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Staff Conferences and Planning Days Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) This policy applies to Western Sydney University School, Centre or Divisional unit conferences and planning days that are undertaken for the purpose of strategic and operational planning and/or staff development and are held both on and off campus. The policy covers the approval procedures for holding staff conferences and planning days with due consideration given to the costs, relevance, objectives, and expected outcomes.

(2) The policy and procedures do not cover conferences that are open to participation by external parties. Those conferences are dealt with in the Conference Policy.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(3) For the purposes of this policy:

  1. staff conferences and planning days include but are not limited to conferences, forums, events and meetings for groups of employees (e.g. by division, school, centre or organisational unit) and participants are primarily University staff, visiting and adjunct appointees, students, and/or contractors.
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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(4) The University supports the undertaking of staff conferences/planning days for planning and development purposes where the objectives have been clearly defined, the relevance of the conference/planning day is clearly demonstrated, expected outcomes have been identified, and expenditure is reasonable and within budget.

(5) Staff conferences/planning days are funded from the normal operating budget of the University and as such are subject to the standards and accountabilities that the University applies to the expenditure of its 'public' funds. The normal policies on tendering and purchasing apply.

(6) Costs associated with the staff conference/planning day, including the provision of various services, activities, facilities, venue, accommodation, catering and travel, should be kept within reasonable limits and funded from the unit's funds. The Unit Head must be able to justify items of expenditure. Facilities and venue may be of a reasonable quality and standard but should not be extravagant. Similarly, the payment, use or giving of expensive 'rewards', gifts, recreational activities, entertainment, accommodation or meals are not approved.

(7) Preference is to be given to the use of University facilities, resources and services. This includes campus-based, University owned venues, facilities and catering and the use of other internal resources or services.

(8) Employees who breach the provisions of this policy may be subject to action under the provisions of unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct as outlined in the relevant staff agreement.

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Section 4 - Procedures

Approval

(9) All staff conferences/planning days must be approved in advance by the relevant Dean, Director, Executive Director or Deputy Vice-Chancellor. The Unit Head is responsible for making a written submission to the relevant delegate.

(10) Where staff conferences/planning days are held on campus and are of short duration (less than one day), a brief submission seeking approval and addressing the relevant points (from Clause 11) should be made.

(11) For staff conferences/planning days that are held off-campus or are residential, written submissions should:

  1. Clearly define the purpose, relevance and expected outcomes of the staff conference/planning day, include a description of staff participating and how the staff conference/planning day interfaces with School, Division and/or University planning;
  2. Demonstrate that the total cost is reasonable and appropriate and within the financial capacity of the unit, and provide a breakdown of costs including transport, accommodation, catering, facilitator, speakers, entertainment or recreational activity. Any Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) costs should be included in the breakdown;
  3. Provide an agenda and complete program of activities, including social and recreational activities;
  4. Provide a justification for using off-campus or non-University owned venues, facilities and resources or for holding a residential conference/planning day where the conference/planning day might feasibly be held on a single day or over separate but not consecutive days);
  5. Outline any issues associated with the absence or unavailability of staff and their services during the staff conference/planning day;
  6. Identify the duration, timing, nature and outcomes of previous staff conference/planning days or events of this kind undertaken by the unit; and
  7. Include a completed risk assessment for all activities which will be undertaken at the staff conference/planning day (identification of the activities, the associated risks, consequences and controls in place).

(12) Organisers should be aware of the requirements of the Travel Policy in regard to the completion of an electronic Travel Approval Form (e-TAN). Organisers can complete one e-TAN for the whole conference/planning day and should list all staff attending and provide any pre-approval emails or any other such documentation as required by those policies.

Considerations for Organisers

(13) In relation to the planning and organisation of staff conferences/planning days, organisers should have regard to the need to:

  1. Comply with the University's Travel Policy and that University will not pay for personal expenditure incurred;
  2. Adhere to the University's Alcohol and Drug Control Policy and to limit alcohol provision to the conference/planning day dinner within reasonable limits;
  3. Ensure that any discounts or 'gifts' provided by the conference/planning day venue are absorbed into the budget and not retained by individuals for personal benefit;
  4. Hold the conference/planning day in a location that reduces the need for excessive and costly travel;

(14) Information or advice on the planning, facilitation and coordination of staff conferences/planning days, event management, and contact information on reasonably priced venues with suitable facilities is available from Talent and Leadership Development, University Venues, and the Manager, Corporate Travel and Groups.

Accounting for FBT

(15) Organisers need to properly budget for Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) liabilities as outlined below.

Meal Entertainment

(16) An FBT liability will arise where meal entertainment (i.e. food and/or drink) has been provided to employees and associates and has the character of entertainment.

(17) The determination of whether or not the provision of food and drink constitutes the provision of entertainment requires an objective analysis of all the surrounding circumstances. The ATO considers that the following factors are relevant, but that none are determinative:

  1. Food and drink provided for the purposes of refreshment, such as morning/afternoon tea, does not generally have the character of entertainment. However food and/or drink provided in a social situation where the purpose of the function is for employees to enjoy themselves, or where the meal is elaborate, will have the character of entertainment.
  2. Food and drink provided to employees on approved University travel will generally not constitute entertainment where it is a work-related purpose rather than for the enjoyment of employees. A conference dinner will generally not attract FBT however, if it is a harbour cruise dinner or the dinner includes entertainment, it would be argued that FBT applies. Lunch (excluding light refreshments) provided at an event or meeting that is less than four hours is not deemed a work-related purpose and constitutes "entertainment".

Prizes, Incentives and Awards

(18) Any prizes, incentives, awards or gifts of any form provided to employees or associates will attract FBT.

Calculation

(19) The Finance Office must be notified of all benefits provided to staff. Any FBT liabilities that arise will be charged to the cost centre running the event. The amount of FBT is calculated as Cost of benefit provided (including GST) * 2.0647 * 46.5%. Further information about FBT is available from the Finance Office and its website.

Equity Issues

(20) Organisers should have regard to the University's social justice, respect and inclusion policies with respect to the organisation and attendance by employees at staff conference/planning days and in particular to the:

  1. Carers' Responsibilities in the Workplace Policy
  2. Disability Policy
  3. Equal and Diversity Opportunity Policy

(21) The location of and residential staff conferences/planning days can result in discrimination against particular employees with, for example, carers' responsibilities or a disability. Organisers need to minimise the likelihood of discrimination and provide appropriate support and adjustments.

Work Health and Safety Considerations

(22) Staff conferences/planning days fall within the normal work time and conditions applying to employees and work health and safety issues need to be considered.

(23) Organisers should ensure that venues and any recreational activities protect the health and safety of employees. Activities that have the potential to cause injuries should be avoided.

(24) A completed risk assessment is required for all activities which will be undertaken at the staff conference/planning day with identification of the activities, the associated risks, consequences and controls in place.

(25) Organisers must be aware of the emergency procedures for the venue and ensure that all employees are aware of any emergency procedures in the event of an emergency. Organisers must ensure that they have employees who are able to act as emergency wardens at the venue should they be required and that first aid arrangements are known and available.

Code of Conduct and University Policies

(26) Staff conferences/planning days are part of the normal workplace activities of the University. Organisers and employees should adhere to the standards of professional and ethical behaviour that apply to the University and adhere to the University's Code of Conduct.

(27) University policies apply at staff conferences/planning days as they would on campus. Policies of particular relevance are listed in the Associated Information.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(28) The Finance Office can provide advice about public liability insurance matters in regards to hiring venues associated with staff conferences/planning days.