Human resource issues during the sale of a government trading enterprise
9, November 2017

A large government agency was selling one of its businesses to the private sector via a tendering process. Tenders from interested purchasers had been received but not yet evaluated. The agency retained Maitland to provide human resources and industrial relations advice and strategies with regards to the employees who were to be retained by the new entity and for those who would leave, including the transfer of employee benefits to the new entity and the paying out of benefits (long service leave, annual leave) for those who were leaving, or transferring these to a new public sector employer.

The agency asked the Maitland consultant to:

  • Develop a human resources transition plan for the sale of the asset, which detailed the activities, approvals and associated timeframes to support the asset’s transition to the new owner
  • Lead the implementation of the human resource transition plan
  • On behalf of the agency liaise with other relevant public sector agencies, including the Public Sector Commission
  • Provide strategic advice in relation to the Public Sector Management Act and any other government policies or regulations relevant to industrial relations and human resources
  • Provide objective, balanced written and verbal advice and recommendations on specific issues as required by the agency

Transition arrangements for the employees were done on a case-by-case basis and frequent communication to them was part of the human resources strategy. One point that was of great interest to the employees who wanted to understand the logistics of transferring the business, what would be left and whether the remaining organisation represented an opportunity they should consider as one of their options.

Time was spent with the employees and the government agency to determine what functions would remain, who would do the work, the location and the timeframe.  Subsequently, employment arrangements were negotiated between the agency and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), which had been supplying human resources services to the business, including the provision of supporting documentation for all parties.

Planning, consultation and meetings were held with the CEO of the business, DAFWA and some of the business’s employees to ensure the specific logistics of transferring individuals and their records to different employers was fully planned and that all identifiable issues were resolved.  This included personal records, payroll records, final payments, the last and first day at work and the requirements of individuals on these days. Additional work on this plan was confirmed in the “Last 48 hours” planning meeting.

A couple of employees decided to retire, while the rest were transferred to the new entity or another government agency. They were all very happy with their own outcome and how the transition had taken place.