Frequently Asked Questions
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List of Frequently Asked Questions
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When the Tribunal makes a comprehensive determination relating to a category of offices (e.g. part-time offices) it is called a 'principal' determination and entirely replaces any earlier principal determination.
A principal determination usually covers a group of offices within the Tribunal's jurisdiction or a specific subject area (such as recreation leave). The Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 and, for Members of Parliament, the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017, require the Tribunal to make determinations in relation to some remuneration matters (as opposed to some subject areas such as recreation leave) at intervals of no more than a year. This means that many of the Tribunal's principal determinations are in place for no more than 12 months.
All Tribunal determinations are registered on the Federal Register of Legislation (FRL) other than those relating to Secretaries, which are gazetted.
An amending determination inserts changes into a principal determination. Examples are inserting new offices into a principal determination, modifying provisions for access to particular conditions or a change in a remuneration amount for an office. An amending determination can include a number of changes to provisions in different principal determinations.
Where an amending determination has been issued, a consolidated determination needs to be made. A consolidated determination, also known as a compilation, is essentially a principal determination updated to include the provisions of any amending determinations. The consolidation records the reference number of the amending determination and includes the date of effect of the amended provision. As most amending determinations must be registered on FRL before a consolidated determination can be made (and then also registered with FRL), there is a usually a delay of between 1 and 2 weeks between the time the Tribunal signs an amending determination and the registration of the consolidated determination.
Determinations on the Tribunal’s website
The determinations that contain the current remuneration and conditions for each group of office holders are listed on the relevant office page. This could include either a consolidated determination (if there have been amending determinations) or a principal determination (where there have been no changes made). As it usually takes a week or two for a consolidated determination to be made, at times an amending determination may also display on the office page. Once the amendment has been incorporated into a consolidated determination, the amending determination will be moved to the Document Library on the Tribunal’s website.
The Tribunal is required to determine remuneration for offices that meet the definition of "public office" in sub-section 3(4) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 (the Act) along with a range of other offices and appointments such as Departmental Secretaries, Principal Executive Offices and Members of Parliament. All offices established by a Commonwealth law (also known as statutory offices) and appointments made under a Commonwealth law are ‘public offices’ unless the relevant legislation provides otherwise. Legislation that establishes the office, board or committee will generally indicate how remuneration is to be determined. It may be necessary for administering agencies to seek legal advice on whether an office is in the Tribunal's determinative jurisdiction.
Some offices that are not automatically in the Tribunal's jurisdiction (because they are not created in legislation) can be placed in the Tribunal's jurisdiction. These are most commonly appointments made by the Governor-General or a Minister of State.
This process is commonly known as ‘referral-in’. Referral-in occurs when the Minister responsible for the Tribunal (the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) writes to the Tribunal President specifying that the Tribunal must determine remuneration for that office. This would usually occur as the result of a request to that Minister from the Minister with portfolio responsibility for the office.
The Tribunal does not determine its own remuneration, that is a matter for Government.
The Official Travel determination provides for the payment of an allowance to the office holder to cover reasonable expenses associated with official travel, i.e. accommodation, meals and incidentals, and it is a matter for the office holder as to how that allowance is to be used. An office holder’s TA must be paid in full.
However, in the event that the cost of accommodation is met by an entity other than the office holder, only the meals and incidentals component of TA is payable. An example of this might include where an office holder attended a conference and the cost of accommodation was met by the Commonwealth as part of the conference package.
In applying the provisions of the Official Travel determination, office holders and agencies should have regard to the set of general principles included in that determination.
It would be appropriate to reduce the reasonable daily overseas meal allowance amounts determined by the Australian Taxation Office by 50 per cent where dinner has been provided or paid for by an entity other than the office holder, or 25 per cent in the case of either breakfast or lunch. Alternatively, it would also be permissible for office holders to comply with any relevant administrative guidelines put in place for employees in their agency where these are not inconsistent with the Official Travel determination.
Rates for meals and incidentals are equivalent to the overseas meals and incidentals rates in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) determination dealing with reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts. The relevant ATO determination is specified in the Tribunal’s Official Travel determination.
The rate of overseas TA payable to an office holder depends on the Travel Tier determined for the office. Accommodation should be provided at a standard reasonably equivalent to that provided for the office holder in Australia.
Class of travel is also dependent on the Travel Tier determined by the Tribunal, i.e.
Tier 1 = First Class or Business Class
Tier 2 = Business Class
Tier 3 = Economy Class
An office holder who is entitled to travel Economy Class may upgrade to Business Class where the duration of the flight exceeds five hours.
Where there are significant changes to the role or responsibilities of an office that warrant reconsideration of remuneration, a submission should be made to the Tribunal as soon as possible. Comprehensive submission guidelines are available on the Tribunal’s website.
You may also contact the Tribunal’s Secretariat for advice on your particular submission. Where time permits, the Secretariat can also provide feedback on draft submissions.
Factors that might be considered include:
- the desirability of having remuneration determined by an experienced, independent authority;
- whether the office will be established for a short or a long time; and
- the significance of the role and responsibilities of the office.
For members of accumulation schemes the Employer Superannuation Contribution is the amount of compulsory superannuation contribution that must be paid to the relevant fund. Additional salary sacrifice contributions are not included in the definition of the Employer Superannuation Contribution.
PSSAP members - who are holders of part-time offices
The superannuation salary for holders of part-time offices who are members of the PSSAP is the office holder’s fortnightly contribution salary (FCS). Note that holders of full-time office who are working part-time are subject to the same rules as other holders of full-time offices.
PSSAP members - other than holders of part-time offices
The PSSAP requires the Employer Superannuation Contribution to be calculated at the rate of 15.4% of salary for superannuation purposes.
The Tribunal’s determinations provide that the salary for superannuation purposes for a PSSAP member will be the person’s Ordinary Time Earnings (OTE).
Members of other schemes
The Employer Superannuation Contribution will be the compulsory (i.e. minimum) amount required to meet the employer’s obligations under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (Super Guarantee Act), i.e. 9.5% of OTE.
OTE is essentially the earnings that can be attributed to ‘ordinary hours of work’ so that the minimum Employer Superannuation Contribution can be calculated. Under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (the Super Guarantee Act) remuneration as an office holder is considered ‘salary or wages’ for this purpose.
ATO Superannuation Guarantee Ruling 2009/02 provides information about payments that are excluded from the definition of salary and wages (such as fringe benefits)
For an office holder remunerated on a total remuneration basis, the salary for superannuation purposes on which the Employer Superannuation Contribution is calculated is the taxable amount being received by the office holder.
However, OTE does not require a superannuation contribution to be made on all earnings related to the ordinary hours of work – there is an upper earnings limit for each quarter in the financial year. Earnings above this limit are not considered to form part of OTE. The limit is the ATO’s ‘maximum contribution base’ which is varied each financial year. Employers are not required to provide superannuation support for earnings above the maximum contribution base.
Read more about OTE and the maximum contribution base on the ATO website
The Employer Superannuation Contribution for PSSAP members is therefore 15.4% of OTE or 15.4% of the maximum contribution base (whichever is lower). The Employer Superannuation Contribution for members of other schemes is therefore 9.5% of OTE or 9.5% of the maximum contribution base (whichever is lower).
Where the office holder is also salary sacrificing to the PSSAP or another fund the usual salary sacrifice requirements apply.
For each Principal Executive Office (PEO) the Tribunal sets a total remuneration reference rate establishing the parameters within which the relevant employing body determines total remuneration (TR).
The employing body also determines the superannuation salary for a PEO who is a member of a defined benefits scheme. This may be up to 73% of TR (unless the Tribunal has consented to other arrangements for a specific office holder).
The Employer Superannuation Contribution is a compulsory component of TR and the amount actually contributed must comply with the employer's legal obligations under relevant legislation.
Defined benefit scheme members
For a PEO who is member of a defined benefit scheme, the Employer Superannuation Contribution, for the purpose of calculating the cash salary component of TR, is usually a notional amount calculated as 15.4% of the office holder’s superannuation salary. The value of the Employer Superannuation Contribution may be less than 15.4% of superannuation salary if there is actuarial evidence that the cost to the agency (including the cost of the productivity component) is lower that 15.4%.
The value of the notional Employer Superannuation Contribution changes whenever an office holder’s TR is adjusted.
However, contributions salary, on which personal contributions are based, generally does not change until the office holder’s birthday and should be administered according to the rules of the scheme.
Note that actual employer payments made by a Department or agency to the superannuation scheme in respect of office holders’ superannuation (based on advice from the Superannuation Branch of the Department of Finance) vary according to demographics and scheme membership in the particular Department or agency. Because of this the Tribunal has determined that a standard notional contribution rate (15.4%) should apply to all office holders who are members of defined benefit funds.
Accumulation Fund members
See the FAQ “How is the Employer Superannuation Contribution calculated for an office holder who is a member of an accumulation scheme such as the PSSAP?”
For a member of a defined benefit scheme, the value of the Employer Superannuation Contribution for the purpose of calculating the cash component of total remuneration (TR) is a notional amount calculated as 15.4% of the office holder’s superannuation salary.
Note that the value may be less than 15.4% for Principal Executive Offices (PEOs) in some circumstances – see the PEO determination for more information.
The Employer Superannuation Contribution for TR purposes needs to be recalculated immediately upon any change in TR for the office. This will result in a change to the office holder’s cash salary.
However, the office holder’s superannuation contributions salary remains subject to the rules of the scheme, i.e. is updated on the office holder’s birthday.
Note that actual employer payments made by a Department or agency to the superannuation scheme in respect of an office holder’s superannuation (based on advice from the Superannuation Branch of the Department of Finance) vary according to demographics and scheme membership in the particular Department or agency. Because of this the Tribunal has determined that a standard notional contribution rate (15.4%) should apply to all office holders who are members of defined benefit funds (and that it should apply immediately on adjustment, rather than from the office holder’s birthday). Any enquiries about superannuation liabilities should be directed to the Superannuation Branch in the Department of Finance ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or the Australian Tax Office. Enquiries on the superannuation arrangements for the Federal Judiciary can be directed to JudicialSchemes@finance.gov.au .
The website’s search facility enables users to find answers to questions about the Tribunal's functions and offices. Where there is a FAQ containing the search term the website provides suggestions as text is entered. Paying agencies and other frequent visitors to the site are encouraged to sign up to receive an email alert when changes are made to the website.
Each category of office has a dedicated launch page that provides a background on the office and relevant FAQs. Current determinations, together with current applicable guidelines, statements and reports, display on the launch page. The current determinations could include either consolidated determinations or principal determinations (see the FAQ “What are principal determinations, compilations and amending determinations” for more information).
Most determinations (including associated explanatory statements and if applicable, reasons for determinations) and other statements and reports from 2004 can be found in the Document Library by conducting a filtered search (by office, year and/or document type). Should access be required to historical documentation (generally from 2003 or earlier years) a request can be made to the Remuneration Tribunal Secretariat at email@example.com.
The Tribunal is also keen to receive feedback about the website. You are welcome to email your suggestions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the exception of the determinations relating to Departmental Secretaries, Tribunal determinations are legislative instruments, which means that, under sub-section 38(1) of the Legislation Act 2003, they are required to be tabled in both houses of Parliament by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel within 6 sitting days after the determination has been registered on the Federal Register of Legislation.
A PEO Notification is a form to assist employing bodies to fulfil their obligations to notify the Tribunal within 4 weeks of a change to a Principal Executive Officer's (PEO's) remuneration (including payment of performance pay) or other terms and conditions.
The form also provides the Tribunal with feedback on how a PEO's employing body applies the discretionary elements of the remuneration package. The form can be found on the PEO 'Background' page on the Tribunal's website.
No - The FBT on accommodation allowance is an expense to the agency, not the office holder, so it is not to be deducted from total remuneration.
Total remuneration (TR) is defined in the PEO determination. It represents the total value of all cash and non-cash benefits available to the office holder (excluding performance pay, relocation allowances, travelling allowances and compensation for early loss of office). An office holder’s cash salary is the component of TR that remains when all other payments and benefits, including the Employer Superannuation Contribution, are honoured. Cash salary should not be confused with the superannuation salary determined by the employing body for office holders who are members of defined benefit schemes.
To determine cash salary
The Employer's Superannuation Contribution*
Other benefits e.g. motor vehicle and parking, fringe benefits tax and any salary sacrifice payments, such as additional superannuation contributions.
equals: Cash Salary
* The Employer's Superannuation Contribution is defined in the Tribunal's PEO Determination.
Essentially it is:
- for members of PSSAP - 15.4% of ordinary time earnings (OTE);
- for members of other accumulation schemes - the compulsory employer superannuation contribution that must be made to the fund; and
- for members of a Commonwealth defined benefit schemes (e.g. CSS/PSS) - a notional value calculated as 15.4% of the Superannuation Salary (i.e. normally 15.4% of 73% of TR.Notes re Superannuation Salary:
- The employing body is responsible for determining superannuation salary for office holders who are members of defined benefit schemes. The PEO determination provides that the maximum superannuation salary that may be determined by an employing body is 73% of TR. An exception can occur where the Tribunal has given express written consent to an alternative ‘grandfathered’ arrangement for an individual office holder who has a (pre-existing) higher salary for superannuation purposes under the defined benefit scheme rules (see FAQ “What happens if an office holder has an existing superannuation salary that is higher than the superannuation salary that applies to the office?”).
- For PEOs who are defined benefit members the value of the Employer Superannuation Contribution may be less than 15.4% of superannuation salary if there is actuarial evidence that the cost to the agency (including the cost of the productivity component) is lower that 15.4%
All Tribunal determinations are disallowable instruments except those relating to Departmental Secretaries and Members of Parliament.
Either House of Parliament may, within 15 sitting days after a determination has been tabled, pass a resolution 'disapproving' the determination. If a determination that is disapproved (disallowed) has already come into operation, the determination does not have any force or effect on or after the day on which the resolution was passed. However, disallowance does not apply retrospectively. This means, for example, that affected office holders who have already received a pay rise do not have to repay any additional remuneration they have already received. However, from the date of disallowance, their pay would revert to what it was previously.
Special arrangements apply for Judicial Offices within the Tribunal’s determining jurisdiction. Determinations for Judicial Offices do not come into effect until after the 15 sitting days disallowance period has passed. This means, for example, that if the Tribunal determines a remuneration increase for Judges, they will not receive their increased pay until after the disallowance period. Any remuneration increase would be backdated to the date of effect specified in the determination. These arrangements are necessary due to sub-section 72(iii) of the Constitution, which expressly prohibits diminution of a Judge's remuneration while the Judge remains in office.
Commonwealth defined benefits scheme rules provide that an office holder's salary for superannuation purposes will be grandfathered at the highest rate applying in the year to the member's last birthday, increased annually in accordance with changes to the Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings (AWOTE) unless a higher superannuation salary is applied.
To ensure an office holder’s superannuation salary conforms with scheme requirements, the Tribunal will, upon request, agree to a higher personal superannuation salary rate for the office holder. A request to the Tribunal can be included in a remuneration submission by a Minister or employing body or notified to the Tribunal’s Secretariat by a relevant senior officer of the agency with access to the officer holder’s superannuation salary history.
Sub-clause 2.12.1 of the PEO determination sets out the maximum performance pay that may be available. However it should be noted that there are some instances where the Tribunal has consented to variations in relation to particular offices. These variations include:
* instances where access to performance pay has been removed, usually in association with an increase in available fixed remuneration; and
* instances where the Tribunal has consented to a higher potential performance pay percentage, in special circumstances.
It is an employing body's responsibility to maintain records of correspondence that includes the Tribunal's consent to such variations and ensure its decisions are consistent with the PEO Determination and any variations to which the Tribunal has consented.
The Tribunal regularly reminds employing bodies of these arrangements.
The Tribunal may determine recreation leave for full-time holders of public office (but not part-time) where the enabling legislation (i.e. the Act establishing the office) states that the Tribunal will determine the matter.
It cannot determine other types of leave, such as personal and miscellaneous leave, for public office holders other than Secretaries of Departments.
The Tribunal has more general powers for Principal Executive Offices (PEOs) and for Judicial and Related offices - it can determine other types of leave as outlined in Part 5 of the PEO determination and in Part 2 of the Judicial and Related Offices determination.
There is no obligation to advise the Tribunal. However, we appreciate such advice as it ensures that correspondence to office holders is correctly addressed and, in the case of a resignation, that any person-specific clauses are removed from the relevant determination.
Where a new Principal Executive Office (PEO) appointment is made, the Tribunal must be advised on the remuneration determined by the employing body for that office holder within 4 weeks of that determination being made.