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Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy

Please note - this is an archived version. The most recent version can be found here.


The Australian Government has agreed that the following policy arrangements will apply to the Australian Public Service (APS) and non-APS Australian Government agencies, including Members of Parliament Staff. This document supersedes both the Australian Public Service Bargaining Framework published in January 2011 and the Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework published in September 2009.

Ministers will direct (or where they are not able to direct, strongly encourage) the non-APS agencies in their portfolios, including Government Business Enterprises, to apply the same policies that apply to the APS, so far as this is practical within the context of operations.

These arrangements exclude the Australian Defence Force.

Agencies' responsibilities

Agency Heads are responsible for managing workplace relations matters in their agency, including enterprise bargaining, in a manner consistent with relevant Commonwealth legislation, this policy and other relevant Australian Government policies.

When bargaining for enterprise agreements, agencies must not reach agreement, including ‘in-principle agreement’, with bargaining representatives on any matter that is inconsistent with Government policy unless the agency Minister and Public Service Minister have granted an exemption in relation to that matter. Where an agency holds discussions with, or responds to proposals by bargaining representatives, in respect of such matters the agency should advise the bargaining representatives that it cannot reach agreement in relation to those matters without first obtaining the approval of the Ministers.

Agencies will give genuine consideration to all matters under negotiation; supported by the approval processes set out in this policy.

Agency Heads will be accountable for ensuring that their agencies comply with this policy.

Partnership with the Australian Public Service Commission

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) provides support and advice to agencies on the Australian Government's employment and workplace relations policies in order to promote effective agreement making across the sector. In addition to the service provided to agencies by the APSC, the APSC requests that agencies:

  • respond to requests made by the APSC within a timely fashion;
  • advise the APSC about any significant workplace relations matters; and
  • provide data to the APSC as requested to assist with workforce reporting requirements.

Legal Advice

The Department of Employment is the administering department for the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act). Agencies are reminded that, under clause 10 of the Legal Services Directions, the Department of Employment should be given the opportunity to be consulted on any request for legal advice on the interpretation of the Fair Work Act, as well as given requests for and copies of such legal advice. Copies of legal advice on the Fair Work Act should be provided to:

Chief Counsel
Workplace Relations Legal Group
Department of Employment
GPO Box 9880

Given the APSC's role in Australian Government workplace relations, agencies are requested to provide copies of any legal advice sought on the Fair Work Act, Public Service Act 1999 (Public Service Act), Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976 and Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973 to:

Legal Adviser
Australian Public Service Commission
16 Furzer Street

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Interpretation and Definitions

In this policy:

  • The ‘Public Service Minister’ is the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service;
  • The ‘agency Minister’ in relation to an Australian Public Service (APS) agency is that APS agency's Minister;
  • The ‘agency Minister’ in relation to a non-APS agency is that non-APS agency's Minister;
  • ‘The Ministers’ refers to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and the relevant agency Minister.

The paragraphs marked with an asterisk (*) are only applicable to APS agencies and/or the parliamentary departments as indicated.


Definitions of acronyms and terms used in this document
Acronym or term Definition
ACT Public Service Australian Capital Territory Public Service
Agencies Any Australian Government employer (APS and non-APS), including Members of Parliament Staff, excluding the Australian Defence Force
APS Australian Public Service
APS agency An agency that employs employees under the Public Service Act 1999
APSC Australian Public Service Commission
APS Code of Conduct The APS Code of Conduct is at section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999
APS Employment Principles The APS Employment Principles are at section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999
APS Values The APS Values are at section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999
Broadband A grouping of duties across numerous classifications
Classification Rules The Public Service Classification Rules 2000 made under subsection 23(1) of the Public Service Act 1999
Commissioner Australian Public Service Commissioner
Fair Work Act Fair Work Act 2009
Fair Work Regulations Fair Work Regulations 2009
LSL Act Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976
Maternity Leave Act Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973
NES National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act 2009
Non-APS agency A Commonwealth authority or Commonwealth company that engages employees under its own enabling legislation
Public Service Act Public Service Act 1999
SES Senior Executive Service
‘The Ministers’ The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and the relevant agency Minister
Workplace arrangement A common law agreement, enterprise agreement or a determination, including Public Service Act determinations or workplace determinations made under relevant employing legislation

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  1. Employment Arrangements
    1. Terms and conditions of employment for non-Senior Executive Service employees should be set out in enterprise agreements at the APS agency level, unless otherwise agreed by the Ministers.*
    2. Enterprise agreements should be at least three years' duration.
    3. APS agencies are required to maintain classification structures and work level standards consistent with the APS Classification Rules issued under the Public Service Act 1999, as updated periodically.*
  2. Affordability and Funding
    1. Improvements in pay and conditions are to be funded from within existing budgets, without the redirection of programme funding.
    2. If the total cost of a proposed agreement is not affordable within an agency's existing budget, the Ministers must not approve the agreement.
  3. Remuneration and Productivity
    1. Agencies can only negotiate remuneration increases which are affordable, consistent with Australian Government policy, and offset by genuine productivity gains which satisfy the Australian Public Service Commissioner.
    2. Agency Heads are accountable for ensuring that the annual remuneration increases for senior executive employees are consistent with Australian Government policy.
    3. Remuneration increases should apply prospectively unless exceptional circumstances apply and have the approval of the Ministers.
    4. Sign-on bonuses should not be offered during bargaining unless approved by the Ministers.
    5. Existing pay scales should not be modified to provide for new top pay points, removal of existing pay points, or other mechanisms to accelerate salary advancement.
    6. Changes to incremental salary arrangements may be counted as productivity improvements where they result in cashable savings. Such changes may include more rigorous rules covering advancement of employees to higher increments.
  4. Employment Conditions
    1. Core APS terms and conditions of employment should not be enhanced unless otherwise approved by the Ministers.*
    2. In recognition that the new Australian Government scheme will apply to all Commonwealth agencies, agencies should not seek to vary current paid parental leave entitlements, pending commencement of the new scheme.
    3. Under legislated provisions, APS agencies and the parliamentary departments will ensure the portability of accrued paid leave entitlements where employees move between APS agencies, the Parliamentary Service and the Australian Capital Territory Public Service, providing there is no break in service.*
    4. Long service leave should only be granted in blocks of at least seven calendar days per occasion and should not be broken by other forms of leave.
    5. Workplace arrangements should incorporate leave provisions that support the release of community service volunteers for emergency services duties and Defence Reservists for peacetime training and development.
    6. APS agency workplace arrangements should include compulsory redeployment, reduction and retrenchment arrangements for employees identified as excess to requirements.*
    7. Redundancy provisions, including severance pay and retention periods, should not be enhanced beyond existing arrangements, unless otherwise required by legislation, or approved by the Ministers.
  5. Employee Relations
    1. All arrangements will comply with relevant legislation, this policy and other relevant Australian Government policies.
    2. The right for an employee to belong to a union will be respected, as will the right for an employee not to belong to a union.
    3. Agencies should make provision for consultative arrangements with employees (and where employees choose, their representatives) regarding employment and employee relations matters.
  6. Performance Management
    1. It is expected that all employees (other than probationary employees) will have a formal annual performance agreement in place which clearly identifies key performance expectations and related indicators of performance and the required workplace behaviours expected of the employee, and contains learning and career development goals.
    2. Performance management clauses in enterprise agreements should contain clearly defined principles and entitlements. Any procedural or descriptive content should be confined to policy documents outside of an enterprise agreement.
    3. An employee is not to advance through a classification or broadband pay scale if they have not performed at a satisfactory level at a minimum.
  7. Enterprise Agreement Content
    1. Enterprise agreements should:
      1. Be streamlined, clear and easy to read and contain clauses that either:
        1. are required by legislation and support the effective operation of the instrument; or
        2. provide entitlements to employees; and
        3. do not impose restrictive work practices and other arrangements that confine operations of the agency, or in the case of the APS, the Service as a whole, or curb the effective operation of legislation.
      2. Include:
        1. a dispute resolution term equivalent to the model term in the Fair Work Regulations;
        2. a consultation term equivalent to the model term in the Fair Work Regulations; and
        3. an individual flexibility term that allows employees to enter individual flexibility arrangements in respect of certain listed matters. Agencies are encouraged to bargain for a broader range of matters over which employees can enter into individual flexibility arrangements.
      3. Not include:
        1. Unlawful and/or objectionable terms as outlined in the Fair Work Act 2009;
        2. Terms that contradict, alter or limit the effect of provisions in the Public Service Act 1999 or relevant employing legislation.
    2. Agencies must not supplement or enhance the right of entry provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009.
  8. Approval Requirements for Enterprise Agreements and Other Collective Arrangements
    1. Agencies are expected to comply with any instructions issued by the APSC in relation to this policy.
      1. Agencies must not offer a proposed remuneration increase until the Australian Public Service Commissioner is satisfied that proposed remuneration increases are affordable and offset by genuine productivity gains, in consultation with the Secretary of the Department of Finance.
      2. Before making any wages offer, an Agency Head must be satisfied that the proposed remuneration increases, and any other enhancements to terms and conditions which have a fiscal impact, are affordable from within existing and known future budget allocations and would not require the diversion of programme funds or additional supplementation.
        All agreements proposing remuneration increases need to be supported by the agency's Minister. Where the Department of Finance and/or the APSC indicates that it considers an agency's proposed workplace arrangement is not affordable or not supported by appropriate productivity gains, the agency must revise the proposal to ensure it is affordable.
      3. Agencies are not permitted to reach agreement, including˜’in-principle agreement’, with bargaining representatives on any matters that are inconsistent with Government policy unless the Ministers have approved exemptions in relation to those matters.

      At the conclusion of bargaining

      1. A draft enterprise agreement, or other collective arrangement, must be provided to the APSC for assessment against Government policy prior to an agency seeking the Ministers' approval of the agreement. Such drafts are to be accompanied by a Remuneration, Funding and Productivity Declaration signed by the Agency Head.
      2. Agencies will be required to provide the APSC with evidence that the proposed agreement has met the Government's policy objectives, including:
        1. the total cost of the proposed agreement;
        2. productivity initiatives arising from the agreement; and
        3. the extent to which objectives relating to the removal of restrictive work practices and the maintenance of the core APS terms and conditions of employment have been met.
    2. The Ministers' approval of the agreement must be received before the agreement is put to a vote of employees.

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Last reviewed: 
12 June 2018