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Classification management

Classification management is the way in which decisions relating to organisational structures and the work value of jobs are managed.

Why is classification management important?

Classification management can have a significant impact on the achievement of agency objectives, particularly those relating to workforce efficiency, business productivity and the effective use of resources. Classification management

  • allows the future planning of workforce needs to be undertaken in a systematic way
  • allows an agency to build clear structures and accountability lines (at individual, work team, branch, division and agency levels)
  • enables consistency in classification decision-making through the application of established APS-wide classification principles and practices
  • underpins the promotion system and provides a means for managing employee career progression, including lateral moves
  • facilitates mobility across the APS

Classification responsibilities

Classification management is part of the devolved APS employment framework provided in the Public Service Act 1999(PS Act). Agency heads have the responsibility to manage classification arrangements in their respective agencies, within an APS-wide framework outlined in the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 (the Classification Rules).

Role of the Australian Public Service Commission

While each agency head has responsibility for managing the work and the people in their own agency, the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) provides a high level of central agency support for determining and managing APS classification arrangements.

The Commission is responsible for

  • the Classification Rules
  • developing and maintaining the APS work level standards and the APS Senior Executive Service work level standards
  • providing policy support to agencies on classification matters
  • providing guidance and training that supports agencies to make sound classification decisions.

Role of APS agencies

Agency heads have a suite of powers and functions in the PS Act, and the Classification Rules. Some of these powers and functions are discretionary, while others are mandatory. The powers and functions of an agency head include:

  • an agency head must allocate an approved classification to each employee in the agency, based on the group of duties to be performed (rule 6)
  • an agency head must allocate an approved classification to each group of duties to be performed in the agency, based on the work value of the group of duties (rule 9 (1) (2))
  • for APS, Executive Level and SES classifications, the allocation of the approved classification must be based on the work value as described in the work level standards issued, in writing, by the Australian Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) (rule 9(2A))
  • for classifications other than APS, Executive Level or SES levels, agency heads must issue  work level standards, in writing, that describing the work value of the group of duties to be performed in the agency at that classification (rule 10)
  • if a training classification is allocated to a group of duties, then the agency head must ensure that the duties include a requirement to undergo training (rule 9(3)).
  • on satisfactory completion of all training requirements, and agency head must allocate to an employee an operational classification as specified in the Classification Rules (rule 11).
  • more than one classification (called a broadband) can be allocated by an agency head to a group of duties (rule 9(4))
  • an agency head may create positions and nominate employees to occupy positions in the agency (section 77, PS Act).

Agency enterprise agreements should provide a salary range for all non-SES classifications levels used, or that may be used, in the agency.

Classification decision-makers

Any decision-making powers in the PS Act or the Classification Rules can be delegated by the agency head to other people in their agency. These powers are often devolved to employees who have a more direct classification management role in the agency.

In providing guidance to classification decision-makers, agencies should ensure

  • classification decisions are consistent with Government policies, including the classification principles
  • classification processes support the APS workforce diversity agenda
  • work value is assessed against the relevant work level standards.

In order to ensure consistency in classification management practices, agencies are to provide sufficient guidance and oversight to ensure the classification principles and other requirements are applied appropriately within their agency.

Classification decisions – classifying jobs

Making a decision to allocate an approved classification to a job is needed when

  • creating a new role
  • evaluating an existing role that has undergone a substantial change in the duties to be performed (for example, machinery of government changes, a restructure or reorganisation within the agency, or a new policy)
  • confirming the appropriate work value of a job prior to commencing recruitment action.

It is important to ensure that a detailed, factual and up to date picture of the role being classified is established and documented prior to making a decision on the classification level. This includes:

  • a detailed description of the activities (for example, a duty statement)
  • an understanding of the inherent requirements of the job and any mandatory licenses, registration or qualifications required
  • the skill and knowledge requirements
  • any agency arrangements that affect the role (for example, organisational chart).

It is important to remember the principle that the classification allocated is based on the highest level function performed most regularly. This means that the job may contain a mix of duties that are higher and/or lower in work value than the classification allocated.

The distinction between the job and the individual performing the role

When making a classification decision, it is vital that the work value of a job is considered and not the capabilities or characteristics of the employee who will perform the role.

Figure 2.1 Differentiating between the job and an individual

Additionally, remuneration should not influence a classification decision. Classification is based on an appropriate work value assessment of the role and not on the remuneration arrangements that may be needed to attract and/or retain appropriately skilled or qualified people. Agency enterprise agreements provide for individual flexibility arrangements that can be used where market pressures or other influencing factors make the consideration of additional remuneration or other flexible work options appropriate.


The classification of the job should be reviewed when a significant change in work value occurs. This includes changes in the nature and scope of the work to be performed such that the level of complexity changes or the responsibility and authority of the job alters.

It is important to note that when assessing any differences in the duties not all changes necessarily equate to a need for a change in work value. Any reclassification needs to be based on an evaluation of work value using the work level standards as a guide.

Where a decision is made to reclassify a job, this does not mean the classification of the employee performing the duties is also automatically reclassified. Employees are allocated a classification in a separate decision under the Classification Rules (rule 6(1)). If the duties are reclassified to a higher level, then the new role would be filled by an employee already at the higher classification or through a merit-based selection process.

If the duties are reclassified to a lower classification, the role would be filled by an employee already at that lower classification or again through a merit-based selection process. The employee originally performing the duties would be redeployed to other duties at their classification level, in keeping with the agency's redeployment arrangements. This may include the employee choosing to reduce their classification to continue performing the role (section 23(4), PS Act). The reduction of an employee's classification without their consent may only be approved where the decision is compliant with any procedural requirements in the agency's enterprise agreement (section 23(5), PS Act).

An employee displaced by the reclassification of their role is to be redeployed or reassigned to another role at their classification level in accordance with processes in the agency's enterprise agreement regarding workplace change.

Inherent requirements of a job

Classification decisions involve the essential or inherent requirements of a job, rather than specifying how a job is to be done. This distinction is important as employers must offer equal employment opportunities. For example, if an employee is able to carry out the essential activities (inherent requirements) of a job, they should be given the same opportunity to undertake that job as everyone else.

While an employer is not obliged under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to change the inherent requirements of a job to suit an employee, reasonable adjustments need to be put in place to eliminate, as far as possible, potential or actual discrimination against employees.

Mandatory requirements of a job

Some jobs also will have a mandatory requirement, to hold a license, qualification or registration. The same mandatory requirement may be required across a number of classifications of jobs (for example, registration as a medical practitioner or holding a legal practice certificate).

It is important to identify the mandatory requirements of a job as they may play a role in classification decisions in that acquired knowledge and skill are a component of work value. While they may assist in distinguishing between classification levels, they do not address the full range of work value factors and therefore should not be sole basis of the classification decision.

Documenting classification decisions

A record must be kept of decisions made when exercising delegated authority under the PS Act or the Classification Rules. Documenting reasons for the decision is also necessary to safeguard the integrity and transparency of the decision outcome.

Classification decisions need to be based on a suitably thorough investigation, including:

  • work analysis leading to job design
  • reasons for the classification level allocated, including the job analysis and assessment of work value
  • details of the assessment made regarding changes in work value where the job is reclassified.

Documented reasons provide valuable historical information that will assist any subsequent review of a job, particularly where changes in work value need to be assessed. Maintaining such records ins important to an agency's ability to manage its classification arrangements.

The type of information to support a decision regarding the allocation of an approved classification to a role (job) should include:

  • background information regarding the reason for the assessment (for example, who initiated the request and why)
  • for a new role – evidence that the requirement for the new role has been established, and a work values assessment of the expected duties
  • for a role review – an assessment of the change in work value associated with the revised duties
  • funding approval for the new or reclassified role.

Flexibility within approved classifications

There is flexibility within the APS classification structure to manage particular issues.

Local titles

Local titles are labels that may be used by an agency to segment the workforce along functional or occupational lines. Examples of occupational lines include engineering, accountancy, information technology, legal or public affairs.

Local titles may reflect qualification or registration requirements for the job and refer to the APS Job Family Model. Local titles can also be used in job advertisements to assist in attracting a strong field of applicants for the particular occupational stream.

The actual approved APS classification level must appear next to the local title in all advertising material and in the agency's enterprise agreement. This approach ensures that potential applicants and employees are aware of the formal APS classification enabling comparison of roles across agencies and job types.

Individual flexibility arrangements

An agency's enterprise agreement sets out the terms and conditions of employment for its workforce. These agreements are collective in nature and apply to many employees.

Flexible work practices, which may be achieved through individual flexibility arrangements (IFAs), can deliver benefits to both employers and employees. IFAs allow for variations to an enterprise agreement in order to meet the genuine needs of the employer and individual employees, while ensuring that minimum terms and conditions are not undermined.

IFAs cannot alter the classification structure. However, IFAs may provide agencies with the flexibility to attract and retain key employees while ensuring the role they undertake is appropriately classified based on work value.

Better Practice Case Study - ATO

Re-evaluating jobs to ensure classifications remain current (APS 1 and APS 2)

Throughout 2012-13 the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been working with its Operational delivery areas to provide meaningful work at APS 1 and APS 2 classifications.

Part of the process includes analysing the work undertaken in these areas at each classification and determining the areas and opportunities in which the agency can gain greater value out of positions that are classified at higher levels. Work processes and technological improvements have evolved in the last 10 years, reducing the complexity of particular roles. However, the perception of what work is appropriate at what levels has remained similar from a work-type perspective (not from a complexity perspective). In some cases this may have contributed to a flawed perception of what work is appropriate at each level.

The agency is investing effort in analysing and re-evaluating roles in order to ensure that the complexity of the work is the primary factor in considering a classification, not its work-type. The ATO is realising benefits through process efficiencies for both the agency and taxpayers, with dividends for the workforce over the longer-term.

Examples of how the ATO has re-engineered particular roles include reallocating processing work of a lower work value that was previously undertaken by APS 3s to APS 1s and APS 2s, and integrating workforce planning processes to build future staffing at these levels. This means that employees at the APS 3 level can be deployed to more complex tasks that suit their work level standards, capabilities and are appropriate to the salary being paid.

The ATO has found that this project needs to have a broad workforce planning perspective and not a classification by classification approach. This ensures that any changes are undertaken with a strategic, long-term perspective, with consideration given to potential risks to agency capability and to developing a sustainable workforce structure.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018