Review of ADF SERCAT 3-5 (Reserve) Employment Package


The Department of Defence Joint Reserve Working Group (JRWG) is reviewing the current employment package for SERCAT 3-5 (formerly known as Active Reserve) members. To date, the review has drawn on prior research to:

  • understand the basis of determination for the current SERCAT 3-5 employment package (focusing on remuneration and conditions of service), and
  • an environmental scan to identify future SERCAT 3-5 members’ remuneration and conditions of service expectations, plus attendant risks and opportunities for delivery of capability.

Future work will investigate options for employment package alternatives.

Some references:

  1. ADF Active Reservists’ Optimising the Defence Employment Package Survey 2016 April 2017
  2. Plan SUAKIN Predictive Behaviour Model (PBM) Sample Analysis October 2011
  3. Reserve Remuneration Industrial History (as at 2017) – A potted history

Reference A provides the most recent independent analysis of the priorities and levels of satisfaction members have with the elements within their Defence Employment Package. 22% (4,633) of the 20,664 invited members responded.

Reference B informed development of the SUAKIN The Case for Change and provides a far more detailed independent analysis. About 38.5% of ‘Active Reserves’ responded to this survey.  

Reference C provides a history of unintended consequences from changes to the Reserve employment package.

Remuneration and conditions of service expectations:

Based on these analyses, the known remuneration and conditions of service expectations are:

  • retain tax exempt status for SERCAT 3-5 salary,
  • include additional medical support/entitlements,
  • provide assurance of paid SERCAT 3-5 days (as linked to determination of annual salary and Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme 
  • (DHOAS),
  • enhance non-monetary recognition, and
  • add superannuation, but not to the detriment of extant remuneration and conditions of service.

The need for further analysis

However, the continuing relevance of this earlier analysis could be questioned as the work is almost seven years old and predates the First Principles Review and the Defence White Paper 2016 (and the SUAKIN Case for Change, itself). Moreover, this analysis is based on the views of the then Reserve members and does not necessarily reflect the remuneration and conditions of service expectations for future SERCAT 3-5 members. Hence, caution needs to be exercised in reliance on these analyses, albeit they are the best available

For example, DGRES-AF regularly undertakes ‘Town Hall’ sessions with AF SERCAT 3-5 members on bases. During these sessions he queries the priorities and levels of satisfaction members have with the elements within their Defence Employment Package. The responses generally mirror the findings at References A and B. More specifically, some members support payment of superannuation but only if it is paid in addition to current entitlements, i.e. without trade-off.

In preparing a competitive Defence Employment Package for the future (eg 2028), contemporary research and analysis is an essential prerequisite. Of necessity, this must assess the attractiveness of individual Employment Package variables and individuals’ trade-off preferences for each of these. In particular, Defence needs to understand, by Service, the difference in:

  • current and future dynamics of workforce behaviour across the SERCATs over time (organisational and individual),
  • changing nature of work, and
  • characteristics of and forecast differences in the 2018 and 2028 Navy, Army and Air Force SERCAT 3-5 workforces (and the transition across this time frame) and their individual/aggregate Employment Package preferences.

Members’ Preferences

References A and B reflect the preferences of those earlier surveys’ respondents; however, it is not known how their preferences will align with those of the future SERCAT 3-5 workforces, taking into account a range of key variables including the degree of difference on: personal motivation and ambition, age, pension recipient status, DFRDB/MSBS/ADF Super, private superannuation membership, direct entrant/transferee from ADF, career/employment prospects/expectations, proposed tenure, preference for ADF funded/self-funded contributions to ADF Super or personal super, relationship to salary tax exempt status, etc.

For example, the significance of superannuation as a dis-satisfier/satisfier for the aggregate grouping of future SERCAT 3-5 members (who may neither have ben surveyed previously nor be current SERCAT 2-7 members) is uncertain. Its influence will be an outcome of their personal circumstance and distinctly different from many current SERCAT 3-5 members who receive DFRDB or MSBS superannuation entitlements.

Based on current forecasts and research, it is known that the 2028 SERCAT 3-5 characteristics and composition are likely to be markedly different to today.  

Gathering new research data

Defence Force Recruiting is a potential source of more relevant research on the employment package preferences for future SERCAT 3-5 members, under its research arrangement with its partner – Manpower. This may not only provide an ongoing source of relevant information but also obviate the need for additional survey effort. Further assessment, involving the Directorate of Military Remuneration, will also occur to reconcile the contradictions inherent in the expectations.

Subject to assessing this recruiting research, future work will:

  • review the available contemporary trade-off research data to better forecast Defence Employment Package expectations for future SERCAT 3-5 members,
  • better understand the trade-off between continuity of tax-exempt salary and access to superannuation,
  • explore the potential inclusion of additional medical support /entitlements, and
  • investigate other potentially attractive options.


Reference C notes a series of unintended outcomes from inadequate research conducted prior changes to the Reserve employment package. References A and B offer insights into expectations for the Reserve/SERCAT 3-5 employment package from the 2011 and 2016 survey responses; however, the relevance of those expectations to future SERCAT 3-5 members is not known. Hence, development of future employment package options for consideration by the JRWG will draw from the experience of earlier changes and contemporary trade-off research.

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