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Overview

Delivering a quality Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme to protect the benefits of those who are entitled to them.

The Portable Long Service Benefits Authority is an independent statutory body established to administer the Long Service Benefits Portability Act 2018. The Act, together with the Interim Long Service Benefits Portability Regulations 2019 provide a scheme for the portability of long service benefits to eligible workers in the Community Services, Contract Cleaning and Security Industries.

The Scheme was created in response to the Victorian Parliament’s Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee inquiry into portability of long service leave entitlements. It enables eligible workers to accrue long service benefits based on length of time employed in their respective industry, as opposed to length of time employed by one employer.

Vision

Delivering a quality Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme to protect the benefits of those who are entitled to them. 

Purpose

Administering an effective Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme through prudent, sustainable investment and supporting all stakeholders – including employers and workers alike – as well as educating and enforcing every stakeholder’s role and interest in the scheme.

Values

The Authority has adopted the Victorian Public Sector values, which underpin the behaviours that the government and community rightly expect of it. Acting consistently with these values strengthens the Authority’s capacity to operate effectively and achieve our objectives. These values are:

  • Responsiveness – We are approachable and provide timely, useful and accurate information.
  • Integrity – We have unbiased and honest interactions.
  • Impartiality – We are firm and consistent in our application of the law.
  • Accountability – We fulfil our objectives in a clear, transparent and responsible manner.
  • Respect – We respect our stakeholders, each other and ourselves.
  • Leadership – We seek to have a positive influence and to empower others.
  • Human rights – We administer the law and deliver decisions, advice and policy that respect and support everyone’s human rights.

Chair and Chief Executive Officer / Registrar’s Report

The start of the 2019-20 financial year on 1 July 2019 marked the commencement of the Portable Long Service Leave Scheme (the Scheme) in Victoria for the Community Services, Contract Cleaning and Security Industries. For the first time, eligible workers in these sectors could accumulate long service benefits after working in their industry for seven years, irrespective of the number of employers that they have worked for over that time. Covered employers also became obliged to comply with the requirements set out in the Long Service Benefits Portability Act 2018 (the Act) as well as any accompanying Regulations issued by the Authority.

From an operational perspective, the first year of operations for the Authority as a Regulator has been one of strong achievement, with the Scheme registering over 100,000 workers – well in excess of the Victorian government’s target of 75,000 workers as set out in the 2019-20 Victorian State Budget Papers. Under the oversight of an experienced Governing Board, the Authority’s leadership team has established strong corporate governance and risk management practices that have guided the Authority’s approach to its education and enforcement activities, having clear regard for the interests of all stakeholders whether they are eligible workers or covered employers.

From a staff perspective, it is likely that we will perhaps all remember 2019-20 only for the far-reaching efforts that the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created for us. Notwithstanding that the Authority is based predominantly in Bendigo in regional Victoria where the impact has been comparatively low, the arising consequences of coronavirus (COVID-19) on work practices and how we support our staff with social distancing protocols, balancing home teaching and other care duties, as well as occupational health, safety and mental health support has all been challenging.

Although only in its first year of operations, we are pleased to say that the Authority’s staff and management team displayed exemplary resilience and dedication to ensure that there were no unplanned outages during the financial year, both in terms of the Authority’s core systems or contact centre all while maintaining staff morale and productivity.

There remains much work of a challenging nature to be done in 2020-21 by the Authority. While the Authority is financially sustainable, the pace of change with technology will require some investment in new systems and interfaces with the public to respond both to stakeholder feedback and to changes that will occur arising from the Long Service Benefits Portability Regulations 2020, which is expected to come into effect before the end of 2020.

We look forward to building on the success of 2019-20 as we progress towards our vision of delivering a high-quality Portable Long Service Leave Scheme to protect the benefits of those who are entitled to them.

Role and functions

The Authority has several key functions pursuant to the Act:

  1. administering the Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme in the covered industries
  2. making payments of benefits
  3. keeping registers of covered employers and workers
  4. resolving disputes as to the timing of taking a period of leave (applicable only to workers in the Contract Cleaning and Security industries)
  5. consulting other industries that may be affected by decisions made under the Act in relation to covered industries

Business Units

The Executive, Governance, Legal and Secretariat Business Unit is responsible for establishing good governance, delivering sound legal advice to the Authority as well as facilitating the efficient and effective running of the Governing Board and Audit and Risk Committee.

The Financial Services Business Unit underpins our operations and the Chief Financial Officer has specific responsibilities under the Financial Management Act 1994. Performance monitoring, responsible budgeting, and a robust investment strategy ensure that the entitlements of registered workers are managed prudently, and helps to ensure the sustainability of the Scheme.

The Client Service and Operations Business Unit is the largest business unit within the Authority and delivers our core registry and enforcement functions through engaging with employers and workers to support them to fulfil their obligations and understand their rights.

The Facilities, Information and Technology Business Unit underpins our core operations and manages key vendors which support our network infrastructure and telephony systems. Having the best systems in place enables us to be efficient and effective in delivering on our functions.

The People and Culture Business Unit supports the growth and development of our people and culture. Our people are our greatest asset. Without our people, we have no capability to fulfil our statutory obligations under the Act.

The Communications and Engagement Business Unit leads communications, identification of and engagement with key stakeholders and internal and external education activities to ensure that employers understand and can meet their obligations and workers know their rights. As a new scheme in Victoria, it is vital that we communicate and engage with employers and eligible workers across the covered sectors.

Objectives

  • Fulfil our legislative obligations by effectively administering and supporting compliance with the Long Service Benefits Portability Act 2018.
  • Implement responsible budget and effective investment strategies which grow levy funds and deliver long-term sustainability.
  • Be clear, consistent, transparent and responsive in our stakeholder communications to encourage registration and levy payments and ensure that eligible workers and employers are aware of their rights and obligations.
  • Maintain a healthy and safe workplace with a culture that encourages engaged, resilient and solution-focused staff.
  • Maintain an innovative, secure, resilient and integrated information technology environment that supports effective operations now and into the future.
  • Protect the long-term interests of the Authority through effective regulation using governance,
  • strategic risk management and clear policies and procedures.

The year in review

Meet Alison Cosker, the scheme’s 100,000th registered worker

Community service worker Alison Cosker was the 100,000th worker to be registered with the Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme after being signed up by her employer, e.motion21.  

The Kew-based not-for-profit aims to enhance lives for people with Down syndrome and change perceptions of Down syndrome through performance-based activities and community engagement.

Alison is the learning facilitator for e.motion21’s pilot initiative; Impact21, working with a select group of students in a tertiary setting to prepare them for work and explore customised employment that suits their skills and interests.

Portable long service was introduced to provide portability of long service benefits for workers in sectors that struggle to qualify for long service entitlements under traditional long service.

The community services sector is often characterised by short-term contracts and funding arrangments, meaning workers are not always able to stay with a single employer long enough to access long service leave despite working in a similar role or area for many years.

For community services workers like Alison, the Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme is game changing. Portable long service makes sure workers in the covered industries can accrue long service benefits for their total years in a single industry, rather than with a single employer.

Impact21

Alison, whose background is in teaching and human services, has been working with her students for the past twelve months out of the Torrens University campus on Flinders Street in Melbourne.

On a typical day the 12 students travel into the CBD from all around Melbourne, and from as far away as Geelong and the Mornington Peninsula. Commuting into the university campus is integral as it exposes the participants to social and professional connections from all around the world. Impact21 provides its students with an opportunity to experience tertiary education, where this may otherwise have been impossible or unlikely.

The program has employment partners that offer work experience and internship opportunities.

An average day in the program includes classroom time, city time and coffee breaks, supplemented with simulated work and project-based learning.

Alison says the participants “kept kicking goals” once the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality, working hard to become technically savvy and confident in using technology to stay connected to each other and learn.

While the program has experienced “massive hurdles” with COVID-19, Alison said it has given participants the opportunity to grow in other directions, using online tools and “becoming okay with the unknown; continuing to learn in a situation where we don’t have an answer to questions about its end date or about what work can recommence”.

Drawn to community service work

Growing up with a mother working in a range of roles within the disability support sector was hugely influential for Alison, who says her upbringing was “very comfortable with all different kinds of people and the context of disability work.”

While she was studying education, Alison provided in-home support for a young boy with disabilities before moving in to respite services. She gravitates towards working with “older young people” – those in their teens, twenties and thirties.

The students Alison works with want to live their life, go out, have fun, have partners, learn and work. Through the program they are growing their communication skills and confidence.

Alison wants to see a disruption in community perceptions around Down syndrome so that young people like those she works with can experience everyday life like other people their age. Some of her favourite moments have been seeing her students confidently blending in among peak-time commuters on Flinders Street, preparing and serving cocktails at e.motion21’s 10th anniversary gala, or be approached for assistance without hesitancy by shoppers.

Portable long service

Alison says the Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme offers people in the sector security that they haven’t had previously and hopes it will attract young people and youthful ideas to the sector while also giving more experienced people the chance to take a break.

“So much of what I know and believe and advocate for, I’ve learned through having had lots of experiences in different organisations, with different leaders, values and approaches. There is so much to learn by moving around organisations but continuing to service that world.

If portable long service gives people the incentive to feel safe and try different organisations and practices while growing and developing in their role, I can’t see any negative.”

Event with Members of Parliament

At the start of the year the Authority hosted Steve Dimopoulos, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer; and Maree Edwards, Deputy Speaker for the Legislative Assembly and local Member of Parliament for Bendigo West.

The Ministerial Event gave the Authority the opportunity to present the new scheme and provide our visitors with an overview of the system and employer experience.

ISSA Cleaning and Hygiene Expo 2019

In October 2019, Authority staff represented the scheme at the ISSA Cleaning and Hygiene Expo.

Held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and hosted by ISSA - The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association and Interpoint Events, the expo showcased cleaning products and services from local and international exhibitors.

The Authority partnered with QLeave, our Queensland counterpart, to take part in the expo. It was a great opportunity for our Customer Service and Education Officers to meet key players in the industry and provide information about the Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme to stakeholders and employers.

First Staff Recognition Awards

In October, the team came together for an afternoon tea following the Governing Board Meetings, where some of the other Board Members joined us to celebrate the contributions made by our team since the establishment of the Authority.

There were a large number of nominees for Staff Awards, with each one having gone ‘above and beyond’ in pursuit of the Authority’s values.

Customer Service and Education Officers Deb Danahay, Karl Quast and Maxine Rae received awards for their combined willingness to get the job done, knowledge of the scheme and outstanding stakeholder interactions.

International Women’s Day

In March, Authority staff had the opportunity to attend the International Women’s Day Dinner, hosted by the Zonta Club of Bendigo and held at the Conservatory in Bendigo.

The event’s keynote speaker was Dr Airlie Chapman, who holds a PhD in Aeronautics & Astronautics from the University of Washington.

Dr Chapman is a LÓREAL – UNESCO Women in Science Fellow and a strong advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and has a special interest in underrepresented groups such as women and students in rural and remote areas. She currently lectures in Mechatronics at the University of Melbourne, where she is also the director of their Flight Lab.

Dr Chapman devoted most of her speech to sharing her journey in STEM, and advocating for the promotion of careers in STEM

Zonta International is a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. The organisation has over 30,000 members in more than 1,200 clubs across 66 countries

COVID-19 response

As it did with all businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for the Portable Long Service Authority.

In March 2020, a Continuity Leadership Team was established to plan and implement the Authority’s response to the pandemic. This team facilitated the successful move to remote working arrangements quickly and efficiently, while also implementing the crisis communications procedure and operational procedures to minimise investment risk in a volatile market caused by the pandemic.

During the last quarter of the year, the Authority found itself well positioned to enable operations to continue with minimal interruption; our staff and systems remaining operational, agile and responsive.

Our Customer Service and Education Officers have been able to continue providing valuable advice and have even delivered online training sessions for employers for how to complete quarterly returns.

Remote working life

The shared tea station at customer service officer Sheree Laursen’s home office.

Following advice that if Victorian Public Service employees could work from home, they must work from home, authority staff worked together in a new way, giving us all a glimpse into each other’s lives that we hadn’t had before.

Q&A with Khayshie Tilak Ramesh

Khayshie Tilak Ramesh was employed as a graduate in the Authority’s legal function where she provides support to our in-house legal team while working towards her admission as a lawyer.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to work for the Authority? 

I am 23 and a passionate community volunteer and advocate for youth, regional and multicultural issues. I have served on a number of boards and committees including ARC Justice, Ambulance Victoria Community Advisory Committee, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services and City of Greater Bendigo Economic Steering Committee. I also served as the first Youth Mayor for the City of Greater Bendigo in 2019, Law Student of the Year 2019, Young Citizen of the Year in 2017 and was named in the Top 100 future leaders of Australia. As well as my position at the Authority, I am also the Multicultural Youth Commissioner of Victoria.   

I studied law in La Trobe University and was in my final honours year when the Authority started in Bendigo in 2019. I was passionate about the social justice element of long service portability and applied for a position within the legal and governance team, combining my love of law and community boards. I was extremely fortunate to be selected and am now working in my ideal job as a graduate.      

What attracted you to the public service? 

I was attracted to the public service because of the immense career progression opportunities and the chance to work within multidisciplinary teams where you get to experience a bit of everything and really appreciate the work of your co-workers.  

What attracted you to law? 

I like the educational side of law and increasing access to justice through making legal obligations more accessible to the wider community. It baffles me that we are bound by laws which we don’t always understand so I enjoy increasing that wider understanding by translating complex concepts into simpler ones. I also love problem solving and tackling new challenges every day which I am lucky to do in my role at the Authority. 

What do you enjoy most about working for the Authority? 

My favourite thing about working for the Authority is the diversity of staff backgrounds! A lot of our staff are not from government backgrounds so it’s always fun to hear about what industries they came from and their past experiences on lunch breaks.  

What has surprised you most about working for the Authority? 

That the heart of the Authority is in Bendigo. All too often I’ve seen organisations claim to have a regional centre but then their head office is in Melbourne but the Authority is well and truly grounded here. I grew up in Bendigo and love my local community so it meant so much to me that I could continue my career progression in my ideal job within my hometown.  

What might someone be surprised to know about you? 

I am an avid self-taught musician in my spare time! I sing and play acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele. I also got a bit bored in self-isolation and took up electric guitar and kalimba.

Reviewed 25 November 2020

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