Posted on June 13, 2024 by Dimitrious Havadjia and Lindsay Taylor

Local government ‘Senior Staff’ positions to be abolished

The employment conditions of most employees of local councils are set out in the relevant local government award (Relevant Award). For most councils, the Relevant Award is the Local Government State Award 2023. Prior to the changes discussed below, the Relevant Award did not apply to general managers and other ‘senior staff’.

The ‘senior staff’ positions of a Council are those determined by the Council in its adopted organisation structure (Executive Team Members). The general manager and senior staff are employed under standard contracts approved by the Departmental Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government. The standard contracts permit terminations without any specific reason.

Abolition of the concept of ‘senior staff’ from the LG Act

In response to recommendations from ICAC set out in Investigation into the Conduct of Councillors of the Former Canterbury City Council and Others from March 2021, the NSW Parliament has passed the Local Government Amendment (Employment Arrangements) Act 2024 (Amending Act). The Amending Act amends the LG Act to provide for changes regarding the staffing of councils and to abolish senior staff positions. The changes in the Amending Act are staggered from 31 May 2024, but will commence in their entirety on 1 September 2024.

The effect of the changes will be that a council’s Executive Team Members, with the exception of the general manager, will have their employment terms governed by the Relevant Award.

Practical consequences of this change are:

  1. the general manager will make decisions regarding the employment of Executive Team Members and the council’s governing body will no longer have a role in these decisions.
  2. Executive Team Members can be employed on fixed term contract or on an ongoing basis.
  3. The terms and conditions of employment of the Executive Team Members will be governed by the Relevant Award, including rates of pay, overtime and allowances, and performance management and termination procedures.
  4. Executive Team Members will have access to assistance from the Industrial Relations Commission NSW (IRC) to deal with disputes and will be eligible make claims to the IRC in relation to employment related matters, including unfair dismissal.

Do the changes apply to existing senior staff?

Current senior staff contracts for Executive Team Members continue until they expire or are terminated. However:

  1. Executive Team Members can request to be transferred to a new contract under the Relevant Award at any time before their current contract expires,
  2. councils must not unreasonably refuse the request to be transferred to a new contract, and
  3. Executive Team Members may apply to the IRC for a review of a council’s decision to refuse to transfer them to a new contract.


The Amending Act removes a council’s governing body from being involved with employment of any council employees except the general manager. Further, the new ability of Executive Team Members to appeal to the IRC regarding their employment will intensify the examination of any disputed decisions.

The Second Reading Speech states that the aim of the Amending Act is to diminish the potential for “improper influence” of Executive Team Members by providing them with increased security in their employment. However, the general manager is still not afforded protection by the IRC or the Relevant Award. This exclusion contradicts ICAC’s recommendations for amendments to the employment contracts of general managers. The Second Reading Speech does not explain why general managers are excluded from the Amending Act.

Under the standard contracts, Executive Team Members were able to work long hours without being entitled to overtime and allowances and could be dismissed without a reason. Where the Relevant Award applies to the employment of Executive Team Members, they will be entitled to overtime payments and can only be dismissed in accordance with the procedures in the Relevant Award. This issue will need to be addressed in relation to the terms of employment of Executive Team Members going forward.

The full text of the Amending Act can be found here: Local Government Amendment (Employment Arrangements) Act 2024.

If you wish to discuss the implications of these changes further, please contact Dimitrious Havadjia or Lindsay Taylor.