Public servants who refuse to be redeployed to other work or agencies will have to take leave or face disciplinary action as the government ramps up its efforts to bolster areas of the bureaucracy under pressure.
In a circular issued to all APS staff late on Friday, the Australian Public Service Commission outlined its expectations that bureaucrats be ready to work as directed.
It said public servants waiting for alternative work assignments may be placed on paid stand-by, but warned those who declined to be redeployed would not be eligible for stand-by pay and would need to apply for leave.
Those who did not "engage with the agency, undertake assigned work or [who] refuses reasonable work" would be subject to 'failure to attend work' procedures.
The warning came a day after the APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott announced the establishment of a taskforce to coordinate the redeployment of public servants to areas of need in the bureaucracy.
The taskforce, led by Mr Woolcott, was "quickly identifying critical gaps in capacity and emerging risk areas, and mobilising staff into those roles," an APSC spokesperson said.
"In the short-term, the key priority is to increase capacity in areas that are critical to the delivery of government services, such as Services Australia," the spokesperson added.
The APSC said the taskforce was working closely with agencies to "seek volunteers from across the Australian Public Service for this critical work".
Australian Taxation Office chief operating officer Jacqui Curtis and the ATO COVID-19 Response Committee's Jeremy Geale told staff in an email on Friday there may be a need for tax officials to move teams and agencies, and change workplace arrangements, as the APS focused its attention on the pandemic.
"We have seen a significant example of this already through service delivery, with hundreds of staff mobilising to take on the high volume of calls we are receiving from the community," the email said.
More than 200 staff had already mobilised, and about 1500 people were in training to start taking calls in one week. More than 400 staff would be ready to take calls from the public in a fortnight.
ATO deputy commissioner Vivek Chaudhary told staff in an email on Wednesday that changes were coming to debt and lodgement work.
The agency was re-prioritising resources to answer a growing number of phone calls from clients.
"Work has already commenced to provide additional support to our inbound phone queues and other priority work," the email said.
"We will keep you informed as our work priorities change and will provide you with all necessary support including any training."
In its circular to APS employees, the commission said that the government considered the public service essential to keep the country safe and mobility requirements applied to all ongoing, non-ongoing and casual staff.