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09 Workforce bargaining and classification

In 2011–12 most Australian Public Service (APS) agencies negotiated new workplace agreements with their employees. Sixty-four per cent of agencies had enterprise agreements which notionally expired on 30 June 2011. The remainder notionally expired between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2012. While a small number of agencies settled agreements with their employees before 30 June 2011, the majority negotiated and finalised agreements in 2011–12.

A key policy driver for bargaining in 2011 was Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration (the APS Reform Blueprint). The APS Reform Blueprint cited anecdotal evidence suggesting possible restrictions on mobility across the APS as a result of growing wage disparity which ‘reduced the sense of a unified APS with a strong career structure’.1

The government accepted the recommendations of the APS Reform Blueprint that there should be:

  • an APS unified by an enterprise agreement bargaining arrangement that embeds greater consistency in wages and terms and conditions
  • work level standards linked to classification structures that ensure fairness through similar remuneration for similar work
  • frameworks that establish APS-wide work-level standards and articulate the core skills and competencies required for APS roles.

Dispersion in terms and conditions, particularly remuneration, has been reflected in previous State of the Service reports. In 2007–08, it was reported that pay dispersion had increased significantly since bargaining had been devolved to agencies.2 The 2009–10 data showed that pay dispersion had decreased slightly.3

Changes to the APS bargaining arrangements in early 2008 restricted the use of individual instruments to set terms and conditions for non-Senior Executive Service (SES) employees, specifying that with limited exceptions agency enterprise agreements were to be the primary source of terms and conditions.

In September 2009, APS bargaining arrangements were revised again to require agreements negotiated from that time to have a common nominal expiry date of 30 June 2011 and to introduce an APS-wide wages policy. The policy recommended that average annual wage increases provided by agreements should not exceed 3%.

In response to the APS Reform Blueprint recommendations, a revised APS Bargaining Framework began in early 2011. In addition to responding to the ‘One APS’ agenda outlined in the APS Reform Blueprint, the government continued the policy of containing APS wage increases to an average annual 3% increase over the life of new agreements.

The move to more consistent terms and conditions meant many agencies were negotiating to reduce terms and conditions and negotiating smaller wage increases than had previously been offered. This environment resulted in more contested negotiations than the APS had seen for some time.

In light of these recent developments, this chapter examines the employment conditions across the APS, including the most recent round of enterprise bargaining, remuneration outcomes and classification arrangements. The chapter details progress made to date against Reform 6 of the APS Reform Blueprint—clarifying and aligning employment conditions.

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2011 APS enterprise bargaining round

The 2011 revision of the APS Bargaining Framework continued to support agency level bargaining with employees and representatives. In the APS, bargaining at agency level has allowed agencies to introduce flexible ways of working and new technology, achieve efficiency gains in administration, change workplace culture and cope with labour market pressures for key staff. It has also allowed a substantial degree of flexibility for agencies to meet their own specific operational needs.

To support a more consistent approach across the APS, the APS Bargaining Framework sought the adoption of 23 recommended core terms and conditions, including:

  • consistency with the government's recommended 3% average annual wage increase policy
  • general provisions relating to leave such as annual leave, compassionate/bereavement leave, cultural, ceremonial and National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee leave, Defence Reservist's leave, community service volunteer leave, long service leave, portability of leave and Christmas close down
  • conditions relating to parenting, including maternity leave (such as adoption and foster carer's leave), paid parental leave and return to work after parental leave
  • redeployment, reduction and retrenchment provisions
  • provisions around hours of work, including flextime, Executive Level (EL) time off in lieu and flexible working arrangements (such as part-time work)
  • consistency with superannuation provisions, including contribution rates
  • workplace issues (such as individual flexibility, employee representation and workplace delegates rights, as well as consultation)
  • dispute resolution and no extra claims.

In addition, the revised APS Bargaining Framework introduced increased oversight of the agency bargaining processes. This oversight included the requirement for approval of an agency's bargaining position before bargaining starts and the need for approval of all proposed enterprise agreements by the Minister for the Public Service and Integrity (this approval was delegated to the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) where the proposed agreement was consistent with the APS Bargaining Framework).

As at 30 June 2012, the Commission had assessed 125 enterprise agreements for compliance with the APS Bargaining Framework. Subsequently, 92 agencies had voted up enterprise agreements which were then approved by Fair Work Australia. Of these, 64 agencies (representing 22% of APS employees) had an enterprise agreement voted up by employees on their first attempt to do so. Twenty-eight agencies (77% of APS employees) had enterprise agreements initially voted down by employees.

The more challenging bargaining environment saw an increase in the level of industrial action across the APS, with a peak of action occurring in the later part of 2011. Ten agencies faced protected industrial action ballots. Industrial action was taken in eight of these agencies, a situation uncommon in the APS in recent years. Thirteen agencies appeared before Fair Work Australia to resolve bargaining disputes. Key issues during bargaining concerned remuneration, productivity offsets for bonus payments and recommended common terms and conditions.

Despite the difficult bargaining environment, 61% of employees reported they were satisfied with the level of information provided by their agency on their most recent workplace bargaining process. Interestingly, this was a higher level of satisfaction than employees reported with their day-to-day communications within agencies, since 39% of APS employees reported that internal communication within their agency was effective.

Table 9.1 summarises employee satisfaction with agency internal communication, in general and in relation to the most recent workplace bargaining process.

Table 9.1 APS employee view of their agency's internal communication, 2011–12
Type of communication Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree
% of employees
Source: Employee census

Note: Results do not add up to 100%, due to rounding.

Internal communication within agency is effective 39 30 32
Level of information provided by agency on the most recent workplace bargaining process was satisfactory 61 22 18

Outcomes of bargaining

There was a high level of compliance with government policy for enterprise agreements bargained during 2011–12. In relation to the remuneration policy, virtually all agencies bargained agreements with average annual wage increases of 3%. In seven cases ministerial approval was obtained for an average annual wage increase of more than 3%. Sound business reasons underpinned each variation. In all but one case the approved increase was under 4%. In three cases the Minister for the Public Service and Integrity did not approve proposals for an average annual wage increase over 3%, as the agencies were unable to provide a convincing business case.

The desired level of consistency was achieved for a number of recommended common terms and conditions (Table 9.2). All agreements now provide at least 14 weeks maternity leave and at least 14 weeks of adoption and foster carer's leave. Before this bargaining round, there was significant variation in these conditions between agencies. Some agency enterprise agreements only included the 12 weeks of maternity leave provided under the Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973. Others did not provide for paid adoption or foster carer's leave. These changes represent an important step towards greater commonality.

Table 9.2 Employment terms and conditions where commonality was achieved

Recommended common terms and conditions where there were no approved exemptions

  • Flexible working arrangements (including part-time work)
  • Individual flexibility terms
  • Employee representation and workplace delegates rights
  • Consultation
  • Dispute resolution
  • No extra claims
  • Return to work after paid parental leave
  • Maternity leave, including adoption and foster carer's leave
  • Defence Reservist's leave
  • Portability of leave
  • Cultural, ceremonial and National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee leave
  • Community service volunteer leave

Source: Australian Public Service Commission

It was difficult for a number of agencies to secure changes that would achieve greater consistency. This was particularly the case where progress meant a reduction in existing terms and conditions. In these cases, although not able to secure agreement to terms wholly aligned with the APS Bargaining Framework, some agencies negotiated progress towards recommended arrangements.

Table 9.3 outlines the cases for which the Minister for the Public Service and Integrity approved terms and conditions differing from recommended common terms and conditions. In these cases only a few exemptions were approved for reasons highly specific to individual agencies. A key example is in paid parental (supporting partner) leave, which previously had not been available in all agencies, but is now available in all but one of the agencies which have negotiated new enterprise agreements.

Table 9.3 Employment terms and conditions where commonality was generally achieved

Recommended common terms and conditions where commonality was generally achieved (five or less approved exemptions)

  • Paid parental (supporting partner) leave
  • Long service leave
  • Public holidays
  • Superannuation
  • Redeployment, reduction and retrenchment
  • Compassionate/bereavement leave

Source: Australian Public Service Commission

Table 9.4 shows the recommended common terms and conditions for which large numbers of exemptions were approved. These exemptions were generally around leave provisions (particularly personal leave) and matters relating to hours of work such as EL time off in lieu provisions. Nevertheless, a number of agencies successfully bargained the recommended common terms and conditions, resulting in more commonality in APS enterprise agreements than existed before the 2011 round of APS bargaining. This was particularly the case for EL flextime arrangements, with more than 20 agencies successfully bargaining the recommended approach for EL time off in lieu.

Table 9.4 Employment terms and conditions where less commonality was achieved

Recommended common terms and conditions where achieving commonality has been more difficult

  • Personal and carer's leave
  • Christmas close down
  • Time off in lieu of time worked for EL employees
  • Flextime
  • Annual leave

Source: Australian Public Service Commission

Agencies addressed the requirement to limit pay rises to an average of 3% a year in different ways. For many the approach was to agree to a straightforward 3% pay increase. Others adopted front-loading of pay rises (paying higher pay rises in the first years of the agreement than in the later years), the use of additional one-off payments justified by specific productivity offsets and changes to remuneration structures. The Commission assessed these measures to ensure they were consistent with government policy. The use of productivity-related payments was subject to enhanced scrutiny to ensure they met the affordability requirements of the APS Bargaining Framework and were underpinned by genuine productivity measures.

Employee satisfaction with conditions

Employees expressed a high level of satisfaction with their non-monetary employment conditions. Most employees (80%) agreed with the statement ‘I am satisfied with my non-monetary employment conditions (e.g. leave, flexible work arrangements, other benefits).’ In contrast, less than 10% disagreed with this statement. In the context of enterprise bargaining, employee satisfaction with their terms and conditions has not been significantly impacted by the move towards increased commonality in agency terms and conditions.

Hours worked and trends over time by classification

The number of hours worked by employees in the APS in 2012 was similar to that worked in 2011. For a full-time APS 1–6 or EL employee, hours of work are set by individual agency enterprise agreements, with hours of work ranging from 36 hours and 45 minutes to 38 hours a week.

Actual hours of work differ between classifications. Figure 9.1 shows that most APS 1–6 employees surveyed had worked less than 80 hours in the previous fortnight. In contrast, almost 45% of EL employees had worked 80 to less than 100 hours in the previous fortnight. SES employees reported the highest hours of work in the previous fortnight, with almost 90% of SES employees working more than 80 hours in the previous fortnight and 44% reporting having worked more than 100 hours.

Figure 9.1 Hours worked in the last fortnight by classification, 2011–12

Source: Employee census

Differences in hours worked may be explained by differences in responsibility levels. It should also be noted that it is government policy for APS 1–6 level employees to have access through their agency-level enterprise agreements to flextime schemes, where these employees can take time off on an hour-for-hour basis for additional hours worked. In contrast, EL employees generally have access to time off in lieu, which is by agreement with managers, and not typically on an hour-for-hour basis.

Employee satisfaction with work-life balance and flexible working conditions

APS employees generally reported high levels of satisfaction with their work-life balance, and also with access to flexible working arrangements. Employee satisfaction with work-life balance in 2012 was similar to that reported in 2011.

Employee satisfaction with work-life balance differed between classifications. Table 9.5 shows that APS 1–6 employees reported a high level of satisfaction with work-life balance, with almost three-quarters reporting they were satisfied. In contrast, only 57% of SES employees reported they were satisfied with their work-life balance, and 25% reported they were dissatisfied. EL employees were generally (67%) satisfied with their work-life balance, although 18% reported they were dissatisfied. A range of reasons explain this. Not surprisingly, there seems to be a relationship between hours worked in the last fortnight and the level of satisfaction with work-life balance.

Table 9.5 Satisfaction with work-life balance by classification, 2011–12
APS 1–6 (%) EL 1–2 (%) SES (%) Total (%)
Source: Employee census
Satisfied 74 67 57 72
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 13 15 19 14
Dissatisfied 12 18 25 14

Employees were asked whether they were satisfied with their ability to access and use flexible working arrangements. This is the first year this was asked so no comparison data is available. Flexible working arrangements cover a broad variety of flexibilities, including access to part-time hours and teleworking arrangements. Most employees (73%) reported they were satisfied with their access to flexible working arrangements. APS 1–6 employees were the most satisfied with these arrangements, with 77% ‘satisfied’, and only 12% ‘dissatisfied’. For EL employees, 64% were ‘satisfied’, as were 57% of SES employees.

Table 9.6 Satisfaction with ability to access and use flexible working arrangements, 2011–12
APS 1–6 (%) EL 1–2 (%) SES (%) Total (%)
Source: Employee census
Satisfied 77 64 57 73
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 11 17 28 13
Dissatisfied 12 19 16 14

Flexibility initiatives

The government's National Digital Economy Strategy has set a goal to double Australia's level of telework so at least 12% of Australian employees have a teleworking arrangement with their employer by 2020. This strategy proposes that the National Broadband Network represents a significant opportunity to realise social, environmental and workforce productivity benefits from teleworking.

The Commission is working with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to develop a strategy to improve teleworking arrangements and opportunities in the APS.

To support its development, the employee census sought information on current patterns of teleworking in the APS.

Table 9.7 shows that of the APS employees who responded, 2% telework at least one entire day (but less than two entire days) a week, and 2% telework at least two entire days a week.

Table 9.7 Level of teleworking, 2011–12
Level of teleworking a week Employees (%)
Source: Employee census
Regular (at least 2 entire work days) 2
Semi-regular (at least 1 entire work day but less than 2 entire work days) 2
Infrequently (less than one entire work day) 11
None—need to be physically present at workplace 27
None—technical issues prevent it 7
Not allowed to—even though work is suitable 12
None—by choice 9
None—have not considered possibility 23
Not sure 8

In 2012, 82% of agencies with 100 or more employees4 reported having formal teleworking arrangements either fully or partially in place and 47% received formal applications in 2011–12 from employees for teleworking on at least two days a week.

Agencies also indicated that the key challenges for the APS in adopting teleworking arrangements are suitability of certain types of work, security issues, work health and safety issues, and performance management issues.

Table 9.8 shows a disparity in the way managers and employees see the nature of work that is suitable for teleworking. It is reasonable to assume that employees applying for teleworking consider that their work is suitable. However, 32% of agencies that received employee applications for teleworking did not approve them because they considered that the nature of work was not suitable.

Other reasons for agencies not approving employee teleworking applications were performance management issues (22%), security concerns (16%) and work health and safety concerns (14%).

Table 9.8 Agency reasons for not granting employees' teleworking applications, 2011–12
Reason(a) Agencies(b)
No. %

Source: Agency survey

Notes: (a) Agencies were able to nominate more than one reason.

(b) Relates only to agencies with 100 or more employees.

(c) Regular is defined as at least 2 entire working days a week.

Nature of work not suitable 12 32
Performance issues 8 22
Security concerns 6 16
Workplace health and safety concerns 5 14
Other 4 11
Information not available 8 22
Not applicable—all applications were granted 12 32
Agencies receiving applications for a regular teleworking arrangement(c) 37

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The APS remuneration report provides a snapshot of remuneration information in the APS as at 31 December each year. The 3% wages policy implemented during bargaining had some impact on the outcomes reported in the 2011 APS Remuneration Report5 but a number of agencies had not completed bargaining at the time data was collected (31 December 2011). In addition the data in this report captures the outcomes of individual arrangements, for example through individual flexibility agreements.

In 2011, the APS remuneration report was produced by the Commission rather than by an external consultant as had occurred since 2001 when the report was first published. As a result, there were a number of changes in the data collection and reporting methodologies. The key change was the inclusion of all employees' data in the remuneration report. This move to a census removed the need to weight responses. In addition, the 2011 APS Remuneration Report split allowances and bonuses, which previously had been reported as an aggregate. Motor vehicle costs were also calculated differently.

Median salaries

The 2011 APS Remuneration Report captured 154,277 non-SES and 2,695 SES employees' remuneration data. The overall movement in median base salary for all APS employees from 2010 to 2011 was 2.5%. The movement in median base salary for non-SES classifications for this period was 2.4% and for SES employees it was 4.1%. At the SES classifications there has been a persistent trend of rolling benefits and bonuses into base salary. This trend was apparent across 2007 to 2011. Table 9.9 summarises the key median remuneration components by classification. It also includes general wages constraint across the board.

Table 9.9 Median key remuneration components summary
Classification Base salary median

Total remuneration package median(a)

Total reward median(b)

Source: 2011 APS Remuneration Report

Notes: (a) Total remuneration package includes base salary plus benefits such as superannuation and motor vehicles. (b) Total reward includes total remuneration package plus bonuses such as performance and retention payments. (c) As the result of the change to a tiered structure for departmental Secretary remuneration, what is reported is the median total remuneration arrangement (as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal with effect 15 March 2011).

Graduate 55,162 63,742 63,742
APS 1 41,151 47,448 47,682
APS 2 50,471 58,475 58,519
APS 3 56,215 65,016 65,555
APS 4 63,243 72,671 72,697
APS 5 68,092 79,191 79,794
APS 6 79,555 92,522 92,975
EL 1 99,378 115,257 115,630
EL 2 124,140 145,215 146,277
SES 1 164,575 216,936 219,464
SES 2 209,318 272,316 275,656
SES 3 273,383 343,532 348,652
Departmental Secretaries(c) 575,000

Salary dispersion

Salary dispersion within the APS has been reported in previous State of the Service reports.

Figure 9.2 shows the difference in the rate of dispersion at each classification level at 1996, end 2010 and end 2011. It shows a significant increase in dispersion between 1996 and 2010. This occurred despite the fact that the 1996 data relates to the entire range (minimum to maximum) while the later reports dispersion between the 5th and 95th percentiles. It shows a significant increase in dispersion between 1996 and 2010. Apart from SES Band 3 there is little change or a slight reduction in dispersion between 2010 and 2011. At the SES Band 3 classification the maximum base salary paid in 2011 was lower than in 2010. However there was an increase at the 95th percentile. The causes for this are not clear.

Figure 9.2 APS base salaries—gap between top and bottom ranges, 1996, 2010 and 2011

Source: Continuous Improvement in the APS Enterprise Agreement 1995–96, 2011 APS Remuneration Report

Note: The 1996 data is the entire salary range, 2010 and 2011 data is 5th to 95th percentile only.

Figure 9.3 provides a more detailed analysis of pay dispersion patterns between 2010 and 2011 using the 5th to the 95th percentiles. The APS remuneration data indicates that the salaries above the 95th percentile tend to reflect remuneration for relatively specialised people who are more likely to be affected by the circumstances of a specialised external labour market.

Figure 9.3 Base salary dispersion, 2010–11

Source: 2010 and 2011 APS Remuneration Report

Notes: The first quartile (Q1) is the point at which 25% of values fall below and 75% of values fall above. The third quartile (Q3) is the point at which 75% of values fall below and 25% of values fall above. The 5th percentile (P5) is determined by dividing the distribution of values into 100 equal parts and then identifying the point where 5% of the values falls below and 95% of values fall above.

The 95th percentile (P95) is determined by dividing the distribution of values into 100 equal parts and then identifying the point where 95% of the values falls below and 5% of values fall above.

In 2010 the greatest dispersion was recorded at the APS 1 and the EL 2 classifications, with those at the 95th percentile paid 39% and 36% more respectively than their colleagues at the 5th percentile. The 2011 data shows dispersion at these classifications decreased with the APS 1 classification at 32% and the EL 2 at 27%. Dispersion in all other non-SES classifications remained unchanged or increased by a maximum of 1%.

Figure 9.3 also provides information on the degree of overlap in remuneration between classification levels. In 2010 there was a small overlap between the 95th percentile and the 5th percentile of the next classification for each of the APS 1 to APS 6 classifications. The overlap ranged from $847 to $2,560. There was no overlap between the APS 6 and EL 1 or the EL 1 and EL 2 classifications. The 2011 results show little change from the 2010 findings, with the overlap ranging from $850 to $2,567. The extent of this overlap would be greater if the full salary range were shown.

Movements in remuneration from year to year do not necessarily reflect changes in remuneration practices or policy. The population at each classification level changes from year to year as employees move between pay points within a pay band and move in and out of different classifications. The Commission is undertaking further work to better understand the underlying drivers of APS remuneration patterns.

The Remuneration Tribunal's second report on the Review of the Office of Secretary was released in December 2011. It established a new remuneration framework for Secretaries and reset the pay relativity between Secretaries and their direct reports to better reflect their respective responsibilities.

An Interim APS Executive Remuneration Management Policy was implemented in May 2012 to more closely manage the pay of the most senior APS employees (typically SES Band 3) and maintain the new pay relativity set by the Remuneration Tribunal. The policy introduced a notional amount as a cap, as recommended by the Remuneration Tribunal, which is a percentage of the base remuneration of the new Secretaries' classification structure—65% for Associate Secretaries and 60% for Deputy Secretaries and other employees. The Commission will undertake further review of SES remuneration.

The employee census found that more than 66% of employees felt they were fairly remunerated, compared with 2011, when more than 60% of employees reported being satisfied or very satisfied with remuneration. Of the employees who indicated they were considering leaving their current agency, remuneration ranked 12th as the reason for this, a drop from sixth in 2010.

Individual flexibility arrangements

The 2011 APS Remuneration Report captured the number of individual flexibility arrangements that applied in the APS in 2011. A total of 2,678 individual arrangements were in place. Table 9.10 shows that more than 90% of the individual flexibility arrangements in the APS are between APS 6 and EL classifications, with more than half of arrangements at EL 2 level. The Commission is undertaking further work to understand the use of these arrangements.

Table 9.10 Individual flexibility arrangements by classification
Classification Number of individual flexibility arrangements Percentage of classification covered by an individual flexibility arrangement
Source: 2011 APS Remuneration Report
Graduate 21 1.3
APS 1 3 0.2
APS 2 8 0.2
APS 3 33 0.2
APS 4 57 0.2
APS 5 118 0.6
APS 6 330 1.0
EL 1 645 2.3
EL 2 1,449 11.0
SES 1 13 0.6
SES 2 0 0.0
SES 3 1 0.8
Total 2,678 1.7


Superannuation fund membership information has been important for workforce planning purposes, as the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSS) may provide a disincentive for its members to work beyond 55 years of age.

Table 9.11 shows that only 6.4% of employees in all classifications are members of the CSS, which closed to new members in 1990, however they represent a significant proportion of the SES workforce—29% of SES Band 1, 40% of SES Band 2, and 48% of SES Band 3 level.

Table 9.11 Number of APS employees by superannuation fund and classification
Classification CSS(a) PSS(b) PSSap(c) AGEST(d) Other
n % n % n % n % n %

Source: 2011 APS Remuneration Report

Notes: (a) Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme

(b) Public Sector Superannuation Scheme

(c) Public Sector Superannuation Accumulation Plan

(d) Australian Government Employees Superannuation Trust

Graduate 0 0 12 1 1,481 90 10 1 152 9
APS 1 51 3 280 14 1,170 60 57 3 394 20
APS 2 164 4 1,856 44 1,896 44 85 2 271 6
APS 3 539 3 7,779 40 10,138 52 195 1 1,023 5
APS 4 865 3 15,523 50 13,259 43 171 1 1,219 4
APS 5 948 4 10,692 50 8,632 40 174 1 978 5
APS 6 1,910 6 17,440 54 11,451 35 254 1 1,523 5
EL 1 2,608 9 18,149 64 6,433 23 214 1 1,102 4
EL 2 2,154 16 8,697 66 1,722 13 89 1 517 4
SES 1 583 29 1,236 62 142 7 6 0 38 2
SES 2 224 40 244 44 62 11 3 1 24 4
SES 3 64 48 44 33 13 10 2 2 10 8
Total 10,110 6 81,952 52 56,399 36 1,260 1 7,251 5

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APS classification structures

The APS-wide classification system is identified in the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 (the Classification Rules). This is a framework for classification management arrangements, which identifies 11 approved classification groups.

The common APS classification system was designed to be flexible and accommodate a wide variety of jobs in a diverse range of agencies. Under the APS Bargaining Framework the classification structures in agency agreements must be consistent with the Classification Rules.

Previous State of the Service reports reflected on the changing classification profile of the APS. In 2007–08, data showed that over the previous 15 years there was a ‘dramatic change’6 in the classification profile with a significant move to a higher classification profile. The 2011–12 data showed this trend continued (Figure 9.4), with the APS 6 classification the largest in the APS and very strong growth at EL 1 level. While this trend most likely reflects the changing structure and complexity of work in the APS, there is anecdotal evidence that it may be in response to labour market challenges and the need to attract and retain skilled employees.

The SES cap, in place since mid-2010, has been tied to the development of APS-wide SES work-level standards, which have been designed to provide agencies with a solid basis for SES classification decisions through a common benchmark for assessing work value. Draft SES work-level standards have been used by agencies since February 2011 and a final version is expected in early 2013 with a simple evaluation methodology to assist agencies evaluate SES roles. Agencies will be required to evaluate all new roles against the work-level standards before those roles can be filled, and all SES roles must be evaluated before the end of 2014.

Figure 9.4 APS profile, 1993, 2008 and 2012

Source: APSED

Note: (a) Training includes all classifications in Schedule 2 of the Public Service Classification Rules 2000.

The Classification Rules require agencies to issue work-level standards and agency heads to allocate a classification level to each role. This year, 68% of relevant APS agencies with 100 or more employees7 reported they use agency work-level standards fully to determine the classification of new roles (slightly down from 70% last year) and 67% reported using these fully for vacant roles.

In addition to agency work-level standards, 53% of agencies use internal job comparisons fully to determine the classification of new roles and 55% use internal job comparisons fully for vacant roles.

The Classification Rules allow an agency head to allocate more than one classification to a group of duties and combine several classifications into a broadband. This year 76% of agencies had broadbands in their enterprise agreements with 81% of broadbands encompassing two or three classification levels.

Reviewing APS classification arrangements

This year the Commission is undertaking a review into the extent to which current classification arrangements and work-level standards continue to meet the needs of agencies and employees.

In line with the APS Reform Blueprint, Recommendation 6.1, the Commission's review is focusing on the extent to which current classification arrangements:

  • support a united APS
  • facilitate mobility across the APS
  • enable the attraction and retention of high-performing employees
  • provide APS employees with appropriate career paths and opportunities.

APS workforce data, contemporary classification practice in the public and private sector, and the results of broad consultation with agencies and unions have contributed to the review. Key issues that have so far emerged during the review include classification management practices, the changing APS classification profile, broadbanding, training classifications, specialist classifications and the suitability of the current eight level APS classification structure. The Commission expects to release review outcomes late in 2012.

SES classification review

Strengthened arrangements for managing SES classifications were a key recommendation of the Review of the Senior Executive Service report, released publicly in September 2011.

Following consultation with APS agencies and the Secretaries Board, the government agreed to recommendations whereby the Commission and agencies would implement strengthened SES classification management arrangements to ensure the number and composition of SES roles is commensurate with the needs of the government and is responsive to changing circumstances. These new arrangements, including job evaluations of SES roles against service-wide SES work-level standards, will foster greater discipline around the management of SES numbers so agencies can better prioritise and manage their workflows and associated SES requirements.

The Commission has worked with agencies to develop a methodology and workbook to evaluate SES roles against new SES work-level standards. More than 170 agency staff were provided with training in using these supporting materials in May and June 2012.

Since mid-2010 there has been an SES cap in place designed to control growth in SES numbers, with agencies expected to manage their SES staffing within their agreed cap. The SES cap is not a recruitment freeze. It has succeeded in limiting unnecessary growth in SES numbers, noting that agencies can apply for increases to their approved SES cap in exceptional circumstances.

In 2011–12, the approved SES cap across all agencies increased from 3,008 to 3,039 at 30 June. This increase was mainly due to a number of temporary SES cap roles being approved for new work. The number of SES roles occupied, as defined by the cap, fell slightly throughout the year from 2,820 to 2,817 at 30 June 2012.8

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Key chapter findings

In 2011–12 there was progress towards ‘One APS’ with a high level of compliance with the government's remuneration policy, including the adoption of recommended common terms and conditions.

The bargaining round was not without challenges and as a result there was increased industrial action across the APS in 2011–12. While the bargaining appeared difficult, 61% of employees indicated satisfaction with the level of information provided internally by agencies on their most recent workplace bargaining process, higher than employee agreement that internal communication more broardly was effective.

Generally, APS employees are satisfied with their non-monetary terms and conditions, with less than 10% indicating dissatisfaction. The same is true of employee satisfaction with work-life balance and access to flexible working arrangements.

Remuneration data shows the general wage constraint across the board, with a movement in median base salary between 2010 and 2011 for all APS employees of 2.5%. Despite the wage constraint, nearly two-thirds of employees felt they were fairly remunerated. There has also been a reduction in dispersion at the two non-SES classifications that have historically had the greatest level of dispersion—APS 1 and EL 2 levels.

During 2011–12, a review of APS classification structures was undertaken. The outcomes of this review are expected to be released late in 2012.

For SES employees, the Commission worked with agencies to develop a methodology and workbook to evaluate SES roles against new SES work-level standards. The growth of SES numbers, now subject to scrutiny under the SES cap arrangements, has slowed.

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1 Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration, Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2010), p. 54.

2 Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report 2007–08, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2008), p. 96.

3 Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report 2009–10, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2010), p. 143.

4 Only agencies with 100 or more employees were asked the questions related to general employment measures within their agency.

5 For more information: http://www.apsc.gov.au

6 Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service Report 2007–08, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2008), p. 100.

7 Only agencies with 100 or more employees were asked the question related to general employment measures in their agency.

8 The SES cap includes all ongoing and non-ongoing employees in SES roles for a period of three months or more. The SES cap is monitored monthly. APSED figures include ongoing and non-ongoing SES employees, including those occupying SES-equivalent positions and those on long-term leave. APSED figures exclude SES employees on temporary assignment to SES or SES-equivalent positions.

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Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018