Spill and fill

The Australian Public Service (APS) is suffering under the federal government’s “efficiency dividend” policy, which has enforced funding cuts and, ultimately, will force a large-scale reduction in staff numbers.

Spill and fill redundancies are one way that agencies can introduce impartiality into their job- shedding processes.

What is a spill and fill?

A spill and fill is a restructuring process whereby a range of positions in a workplace, department or agency are made redundant and the employees filling those positions must reapply apply for the smaller number of newly created positions.

An employer is usually motivated to use a spill and fill for two reasons:

  • To effect large-scale change through a single, streamlined process.
  • To identify and retain their best (or most desired) staff through the reapplication process. High performing employees are often more willing to take voluntary redundancy as they are confident of securing a new position elsewhere.

The advantages

If implemented correctly, the spill and fill solution is merit-based and therefore considered by some to be more equitable than other redundancy strategies.

To illustrate, the Fair Work Commission recently found that use of an external consultant to run a spill and fill process made it robust and defensible. Similarly, a spill and fill at the Australian Taxation Office in Melbourne was a ‘practical, sensible and fair’ response to a ‘classic redundancy situation.’

The disadvantages

The flipside of retaining quality staff through the spill and fill is that those individuals who fail to obtain a new position can feel undervalued or victimised. The national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood, has also suggested that ongoing staff are negatively affected by increased workloads and that targeted use of redundancy and spill and fill processes may, in some circumstances, amount to bullying.

The right solution?

Spill and fill redundancies can be used fairly when the new positions are clearly defined, the application process is impartially conducted and the selection criteria are tailored the requirements of the relevant workplace, department or agency.

Nevertheless, the process can be tricky and difficult to execute properly. It is important that government agencies seek specialist advice to introduce an element of impartiality to the process in order to avoid potential claims from employees.

Our Employment Industrial Relations and Safety Team are specialists who can provide practical solutions for agencies facing budget pressure, we would be happy to discuss some solutions with you.

For further information please contact:

Jennifer Wyborn — Partner — Employment & Workplace Relations
(02) 6279 4328
jennifer.wyborn@meyervandenberg.com.au