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APS contract dilema?

By Khandalah - 18 July 2010 13

Hi all, I have an urgent need to move jobs and I wont go into why that is. I’m looking into entering the public service and have an interview next week. However I’m concered that if successful it could possibly take months to find out and for the position to commence. Is that accurate? Due to the need to leave my current workplace I need to find somewhere a lot quicker than 2 months or so. If i entered into a 3 month contract I assume that could be a problem if I got the job and there was still some time left on the contract, greater than 4 weeks? Or would there be some flexibility given that each step is so long in the whole process? I’m not keen on the idea of bailing on a contract, I’m not really that sort of person.

I was also wondering if anyone could enlighten me to the significance of the election having being called today? Is that likely to stymie the whole process?

Also, are there likely to be less APS jobs advertised as a result of the election having been called? If so when would conditions likely return to ‘normal’ or start picking up again?

I would love to get some feedback on this so I can make informed decisions!!

What’s Your opinion?


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13 Responses to
APS contract dilema?
Erg0 9:50 am 19 Jul 10

I-filed said :

If you get a contract Khandalah, you could put a case to the manager in the APS that it would be cheaper to have you on the payroll! Rule of thumb is that you cost the agency twice your hourly rate – including HR support etc. So AFTER succeeding in your initial contract and establishing that they want you there, if there is talk of extending you, find out how much the agency would be charging them, and suggest a placement fee to the recruitment agency and that you be brought in-house.

You need to be a little bit careful with this, some contracting companies don’t take too kindly to what they see as you trying to go around them. Every contract I’ve ever signed has included a clause to (ostensibly) prevent me from staying at the same company/agency while cutting out the middle man, though I’m not sure how bulletproof these are in practice.

georgesgenitals 8:21 pm 18 Jul 10

Do what everyone who needs a new job does – apply for lots, interview for all you can, the ake the decision where you want to go once you have one or more firm offers on the table.

I-filed 7:07 pm 18 Jul 10

If you get a contract Khandalah, you could put a case to the manager in the APS that it would be cheaper to have you on the payroll! Rule of thumb is that you cost the agency twice your hourly rate – including HR support etc. So AFTER succeeding in your initial contract and establishing that they want you there, if there is talk of extending you, find out how much the agency would be charging them, and suggest a placement fee to the recruitment agency and that you be brought in-house.

Khandalah 6:16 pm 18 Jul 10

Thanks for that info I-filed, that is very helpful. Unfortunately I suspected as much from the recruitment companies!

sexynotsmart 6:08 pm 18 Jul 10

Khandalah said :

As for $100/hr, I wish!!

To crack the century as a contractor, you’re going to need specialist skills or experience.

On the skills side, I reckon you’re playing low percentages outside IT, Project Management, Accounting and Law. Roles do come up but there are few of them and they are highly contested. So if you have fancy skills outside those areas, start networking with people from the big consulting firms because that’s the best way to increase your chances.

On the experience side is where ‘generalist’ policy and service delivery APS officers really have the inside running. If you’re a policy wonk, pick a theme – a ‘wicked problem’ that will be unsolved by the next generation – and plan your career around it. The next time it becomes political flavour of the month, you can ‘double up’ through either promotion to the department charged with fixing it, or contracting to the people they outsource the response to.

If you’re in service delivery, do everything short of killing to get a procurement or contract management role. (OK, maybe killing but it really depends on who it is.) This is because at some point, part or all of the service support will be reviewed then outsourced. Government will need someone to develop ATMs and manage the contracts. And private sector will need someone to respond and actually do the work.

Final thought – if you have recent experience with things that go fast or go boom, coldcall every defence-related company you can Google. Because they’re all on the lookout right now.

I-filed 1:42 pm 18 Jul 10

For a mid-range APS4 in one of the higher-paid agencies (say $57,000 pa), if you’re on the payroll you would be paid the normal rate – working out at some $31 an hour – and accumulate sick leave and four weeks recreation leave, and have your paid public holidays. Superannuation should be 15.4 per cent, paid to I think it’s still AGEST?

Your sickleave would be portable to another agency if you take up a fresh contract within a given time.

If you’re being paid by a recruitment agency, they will charge the department a motza – probably $75 an hour – and underpay you unless you can convince them to be honest and pay you the true equivalent of APS conditions, which would be around $42 an hour. Ripping off is how they work though – an account manager at one of those agencies will squeeze the contractors, and only need four or five employees actively on their books, to cover their own pay.

Khandalah 1:10 pm 18 Jul 10

OK I-filed, to be more specific: what would be a reasonable casual loading to expect for an APS contract? 15%, 25%? Googled this and got mixed results so thought those with experience working with local recruiters and on APS contracts would have a clearer picture. With a clearer picture of this it would be easier to then calculate an hourly rate.

S4anta 1:00 pm 18 Jul 10

maths or mathematics ifilled FFS. This is Australia, not whichita texas

I-filed 12:23 pm 18 Jul 10

Khandalah I’d be concerned that if you can’t do the math to work out an hourly rate for yourself, then you would struggle as a lower-end APS4, let alone a 5 position. If you’re asking us to do it because you’re lazy, then you won’t cut it in the public service as a contractor.

The super rate you should use for your calculations is 15 per cent.

Khandalah 12:09 pm 18 Jul 10

Thanks for the excellent advise everyone I really appreciate it. Given the feedback on it being ok to break a contract I will go for temp contracts as well. As for $100/hr, I wish!! I would say that I’m equivalant to a high 4 or low to mid 5 at this stage in my career.

With regards to being placed on the payroll of the APS, I would assume most recruitment agencies would be reluctant to arrange this? Would this be more relevant to those at higher levels who have their own ABN etc? Also what would be a reasonable hourly rate to expect? I would be asking to start on $60-62 plus super plus casual loading as i belived this is roughly equivalant to high APS 4/ low 5. Any ideas what that would work out to be as a casual hourly rate?

Thanks again.

el 11:22 am 18 Jul 10

However I’m concered that if successful it could possibly take months to find out and for the position to commence.
If you’re only interviewing next well it will take months anyway – regardless of the election/caretaker mode.

deejay 11:03 am 18 Jul 10

Definitely take a non-ongoing APS role and keep looking for an ongoing. The timeframes you’ve been told are correct – APS recruitment is slow, although non-ongoings can be quicker. But bailing on a non-ongoing to take an ongoing is seen as a perfectly valid thing to do. I assume you’re coming from the private sector and that’s why you’re cautious about being seen to manage your career by openly jobhunting, looking beyond the current contract, etc, but it’s not like that in the APS. There’s no notion of disloyalty if you’re moving within the service – you can even openly say that you’re looking for permanent work and go to interviews (although you’ll have to make up the time).

I-filed is right, you defintely want to be on the APS payroll (non-ongoing or ongoing) and not the recruiter’s or your own management company (contractor). If you do wind up as a contractor, don’t accept APS staff rates (which you can find in their collective agreements on their websites) – you want high hourly pay to sock away because contractors can be fired at will. Depending on your skills, $100/hr or more is not unreasonable. And factor in that you will incur 30% or more in costs paying your own paytoll tax, superannuation, etc – you’ll get a lot less in the hand. Personally, I prefer a steady paycheck because I have a mortgage, but that’s a stage of life thing.

I would disagree about training – in reality, the APS doesn’t tend to give non-ongoings non-essential training. It’s supposed to be equal and all, but it usually isn’t. But if it’s a qualification that is relevant to your work and you’re willing to self-fund, they might meet you halfway by treating it as work time. I got a week off to do an intensive diploma course that they would never have paid for.

I-filed 9:57 am 18 Jul 10

Normal recruitment will continue during caretaker – if anything, recruitment would speed up. If you apply for a permanent job and get a three-month contract in the meantime, the APS will help you manage the situation. Either they will delay your start until you temp contract finishes, or you’ll be able to terminate it. Only terminate the contract, though, when you are actually signed up in writing and have a start date. Don’t under any circumstances give notice re a short-term contract on the basis of verbal advice.

Don’t feel constrained to short contracts – I would actually enter any contract at all – you can break a six or 12 month contract with the APS if you’re offered a permanent job. No-one would hold it against you.

Another thing you might like to know: if you are on the payroll of a govt department (not on the recruitment company payroll)as a temporary contractor then the department is obliged to provide you with any training, similar to permanent employees. That doesn’t apply to external studies through Studybank etc, but they should not treat you any differently from the permanents in terms of workshops, in-house seminars, and paid training offered through HR.

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