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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 762

(Question No. 913)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 29 May:

(1) Are invalidity retirements from the Public Service now dealt with under the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act (CERR Act).

(2) Are special provisions made for invalidity retirements to be dealt with expeditiously, or are the processes under the CERR Act applied without distinction to officers being considered for retirement on health grounds.

(3) Is the Prime Minister aware that, since the retirement process takes so long, officers being retired for health reasons often have to apply for social security sickness benefits until their severance allowances are received.

(4) Will the Prime Minister take steps to ensure prompt attention is given to cases where officers are being retired for health reasons.

Senator Button —The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service matters has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes.

(2) The CE (RR) Act and the CE (RR) Act Handbook contain specific provisions for the management of invalidity cases. These provisions require, under certain circumstances, medical examination of an employee to determine fitness for current duties, followed by redeployment action where necessary. The Act does provide a means whereby employees who are clearly unfit for further duty can be retired without the Public Service Board exploring redeployment opportunities. The Board has instructed departments to handle potential invalidity retirement cases as quickly as possible.

(3) In cases where the medical evidence of an employee's unfitness for duty is undisputed and the nature of the illness precludes redeployment as an option, the retirement process does not normally take long. However, where differences of medical opinion arise over an employee's fitness for duty, or the assembled medical and other evidence does not clearly indicate that retirement is warranted, or the employee disputes the recommendation of the Department of Health, the process may take some time. Where an employee's medical condition is such that redeployment would be appropriate, the employee is expected to remain on useful duties normally in his or her department until a suitable position can be found. Social Security sickness benefits are available to employees who exhaust their sick leave credits. Should such an employee subsequently be retired on invalidity grounds there is a provision in the Act enabling the retirement to be backdated with the employee's agreement. This provision normally enables the retired employee to receive pension benefits from the date paid sick leave credits were exhausted.

(4) Following a report from the working group on the management-initiated retirement aspects of the CE (RR) Act, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Industrial Matters has asked the Board to implement further procedures to ensure that invalidity retirement cases are handled as quickly as possible.