition to other sensible work practices, such as increased use of telephone and video conferencing, and structuring management teams to ensure contingency in the event of a confirmed or suspected case.

“Agencies are also putting in place mechanisms to support staff as working arrangements evolve in response to COVID-19.”

When asked if there would be enough bandwidth or equipment — such as laptops — for the majority of the APS to feasibly work remotely, the APSC spokesperson asserted that working from home for public servants “is not new”.

“Remote access is a standard practice across APS agencies and agencies are well-placed to deploy technological solutions to assist with management of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.

Meanwhile, Health minister Greg Hunt has thanked the “magnificent” APS workforce for their service and dedication.

“The stresses and strains are real,” he wrote in a letter on Friday.

“Many of you are working around the clock, literally. We could not be more appreciative or thankful. The two words public and service have never been more linked nor more apt.”

He noted that many APS staff have their own families to care for or “be worried about”.

“We know that working arrangements will change, that some will be ill or caring for others. As we support the country, can I equally urge each of us to support each other,” he stated.

“You are magnificent and I am honoured to work with you as are all of the members of the Cabinet. Take care and let us together do all we can to care for each other and to help Australia and Australians get through the coming six months.”


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