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Focus On Series

Management of Unplanned Leave in Emergency Services

Audited Entities

  • Ambulance Victoria
  • Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board
  • Victoria Police

Audit Scope and Objectives

  • The audit objective was to assess whether AV, MFESB and VicPol are effectively and efficiently managing unplanned leave.

Audit Criteria

  • The agencies collect, analyse and report comprehensive and accurate data on leave.
  • The agencies oversee and manage unplanned leave in a timely and systematic manner.

Main Audit Findings

  • Victoria’s emergency service agencies—AV, MFESB and VicPol—have each recognised the importance of managing unplanned leave. However, there are significant differences in how effectively and efficiently they are each managing the issues.
  • Both AV and VicPol have been generally effective and efficient in managing unplanned leave, although AV recognises the need to reduce the personal unplanned leave levels of paramedics and other operational staff. AV and VicPol have effective management oversight, supported by sound and practical data that enables their frontline managers to manage and support staff. They are aware of the causes of unplanned leave and have either implemented, or are developing actions to address these.
  • However, MFESB needs to improve considerably. Compared to its peer agencies it has the poorest unplanned leave performance, which has been caused by ineffective management over the past decade.
  • MFESB’s management has been aware of the causes of personal unplanned leave since 2000 but it has not adequately addressed them. There is a lack of frontline management accountability for unplanned leave, and a lack of regular data on firefighters’ unplanned leave for managers at the station level. This needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.

Audit Recommendations

  • Ambulance Victoria should:
    • review support for team managers who also perform paramedic duties and implement improvements to maximise team managers’ ability to perform their roles
    • review processes for managing personal unplanned leave evidence to reduce the risk that personal unplanned leave is incorrectly recorded.
    • closely monitor in rural regions the outcomes of its strategy to strengthen team management and adjust the strategy to address gaps or underperformance.
  • The Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board should:
    • review the impact of its enterprise agreements on the efficiency of frontline management, and on the implementation of audit recommendations, in preparation for enterprise agreement discussions in 2013
    • strengthen performance management of firefighter managers and reduce the financial disincentive to more effectively manage personal unplanned leave
    • provide operational commanders, senior station officers and station officers with regularly updated information on the personal unplanned leave of firefighters in their teams
    • improve specialised human resources support to frontline managers
    • provide one comprehensive source of information on policies and procedures for managing personal unplanned leave
    • continue to strengthen human resource management processes and controls to reduce avoidable overtime costs.
  • Victoria Police should:
    • improve the management of police members undergoing performance and discipline procedures
    • monitor the use of online tools for accessing unplanned leave data, to make sure that the tools are accessible and meet the needs of police managers
    • adequately train all frontline police managers to handle complex personal matters involving staff.