- What is a ‘work base’?
An employee’s work base is the place of work where they spend the most (more than 50 percent) of their time on duty.
This is usually their employing parliamentarian’s electorate office, the office at Parliament House or another office provided at the Commonwealth’s expense.
Clause 67 of the Commonwealth Members of Parliament Staff Enterprise Agreement 2020-2023 (MOP(S) EA) defines a work base as:
a. For an ongoing or non-ongoing employee, the place of work where the employee spends most time on duty; and
b. For a casual employee, the place of work where the employee spends most time on duty. The separate instances of work during the period in their employment agreement will be considered together for the employee’s work base.
- What is an “Alternative Work Base”
A location other than their employing parliamentarian’s Electorate Office, Parliament House office (if no other Electorate employee is based there), or other Commonwealth Funded Office is considered to be an alternative work base.
An employee’s residence is considered to be their 'alternative work base’ if they work from home on a regular basis and they spend the majority of their time working from home rather than in the office.
Alternative work bases allow greater flexibility for parliamentarians to employ a person that they consider has the skills and capabilities to support them. It also allows parliamentarians representing remote and regional locations to employ staff from outside of their electorate who may have the skills and experience that they may not be able to find in their local area.
The Special Minister of State may approve an alternative work base or a working from home arrangement for an electorate employee or personal employee in special circumstances. A MOP(S) Act employee may request to work from another parliamentarian’s office, subject to approval by the parliamentarian whose office they are requesting to work from.
The table below summarises whether work base approval is required, depending on an employee’s circumstances:
Is approval of an employee’s work base required?
If there is already one Electorate employee working from the parliamentarian’s APH office, approval is required for additional Electorate employees.
Additional Commonwealth funded office
Privately Funded Office
Work from Home
Yes, unless it is an ad hoc arrangement that will not continue for more than 5 days.
Yes, unless it is an ad hoc arrangement that will not occur for more than 5 days.
Working from another Parliamentarian’s office
- Requesting approval for an alternative work base
For an electorate officer, approval can be sought from a delegate of the Special Minister of State (SMOS) within Ministerial and Parliamentary Services (MaPS) by emailing the MaPS Help Desk email firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests must be endorsed by the respective Parliamentarian or authorised officer.
For personal employees seeking an alternative work base and/or working from home arrangement, the employing parliamentarian or authorised officer must write to the SMOS requesting approval of the arrangement. Any questions regarding the status of such requests should then be directed to email@example.com.
Electorate officers or personal employees working from a privately funded electorate office must also seek approval to work from the privately funded office.
Please note that nominating an alternate work base on your employment forms requires approval from the SMOS or delegate prior to engagement.
All requests must be made in writing and include:
- Current Parliamentarian’s/employees office location
- AWB location – employee’s working from home location (home address not required, but actual town or suburb and State is necessary), or Parliamentarian’s office location, or privately funded electorate office location
- Reason for the proposed alternative work base
- The start date for the alternate work base arrangement and if applicable the end date
- Any other relevant factors (e.g. if working from another Parliamentarian’s office, written approval from them as well as capacity for that office to accommodate the employee.
The Government Staffing Committee can also grant an alternative work base for a new Ministerial MOP(S) Act employee upon their commencement. Usually, this approval is only for personal Ministerial employees as the Government Staffing Committee (GSC) provides support regarding the Prime Minister’s allocation of personal employees to parliamentarians. GSC approvals are provided directly to Finance.
Approval for an alternative work base is required for all employees, including casual employees.
Failure to seek approval in a timely manner may lead to delays in processing employment agreements and claims for travel allowance.
- Working from Home - Work Health and Safety
Where an employee is working from home, the approval is granted on the basis that the employee can carry out the full range of duties from their residence and that they will complete the Work health and safety checklist - working from home or from a privately-funded office or satellite office. A copy of the checklist must be kept on file by the Parliamentarian’s office as it will be part of the employee’s employment record.
- Work base and eligibility for Travel Allowance (TA)
When arranging travel, it is important the parliamentarians and their MOP(S) Act employees are aware of the operation of clause 55 of the Enterprise Agreement.
If a MOP(S) Act employee is found to have spent more than 50 percent of their time for the period they are claiming TA in a location that was not their agreed work base, that location is deemed to be their workplace and TA is not payable.
Parliamentarians should discuss expectations regarding travel with their new employees and ensure all parties understand the employee’s work base will be where they spend the majority of their time on duty. When assessing eligibility and TA claims, the Independent Parliamentary Expense Authority (IPEA) reviews the location where an employee spends most time on duty, regardless of what the parliamentarian and employee have agreed or whether the employee has approval to work from an alternative work base.
Other limits apply to the payment of TA – refer ‘Travel Allowance limits’, section 6 below.
- Travel Allowance limits
Clause 55 of the MOPS EA specifies that TA is payable as a single flat rate that is inclusive of accommodation, meals and incidental expenses that will be paid to the employee when they are required. TA will only be paid when an employee is staying overnight in the location that they have travelled to and will be paid for a maximum of 35 nights (cl. 55.3 MOP(S) EA).
An exception to this rule is that personal employees and electorate employees who are not being paid from the electorate support budget can stay overnight in Canberra for up to 120 nights (cl. 55.8-55.10 MOP(S) EA). The Minister may review this limit each financial year. For the financial year 2022/23 the SMOS increased the limit on overnight stays in Canberra to 150 nights. This will be re-set to 120 nights on 1 July 2023, unless a further review is undertaken.
The provisions regarding the 35 night maximum TA and the 120 nights Canberra maximum both apply to the eligibility and payment for TA, based on whichever occurs first.
The ‘50 percent rule’ (‘work base’ as defined in cl. 67) may also apply and limit the eligibility to TA: that is ‘an employee’s work base is the place of work where they spend most time on duty’ (refer section 3).
- Parliamentary Business Resources Act (PBR) obligations
Although the Special Minister of State can approve requests for MOP(S) Act employees to work from another parliamentarian’s electorate, Ministerial or office holder office, it is important that the hosting Parliamentarian takes appropriate steps to ensure they meet their obligations under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017, particularly the dominant purpose test, in relation to both the use of the office and office expenses, such as stationery.
If a parliamentarian contravenes their PBR obligations, they may be required to repay relevant expenses to the Commonwealth and a penalty loading of 25 per cent may be applicable.
A MOP(S) employee that is located in another parliamentarian’s office must not do any work for the hosting Parliamentarian.
Jan is a non-ongoing employee engaged for three weeks whose employee agreement states her work base is the electorate office in Sydney. However, she actually spends two weeks in Canberra during a Parliamentary sitting period. Accordingly, Canberra is her work base rather than the electorate office. Jan is not eligible to travel at Commonwealth expense from Sydney to Canberra or to claim TA for her time in Canberra.
Glen is an ongoing employee approved to have a three-month temporary alternative work base to work from home in Adelaide before relocating to work in his employer’s electorate office in Perth. However, he works a total of 40 out of 60 business days in the electorate office. Glen’s work base is considered Perth and he is not entitled to travel at Commonwealth expense from Adelaide to Perth or claim TA.
Michael is a casual electorate officer engaged for two weeks. During that time he works three days in Melbourne, then five days in Canberra and a further two days in Melbourne. As he has spent most time on duty in Melbourne over the length of his engagement, Melbourne is considered Michael’s work base. He is eligible to fly to Canberra at Commonwealth expense and claim TA for his time in Canberra.
For more information about TA rates for employees, the IPEA website has a page that provides the latest figures.
- Frequently Asked Questions
a. How do I determine what my work base is?
If you are not certain about what your work base should be, please contact IPEA at firstname.lastname@example.org outlining the number of nights that you have spent in your current location. IPEA will assess whether or not this will change your work base location for purposes of travelling allowance and advise if this impacts on your travel allowance payment.
b. Who do I contact to request an alternative work base arrangement?
For an electorate employee please seek endorsement from your Parliamentarian outlining why you would like an alternative work base approved, advising if this will be a temporary or permanent arrangement and providing dates accordingly, upon endorsement please have your Parliamentarian or someone from the office forward the request to email@example.com. Finance’s delegate will assess your request before replying.
For personal employees, please arrange for your Parliamentarian to contact the Special Minister of State’s office via letter or email outlining why an alternative work base should be approved for you. The SMOS will respond with a decision.
c. Can Parliamentarians host the MOP(S) Act employees of another Parliamentarian?
Parliamentarians may host the MOP(S) Act employees of other parliamentarians in their electorate or Ministerial office. However, when doing so they must advise Finance of their decision and be aware of the risks regarding how they manage their office supplies provided under the Parliamentary Business Resources Framework.
Parliamentarians have an obligation to use their electorate office and office resources for the dominant purpose of conducting their own parliamentary business.
d. What is covered by travel allowance?
Travel allowance covers the cost of accommodation as well as incidental costs (such as meals). The travel allowance rate for employees can be accessed on the IPEA website.