Frequently asked questions

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What employer superannuation contributions apply where a full-time office holder previously held a higher paid position in the public service and was a CSS/PSS member?
Commonwealth fund 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, and increased annually by AWOTE unless a higher superannuation salary is applied. To ensure an appropriate level of notional employer contributions are included in the office holders TR, the Tribunal must be asked to determine a personal Base Salary rate for the office holder. A request to the Tribunal can be included in any submission by a Minister or Employing Body for determination of remuneration, or notified to the Tribunal Secretariat by a relevant senior officer of the agency with access to the officer holders superannuation salary history. 

Applies to: Full time; Secretaries

Can a Secretary receive additional remuneration for participation on a Commonwealth board?

No, anyone employed on a full-time basis by the Commonwealth (i.e. a member of the Australian Public Service or Public Office Holder) may not receive additional remuneration for holding a part-time public office (section 7 (11) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 refers). 

If however, a Secretary is required to travel to undertake business of the part-time public office, he/she is entitled to receive travelling allowance.


Applies to: Secretaries

How is the pay for an acting Secretary determined?

The Remuneration Tribunal does not have a role in deciding the remuneration to apply to acting arrangements.

The Public Service Act 1999 provides that the Prime Minister may appoint a person to act as a Secretary.  This power can be delegated.  Section 33A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901  provides that the person or body who has the power to appoint a person to act in a particular office also has the power to determine the acting appointee's remuneration and allowances.

Agencies would normally be notified of the Prime Minister's approach to acting Secretary arrangements by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.


Applies to: Secretaries

Where a Secretary receives an accommodation allowance that is subject to FBT, should the FBT be deducted from the Secretary's Total Remuneration to derive cash salary?

No, an accommodation allowance does not form part of a Secretary’s Total Remuneration, and  neither does any taxation obligation arising from it.


Applies to: Secretaries

After a Secretary is awarded a pay rise, when should superannuation be adjusted?

Defined benefit schemes (PSS/CSS)

·         For Total Remuneration (TR) and calculation of residual cash salary purposes:

Calculating that portion of a Secretary's TR which relates to employer superannuation contributions should be updated from the date of effect of the increase awarded by the Tribunal.  This means that the notional value of employer superannuation contributions, which is 15.4% of the Secretary's Base Salary (70% of TR), would be updated from the date of effect of the increase. 

·        For contribution purposes:

Changes to any amount of superannuation that the Secretary actually contributes to the PSS or CSS a different date of effect.  A Secretary's salary for contributions purposes is updated on the Secretary's birthday, falling on or after the date of effect of the Tribunal’s increase, in accordance with fund rules. 

·        For benefits purposes:

Superannuation benefits salary is also determined according to the rules of each fund. When completing a superannuation benefit appliation on a Secretary's exit from the CSS or PSS, the 'salary for superannuation purposes on exit' would be the superannuation salary (Base Salary) determined by the Tribunal - for any date of exit on and from the date of effect determined by the Tribunal.

Accumulation Schemes

As with defined benefit scheme members, for PSSAP members the portion of a Secretary's Total Remuneration which relates to superannuation should be updated from the date of effect of the Tribunal's increase, and actual employer contributions will also be updated at that time. For members of other accumulated funds, contributions can be modified at any time, provided the minimum contribution required by the - Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 is met. 


Applies to: Secretaries

When a Secretary is awarded a pay rise, what is the date of effect of the pay rise?

The date of effect of any pay rise is specified in the Remuneration Tribunal determination.


Applies to: Secretaries

When is employer provided parking a benefit and how do you calculate it?

Parking at the main office location of a Secretary or other Full Time Public Office Holder, where there is a cost to the Commonwealth, is regarded as a Benefit to that office holder and the value is considered part of Total Remuneration, even where the office holder doesn't have a Commonwealth provided vehicle. 

Any fringle benefits tax (FBT) that applies in relation to that car park is included in the cost to the Commonwealth, and therefore should also be included in the calculation of the Benefit.

A Class B parking permit to allow short stay parking in Commonwealth designated spaces would normally be regarded as a Business Support expense to the Department.


Applies to: Full time; Secretaries; Principal Executive offices

How is the Employer Superannuation Contribution calculated?

For members of the defined benefit schemes, the Employer's Superannuation Contribution is a notional amount calculated as 15.4% of Base Salary (70% of TR).  For members of accumulation schemes the Employer's Superannuation Contribution is the amount of compulsory superannuation contribution paid.  Additional salary sacrifice contributions are not included in the definition of the 'employer's superannuation contribution'.

Note that actual employer payments made by Departments to the superannuation schemes in respect of Secretaries' superannuation (based on advice from the Superannuation Branch of the Department of Finance) vary according to demographics and scheme membership in the Department.  Because of this the Tribunal has determined that a standard notional contribution rate should apply to all Secretaries who are members of defined benefit funds.  It's quite likely that the actual payments made by agencies on Finance's advice will be based on a different percentage.


Applies to: Secretaries

What is included in a Secretary's Total Remuneration and how is his/her cash salary calculated?

Total Remuneration (TR) is defined in Part 1 of the Determination for Departmental Secretaries.  A Secretary's cash salary is the component of TR that remains when all other payments and benefits, including the Employer's Superannuation Contribution, are honoured.   Cash salary should not be confused with the Base Salary determined by the Tribunal.  (Base Salary is the superannuation salary for defined benefits superannuation scheme members.)

Cash salary equals TR, less the employer's superannuation contribution, less all payments and benefits included in the Secretary's remuneration package (other than those specifically excluded in accordance with the Determination).

The process is outlined in the diagram below:

TRminusThe  Employer's Superannuation Contribution*minusOther benefits e.g. motor vehicle and parking, fringe benefits tax and any salary sacrifice payments such as additional superannuation contributions.equalsCash salary

* The Employer's Superannuation Contribution is defined in the Tribunal's 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;
  • for members of a Commonwealth defined benefit scheme (CSS/PSS) - a notional value calculated as 15.4% of Base Salary.

Applies to: Secretaries