Our people

Our People strategy 2009-12 identifies priorities for our people system, to shape our future employment environment and workforce.

Our workforce

We are one of the largest public service employers in Australia. At 30 June 2011 we employed 25,009 ongoing, non-ongoing and casual employees under the Public Service Act 1999. Our workforce occupied 61 sites across the country, including our National Office in Canberra.

At 30 June 2010-11:

  • we had 25,009 employees (ongoing, non-ongoing and casual)
  • 89% of our employees were ongoing
  • 88% of our employees were located in capital cities
  • the average age was just over 43 years
  • women represented 56% of our workforce
  • 81% worked full time
  • 5,957 of employees were born outside Australia
  • the average length of service of our employees was 12.2 years
  • 54% of our employees had tertiary qualifications
  • 62% of employees were 40 years or older
  • 2% of employees were people with a disability
  • 0.6% of employees were Indigenous

Looking to the future

In 2011, 403 people commenced our graduate program, up from 167 in 2010.

Over 97% of graduates recently completing the program said they would recommend it to others.

Julian Panetta, a law, finance and taxation graduate in 2010, said:

Although the graduate program requires considerable work, determination and perseverance, I was able to enjoy a balanced personal and social life outside the office.

I cannot recommend the program highly enough to any graduate who is looking for an excellent place to launch their career.

The program received external recognition in the Australian Association of Graduate Employers candidate survey 2011. The report ranked our program third in the 'Aspirational employer of choice' category, behind Google and Deloitte - a significant jump from 11th place in 2010.

We also rated highly in several other categories: first for 'best graduate program' in the individual career sector in Australian Government, third for 'best opportunities for graduates', and fifth for 'best recruitment process' (the only public sector organisation in the top 10 employers). This reflects our commitment to improving and achieving best practice.

Since 2005 1,716 graduates have completed the program. Of these, 1,400 still work for us. This retention rate of 81.5% is above retention rates of other graduate programs.

Recruitment, retention and separations

This year we had 5,673 new employees, including ongoing, non-ongoing and casuals, compared to 2,772 in 2009-10.

The average length of service of our ongoing employees is 12.2 years, a reduction from an average of 12.7 years in 2009-10.

However, we still have many long-serving employees, with 5,890 employees having over 20 years of service at 30 June 2011.

Employee turnover was slightly higher than last year - we had a 5.7% separation rate for ongoing employees, compared to 5.5% in 2009-10.

This year we recruited more than 400 graduates, our largest ever intake. We received applications from all states and universities across a variety of fields.

We also introduced an APS1 program to provide entry level opportunities.

Our executive assistant development program is another way we are attracting new employees, with 18 APS2 executive assistants placed across our organisation during the year.

A series of tables in Appendix 7 show the size, location and make-up of our workforce. This includes a breakdown of employees by gender and classification, their area of the organisation and location.

Providing entry level opportunities

This year we began a project to provide entry level opportunities to help build our workforce capability for the future.

We conducted a national recruitment campaign for APS1 officers, attracting almost 6,000 applicants.

In its first intake we placed 126 APS1 employees in a range of positions across major metropolitan areas and some regional sites.

Employees joining us through this program receive training and are mentored by experienced staff.

Our executive assistants program is another way we are attracting new employees, with 18 APS2 executive assistants placed across the ATO during the year.

Learning and development

From 1 July 2010 we significantly changed our approach to learning and development - adopting a centralised framework.

Our new approach provides an enterprise-wide view of learning and development, including ATO-wide reporting, standardised processes, and integration of our learning-management information technology system with our human resources system.

During the transition we continued to deliver on our learning and development priorities, with over 78,000 attendances at learning and development activities.

In 2010-11 we focused on:

  • induction and job-ready programs for new recruits
  • support for workforce shifts
  • support for the implementation of new legislation
  • providing leadership development programs.

We continued to adopt e-learning products, including podcasts, webcasts, avatars and the collaboration tool, Communicator. These support a continuing internal cultural shift to electronic, self-directed learning and away from a face-to-face approach.

We rolled out a new career management strategy across our Corporate Services and Law Sub-plan, capturing information on 66 SES Band 1s and 358 EL2s across five business lines. We are investigating targeted development options for people we identified as likely to progress to more senior roles. We plan to roll out our career management strategy to all our SES Band 1s in 2011-12.

Employee engagement

We conducted our first employee engagement survey in 2009-10. Our engagement survey suggested that our people are generally committed, skilled and enthusiastic about the important work they do for the wellbeing of Australians. Our people are guided in their actions by our corporate values.

We targeted our activities specifically on training and career development, leadership and managing change, as well as focusing on sites where results were lower than the overall result.

Surveys indicate some early success in our approach, with demonstrable improvements in employee perceptions. Sixty-six per cent of respondents indicated they used engagement survey results to guide improvements and 60% have noticed improvement since the 2009 survey.

We are planning our next engagement survey and we expect to conduct it later in 2011.

Innovation is everyone's business

Over the past five years, we have been reinforcing the notion that innovation is not simply the responsibility of one area of the organisation - it is everyone's business.

For us, successful innovation is based on a foundation of senior leadership sponsorship, business engagement, best practice methods, tools and techniques. It also requires an engaged workforce and a supportive culture.

In 2010-11, to further drive, support and encourage a culture of innovation, we established an innovation centre of expertise.

By developing a more structured approach to help harness and bring to life the ideas and contributions our employees make, we are improving our productivity and helping progress the longer term vision of our strategic statement.

We now have a toolkit to assist managers and employees and in August 2011 we developed our ideas management system. Now everyone will have the opportunity to contribute and view their innovative ideas and see how they are progressing.

Workforce planning

A key challenge in meeting government and community expectations into the future is sustaining and adapting our workforce.

To help achieve this, some of our key activities in 2010-11 were:

  • bargaining for our enterprise agreement 2011
  • refining our resource plan
  • developing consistent job profiles, descriptions and duty statements to strengthen and streamline our recruitment efforts
  • aligning job profiles to learning products and our performance system.

Job profiling

At 30 June 2011 we assigned our 25,009 employees to 15 occupation groups. The most common occupational groups were auditing and customer service, and the most common classification was APS3. For more information, see Appendix 7.

Consultation with unions and employees

The National Consultative Forum is our main avenue for consulting with our unions and staff representatives.

Under the Australian Government employment bargaining framework we were one of the first Australian Public Service agencies to develop a framework outlining the responsibilities and obligations of union delegates within the workplace. This framework comprehensively sets out consultation arrangements and obligations, from team level to the national consultative forum level.

Workplace agreements

Collective agreements

Currently we have two agency agreements - the ATO (Executive Level 2) Agreement 2009 and the ATO (General Employees) Agreement 2009. Both commenced on 8 July 2009. The general employees agreement expired on 30 June 2011 and the Executive Level 2 agreement is due to expire on 30 June 2012. The terms and conditions under the ATO (General Employees) Agreement 2009 and the ATO (EL2 Employees) Agreement 2009 apply until a new agreement replaces them.

TABLE 6.1: ATO collective agreements, at 30 June 2011

Employee level


EL2 employees


General employees




Includes casual employees at 30 June 2011.

The definition of a general employee is APS1 to EL1, valuer in training, and valuer.

In accordance with the government's bargaining framework it is proposed that the new enterprise agreement would cover both EL2 and general employees.

Bargaining for the 2011 enterprise agreement commenced on 14 April 2011 and an agreement was subsequently put to an all-staff vote on 27 June 2011.

The vote period ran from 27 to 30 June 2011. Overall around 74% of eligible employees cast votes and approximately 59% of votes, voted against the proposed agreement. The main concern being the 9% pay offer over three years.

Since then we surveyed staff to determine the main reasons for how they voted. We also continued good faith bargaining with unions (Australian Services Union, Community and Public Service Union and Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance) and 21 bargaining representatives (including new representatives). We have raised questions of affordability, but continue to look for areas where extra productivity savings could be found.

Individual agreements

At 30 June 2011 only three EL2s and one general employee worked under individual arrangements. However, 256 senior executive service employees worked under these flexible arrangements.

TABLE 6.2: Individual agreements, 2010-11


Individual workplace arrangements

Australian workplace agreements

Senior Executive Service (SES)



EL2 employees



General employees






Remuneration and performance

Employee remuneration

In 2010-11 the salaries for our non-SES employees ranged from $13,969 (cadets undertaking study) up to $130,957 (EL2 employees). Notional total remuneration ranges from $16,142 to $151,326, including salary for superannuation purposes based on 101% of base rate pay.

Base rates of pay are set for non-SES employees within the current agreements, with provision for salary advancement subject to satisfactory performance.

Salary advancement for EL2 employees is subject to meeting criteria for growth, experience and contribution.

Senior executive remuneration

The Remuneration Tribunal sets remuneration and conditions for the Commissioner, while the Commissioner determines the remuneration for Second Commissioners within a framework set by the tribunal.

The Commissioner sets remuneration and conditions for our SES based on advice from our remuneration committee.

Remuneration for these senior executives is determined with reference to the annual Australian Public Service remuneration survey conducted by the Australian Public Service Commission.

In 2010-11 the salary ranges for senior executives were:

  • SES Band 1: $139,261 - $164,625 (notional total remuneration $189,506 to $219,012)
  • SES Band 2: $177,945 - $204,350 (notional total remuneration $235,626 to $266,342)

Total remuneration includes a notional component for the provision of a motor vehicle and parking and for superannuation calculated on salary at 106% of base rate of pay. These benefits are included in the total remuneration ranges listed above.

For more information see note 13 to our financial statements.

Productivity gains

In 2009-10 we narrowly failed to achieve all of our targeted corporate outcomes. Taking this into account, but recognising 2009-10 as one of major change and platform building, we made one pay rise of 3.25% during 2010-11. We made this pay rise under the terms of the existing collective agreement and based on productivity improvements.

Non-salary benefits

We provide the following non-salary benefits to our employees:

  • senior executives: a motor vehicle allowance, which may be used for a privately plated motor vehicle for private and official use; parking at work; mobile phone and laptop and airline lounge membership, if eight or more return trips are planned for the year
  • EL2 employees: payment of a taxable annual allowance of $1,500 to enable them to purchase items or services that maintain or increase their professionalism; and airline lounge membership, if eight or more return trips are planned for the year
  • both EL2 and general employees may be eligible for a health and wellbeing taxable allowance of $300 each financial year to help meet the costs of activities or equipment that assists them to maintain health and fitness
  • general employees: airline lounge membership for employees undertaking 12 or more return trips in a year.

Salary packaging

All ongoing employees have access to salary packaging of the following items:

  • cars and utility vehicles, with fringe benefits tax applicable
  • car parking we provide on premises we own, lease or otherwise control, with fringe benefits tax applicable
  • superannuation, self only, exempt from fringe benefits tax
  • airline lounge membership fees, exempt from fringe benefits tax
  • work-related professional association membership fees, exempt from fringe benefits tax.

Non-ongoing employees employed before 9 July 2009 also have access to these items, with the exception of cars and utility vehicles.

In 2010 we sought tenders for the administration of our salary-packaging program. The successful tenderer, Smartsalary, began administering new packages from January 2011. In March 2011 they took over 2,000 existing packages we had previously managed.

Performance systems

The proportion of employees with registered performance and developed agreements increased significantly from 70% in 2010 to 93% at 30 June 2011.

SES performance pay

Recommendations for performance pay are assured by remuneration committees, with all payments subject to approval by the Commissioner.

We paid performance pay for 2009-10 in November 2010 with 286 SES officers eligible to be considered for annual performance pay.

SES Band 1 employees:

  • 241 out of a possible 250 received performance pay
  • performance pay totalled $2.37 million
  • range of performance pay was $7,212 to $19,930.

SES Band 2 employees:

  • all 36 received performance pay
  • performance pay totalled $588,104
  • range of performance pay was $7,212 to $28,175.

For more information, see Appendix 7.

Rewards and recognition

We reward and recognise the achievements of our people. When determining award recipients, we consider all ongoing employees, regardless of role or level.

Public Service Medal - Queen's Birthday Honours

Deputy Commissioner Erin Holland received the award for outstanding public service in significantly improving revenue and service delivery outcomes for the ATO.

Australia Day awards

We present Australia Day medallions to employees, recognising personal endeavour, achievement and contribution to the ATO and wider community.

The 2011 recipients were:

  • Carly Findlay - significant contribution to the Australian community as mentor for chronically and terminally ill adolescents
  • Chris Forbes - inspirational role model for us and the Australian community through her volunteer work with Camp Icthus
  • Marisa Copperwaite - raising morale at our Albury site through her volunteer work within the site and in the local community
  • Maria Georgiou - inspirational role model for us and the Australian community through volunteer work at the Melbourne and Werribee zoos.

Commissioner's awards

The 2010 Commissioner's award winners were:

  • e-tax Group Fraud Project - innovation
  • Stuart Hamilton - excellence in leadership
  • Fran Southward and Merv Littman - excellence in leadership
  • Daniel Schiava - excellence in leadership
  • Ian Cooper - technical excellence
  • Robyn Lyons - excellence in client service
  • Megha Ranatunge - excellence in living the values.

Recognising years of service

We recognise employees with over 10 years of service with a letter from a senior executive officer.

At 20, 30, 40 or 50 years service, our employees receive a framed certificate, personally signed by the Commissioner, and they are recognised through site-based presentations held twice a year.

TABLE 6.3: Number of employees reaching milestones in 2010-11

Years of service

10 year

20 years

30 years

40 years

50 years

No. of employees






In 2010-11 we paid $68,243 to recognise our line award recipients and $94,413 on separation gifts for employees, with more than 10 years service.

A career spanning 49 years

As a young school leaver, Kevin Goulder faced a big decision - what government department should he work for?

'I sat the Public Service exam and was then offered a choice of three places to work. I was called on the Friday and asked to start on the Monday so I had to make a decision quickly', Kevin said.

On his grandmother's advice, he chose the ATO - the right choice as it turned out, leading to a varied career spanning 49 years.

His career began in March 1962 in the ledger card section of the Accounts Branch in Sydney office. Early the next year he successfully completed assessing school.

After five years, Kevin temporarily left the office for national service in Vietnam. In 1970, he returned to work as an assessor. He then became a group controller, responsible for 24 assessors and six supervisors. He conducted assessing schools, training many officers, including future second commissioners Bruce Quigley and David Butler.

He moved from Sydney to Canberra office in 1980 and spent a year working on the bottom-of-the-harbour project with current Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo. Kevin also worked in the estimates and statistics branch, then on the central taxpayer system and was involved in our modernisation project in the late 1980s. He finished his career working with accounting and payroll systems.

'I have seen many changes and there have been many highlights, one of which is meeting my wife while I was working on the central taxpayer system project.'

'It is all about getting in and trying lots of different things - there are a lot of opportunities in the office if you are willing to give things a try'.

Kevin retired on 8 July 2011.

Kevin Goulder retired after 49 years of service.

Kevin Goulder retired after 49 years of service.

Employment equity and diversity

The Diversity Council of Australia and the Australian Network on Disability provide advice to us on our diversity program.

We have had a diversity plan for many years. This year we:

  • regularly promoted diversity through our weekly online magazine News Extra and our site-based newsletters
  • increased staff participation in celebration events such as Harmony Day, NAIDOC Week, and the International Day for People with Disability
  • participated in networks and working groups across the Australian Public Service
  • implemented specific employment programs which also promote diversity.

Access for people with disability

Our workplace diversity program includes an access-and-inclusion plan, outlining strategies to improve our compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. We are currently drafting a refreshed plan with staff input. We expect to complete it early in the new year.

We continued to provide pathways to employment for people with disability, through community programs such as school-to-work sponsorship, paid work experience for university students, entry-level recruitment, and a mentoring program. Our national disability network continues to encourage employees with disability to suggest ways we can improve our performance in this area.

For more information see our access and inclusion plan at Appendix 9.

Indigenous employment and development

This year we have increased our efforts to meet the Australian Government Indigenous employment target of 2.7% representation by 2015, including:

  • using special measure recruitment provisions to enable the employment of Indigenous Australians in all of our bulk recruitment campaigns, including our advancement programs, at the APS 1 to EL2 levels
  • establishing a new enterprise-wide Indigenous traineeship program, offered in locations with large Indigenous populations.

We continued to implement our reconciliation action plan by:

  • conducting nine cultural awareness sessions
  • continuing our school-to-work program
  • publishing Yarn Time, an electronic magazine that discusses Indigenous issues.

Site leadership

We expanded the intent of our national site leadership program to focus on building business and social cohesion. We also reviewed leadership roles, articulating what we expected of our site leaders, including SES.

We held site-based employee forums to discuss our Strategic statement 2010-15 to build an understanding of our organisational vision.

The natural disasters of early 2011 demonstrated the value of our national site leadership program. For example, after the Queensland floods, the leadership networks in our Brisbane sites played an important role in managing business continuity, reopening sites, monitoring the wellbeing of our staff, and working with affected communities.

Supporting our employees


In 2010-11 ATOconcern responded to 1,169 approaches, compared to 1,163 in 2009-10.

Managing harassment

We take reasonable and practical steps towards preventing and managing bullying and harassment in the workplace. To support this we have more than 94 trained harassment contact officers across 30 sites. Our 2010-11 diversity census showed 92% of staff knew how to access advice and support should they experience bullying or harassment. The figure was unchanged from 2009-10.

There were 273 approaches to harassment contact officers in 2010-11, compared to 283 in 2009-10.

    Last modified: 31 Oct 2011QC 28036