Workforce classification

The APS classification framework provides agencies with an orderly way to organise and group work. It is supported through legislative provisions and policy guidance and underpinned by the key principle of ‘work value’. The framework system is based on a set of principles that provide a common foundation for classification management across the APS.

The classification structure of the APS has been simplified considerably over the past few decades with the power to create, abolish and re-classify positions devolved to agency heads. Agency heads are largely responsible for determining, within prevailing legal and policy frameworks, how work is defined, organised and rewarded to support agency and service-wide objectives.

Over the past 20 years, the shape of the APS has changed with the largest proportion of employees shifting from the APS 3 to APS 6 classification level. There has also been a large percentage growth in employees employed at the Executive Level (EL) 1 classification over the same period and a decline in the lower classification levels across the APS. While this shift may reflect changes in the complexity and organisation of work in the APS—in particular in the way services are delivered—inconsistent classification practices and decisions without analysis or reference to work value requirements may be contributing factors. Figure 6.3 shows the percentage change of ongoing employees by classification between 1999 and 2013.

Figure 6.3 Change in number of ongoing employees by classification, 1999 to 2013

Figure 6.3 is a bar chart showing the shifting classification profile of the APS from 1999 to 2013, with increased representation of employees at higher classifications such as APS 5, APS 6, EL and SES levels. EL 1 employees had the highest increase of over 150 percentage points. The chart shows decreased representation at APS 1 and APS 2 levels.

Source: APSED


In 2013, agencies were asked which mechanisms were used when determining the classification of positions. More than two-thirds of agencies use agency work-level standards to classify new and existing roles throughout the agency. In creating new jobs, approximately 45% reported they compare new roles with similar internal jobs, 24% used corporate or business plans or budgets and 13% reported they considered recommendations from an external job evaluation consultant. In reviewing existing roles, 47% of agencies reported they compare the existing role with similar internal jobs, 25% used corporate or business plans or budgets and 45% reported they used the existing classification of the vacant role.

The APS Classification Review was completed by the Commission in 2013.8 In a similar way to what has been achieved with the Senior Executive Service (SES) framework, the review's recommendations focus on strengthening non-SES classification management and promoting more consistent and robust practices across the APS. The review's key deliverables have recently been released, including APS-wide work-level standards, a draft role evaluation tool for the APS 1–6 and EL 1–2 classifications and a comprehensive classification guide.9


8 Australian Public Service Commission, APS Classification Review, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2013),

9 For more information: