About suitability assessments

1. What is a suitability assessment?

A suitability assessment is used when an employee affected by workplace change, either under the Supporting employees affected by workplace change directive (SEAWC) or through the early placement process for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), is to be considered for a vacant position within a public service agency. 

The receiving agency needs to carry out an assessment within 7 business days, from referral of the possible match to advice of outcome. The assessment should consider if the employee has the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the duties required or ability to learn the duties required. 

The assessment is not a competitive merit process. The employee has already meritoriously been appointed to a level. For example, an applicant for a grant administration vacancy may have no experience in grant administration or the particular legislation, but may demonstrate transferable skills that would allow them to do so given a reasonable period of training and induction. These skills could include an ability to understand and apply assessment criteria, a sustained capacity to meet tight turnaround times, and the interpersonal skill to deal professionally with aggrieved grant applicants.

2. What should a suitability assessment include? 

  • Information the case manager already provided in the referral process to determine what else (e.g. applicant’s resume) the hiring manager and/or panel needs to determine if the applicant is suitable for the role. 
  • A conversation with the applicant to explore gaps in the hiring manager and/or panel’s understanding of the applicant’s suitability. This is not a formal interview, and does not require the applicant to formally address key capabilities and selection criteria.
  • Samples of the applicant’s work to supplement the discussion. This might include asking the applicant to undertake a task which will enable them to demonstrate their skills in practice.
  • Contacting referees to seek confirmation about the applicant’s capabilities and their capacity to transfer their skills-set to a new role. 

Key considerations in preparing questions for a suitability assessment include:

  • What are the minimum skills necessary to meet the requirements of the role to a satisfactory level?
  • What information does the hiring manager and/or panel needs to determine suitability?
  • Would the applicant meet the minimum skills if provided with a reasonable period of training and induction (as a minimum 3 months, but this would be role dependent) and, if the applicant is fit to undertake the role with reasonable adjustment?

3. What should a suitability assessment not include?

A suitability assessment should not include any form of assessment that cannot be shown to be necessary for assessing suitability rather than merit. For example, psychometric assessments or assessment of emotional intelligence would not be used as standard practice, but could be used when there is a genuine risk or workplace health and safety implications for the role. 

4. Who needs to be part of a suitability assessment and their role?

  • Hiring manager—assess resume, contact referees and/or case manager, contact applicant to discuss the vacant role and their knowledge and experience.
  • Case manager from SEAWC employee’s agency—provide advice to the hiring manager on the directive and process, provide a statement of suitability and resume to the hiring manager.
  • SEAWC employee—ensure their resume is up-to-date, available to speak with hiring manager.
  • Employee’s home agency representative on panel (considered normal practice)—participate in meetings before or after the suitability assessment, provide information on the applicant’s performance and suitability for the position. The agency representative is not an advocate for the applicant, but should ensure the assessment process is fair and takes into account all relevant information.
  • Panel chair (if applicable)—ensure consensus is reached about the suitability assessment outcome.
  • Chief human resources officers (releasing and receiving agencies)—work together to resolve any disputes about the suitability assessment outcome. 

5. How long should a suitability assessment take?

A suitability assessment needs to be carried out within 7 business days, from referral of the possible match to advice of outcome. Any delay in assessment is to be negotiated between the hiring agency and the employee’s case manager.

The recruiting manager must notify the affected employee and their case manager of the suitability assessment outcome within 2 business days of the assessment process being completed.

6. What if the employee is deemed suitable?

If an employee is suitable for a vacant role, a suitability assessment report is not required.  

Both the home agency and receiving agency need to ensure all appropriate documentation is completed. The commencement date must be discussed between the employee, current agency and the receiving agency, taking into account, as applicable, approved leave and/or a current placement. Where an employee is not on leave or undertaking a placement secondment, a commencement date of 2 calendar weeks will generally be considered appropriate.

7. What is the process to appoint the employee?

When an affected employee is assessed as suitable, a transfer or secondment (at level) direction or a redeployment/secondment (to a lower level) offer is made, with a start date specified.

8. What if the employee is deemed unsuitable?

Affected employees who are unsuitable for a vacant role, and their case manager, must be provided with a copy of their suitability assessment report and provided with constructive feedback within 2 days by the hiring manager. This will help identify development and training requirements for the affected employee. 

9. Can an employee decline a transfer or secondment at level after a suitability assessment?

Where an affected employee is assessed as suitable, they may make a submission to the releasing agency the transfer or secondment (at level) direction is unreasonable. This submission should be made within 5 business days of notification of the transfer direction. If the submission is accepted, the transfer or secondment direction is withdrawn. If the submission is not accepted, the transfer or secondment direction stands.

An affected employee may decline a transfer or secondment (at level) direction on one occasion only without having to demonstrate unreasonableness. In such cases, the employee remains on the SEAWC register and are eligible for further referrals.

10. What if there are 2 employees referred to the same role?

Where more than 1 affected employee is assessed as suitable, recommendations for appointment shall be on the basis of relative merit between the employees. Any unsuccessful employees (and their case manager) must be provided with constructive feedback by the hiring manager to assist them in future referrals and applications. 

11. What is applicant care?

Registered SEAWC employees are likely to have a degree of uncertainty about job security in addition to the usual nervousness associated with a suitability assessment process. This can inhibit applicants’ ability to articulately present their case. The process should be made as comfortable and non-intimidating as possible. This can be achieved by:

  • providing the applicant with information, ahead of time, about the suitability assessment and what it will involve 
  • allowing the applicant to prepare responses to panel questions. Requiring the applicant to provide unprepared responses is a valid indicator of suitability only if the role requires the incumbent to think quickly on their feet. The applicant’s responses can be verified in the referee-checking process
  • conducting the assessment as a conversation rather than as an interview, which can be achieved by less formal venue, seating arrangements etc.