Staffing arrangements for the Australian Public Service

Last updated: 07 Aug 2015

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  1. The Government remains committed to managing the size of the public sector.
  2. Since 31 October 2013, arrangements have been in place to control Australian Public Service recruitment by limiting the number of new hires to the APS. Non-APS Commonwealth agencies were encouraged to adopt the principles underpinning these arrangements.
  3. In response to a significant reduction in the size of the APS, the Government announced in the
    2015–16 Budget that modifications to the interim recruitment arrangements would take effect 1 July 2015.
    • The modified arrangements return responsibility to agency heads to manage the size of their workforces—including recruitment activity—in line with Government expectations.
    • From 1 July 2015, APS agency heads will be expected to notify vacancies in the Public Service Gazette (APSjobs) as open to all eligible members of the community. Agency heads will be able to do this without the approval of the Australian Public Service Commissioner.
    • The cap on graduate and other entry-level recruitment will no longer apply.
    • External controls on recruitment will be replaced by reporting and monitoring of APS agencies' employee headcount and ASL1 estimates reported through the budget process. Agency heads will be accountable for ensuring that staffing is consistent with ASL estimates, except when subject to further Government decision.
  4. These arrangements will be reviewed periodically.

Monitoring and reporting arrangements from 1 July 2015

  1. The Department of Finance will continue to collect ASL information regularly to monitor the funded size of agencies and assist Government decision making.
  2. APS agencies will continue to report employment data monthly to the APS Employment Database (APSED), in order to provide an ongoing indication of agency staffing levels2.
  3. An agency's headcount at a point in time is not directly comparable to ASL. However, the two data sets will 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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 This will ensure that agencies are not unnecessarily contacted throughout the year to explain spikes in staffing numbers.
  3. 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.
  4. Fee-for-service activities may also result in variances between ASL and headcount.
  1. 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.
  2. Inappropriate growth in staffing numbers may result in the re-introduction of case-by-case controls on agencies' recruitment activity.

APS recruitment processes from 1 July 2015

  1. The Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2013 will be amended with effect 1 July 2015 to remove the requirement for agency heads to seek the Commissioner's approval to advertise vacancies to all eligible members of the community.
  2. In accordance with the usual application of the merit principle, APS employment opportunities will be advertised in APSjobs as open to all eligible members of the community.
  3. From 1 July 2015:
  4. Before considering any recruitment action, agencies must:
    • undertake a careful and objective analysis of the position to identify whether it needs to be filled;
    • be satisfied that the filling of the position can be accommodated within the agency's estimated ASL; and
    • ensure that the position is classified correctly against the appropriate work level standards.
  5. Priority in staffing decisions must be given first to displaced3 employees from within the agency and on the SES and APS Redeployment Registers. Agencies must continue to genuinely consider employees on the Redeployment Registers prior to commencing any recruitment action. The Commission will monitor agencies' use of the Redeployment Registers.
  6. The Directions will provide transitional arrangements for vacancies notified in APSjobs prior to 1 July 2015 and for offers of engagement or promotion made before that date. APS agency heads will have option to continue these processes, or to re-notify the vacancy in accordance with the new arrangements.
  7. Orders of merit that were established as a result of processes advertised in APSjobs prior to 1 July 2015 can continue to be used until the order of merit expires.4

Advice and assistance

  1. For advice on this policy please contact

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.

3 'Displaced employees' refers to both SES and non-SES employees who have been identified as excess or potentially excess.

4 The life of an order of merit is 12 months from the date the vacancy was notified in APSjobs.