Managing the size of the Australian Public Service

Last updated: 14 Dec 2016

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The Government remains committed to managing the size of the public sector.

Agency Heads are responsible for managing the size of their workforces—including recruitment activity—in line with Government expectations.

External controls on recruitment have been replaced by reporting and monitoring of APS agencies' employee headcount and Average Staffing Level (ASL)1 estimates reported through the budget process. Agency heads are accountable for ensuring that staffing is consistent with ASL estimates, except when subject to further Government decision.

These arrangements will be reviewed periodically.

Monitoring and reporting arrangements

The Department of Finance will collect ASL information regularly to monitor the funded size of agencies and assist Government decision making.

APS agencies will report employment data monthly to the APS Employment Database (APSED), in order to provide an ongoing indication of agency staffing levels2.

An agency's headcount at a point in time is not directly comparable to ASL. However, the two data sets provide the Commission with an indication of trends and variances in agencies' staffing profiles. The Commission will monitor agencies' progress against its ASL estimates each month.

Government decisions that lead to changes in agency ASL estimates will be captured throughout the year, as well as at the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook and Budget.

Where agencies forecast significant variation between headcount and ASL estimates, they should alert the Commission, as early in the financial year as possible. Agencies should provide the Commission with an indication of the size of, and reason for, the expected variance. Agencies should advise the Commission by email to apsed@apsc.gov.au. This will ensure that agencies are not unnecessarily contacted throughout the year to explain spikes in staffing numbers.

Variances may be the result of seasonal peaks, planned reductions over the course of the year, significant irregular and intermittent workforce components, short term projects and/or new decisions of Government.

Fee-for-service activities may also result in variances between ASL and headcount.

If there is an unexpected spike in employee headcount or a significant inconsistency between an agency's monthly employment data and its ASL estimates, the Commissioner will seek an explanation from the agency, in consultation with Finance as appropriate.

Inappropriate growth in staffing numbers may result in case-by-case controls on agencies' recruitment activity.


1 Budget ASL is the average number of employees receiving wages or salaries over the financial year, with adjustments for casual and part-time staff to show the average full-time equivalent.

2 Agencies must continue to provide APS employment data to APSED in accordance with the timeframes set out in the APSED manual