In March 2010 the Australian Government released Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration (the Blueprint).
Reform 6 of the Blueprint seeks to clarify and align employment conditions to support a unified Australian Public Service (APS). In particular, Recommendation 6.1 requires the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to examine existing APS classification arrangements and work level standards to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of APS agencies and employees.
The current classification system was implemented in 1998 to provide flexibility in structuring the APS in a way that accommodated a wide variety of jobs within a diverse and large workforce. This requirement has not shifted significantly since 1998.
There is a tendency when discussing classification arrangements to be distracted by other areas of the Human Resources (HR) system particularly remuneration. Yet, the premise of job classification is work value – it is about the job and what is required not the individual performing the work. The APS classification review (the review) has maintained a focus on work value and the suitability of the APS classification system.
A number of research-based projects have been conducted to gain an understanding of prevailing classification arrangements, including:
- a survey to assess the views of APS agencies;
- analysis of APS workforce data; and
- examination of contemporary classification practice in the public and private sector
In keeping with a devolved employment framework the review team has consulted broadly regarding APS classification arrangements. Feedback from agencies has revealed strong support for the current classification structure and the flexibilities it provides whilst identifying a need for improved central guidance and practical support.
After conducting a program of research and testing various options with agencies, the review has made the following set of key findings:
- The current eight level, non-SES classification structure is sound. Investment in updated policy guidance that is practical and relevant will provide significant benefit in supporting the key principle of work value.
- A common set of work value descriptors will improve work equity across the APS. Providing a common methodology for agency use will assist the consistency of classification across the APS and support agency heads in achieving the requirements of the Public Service Classification Rules 2000.
- Broadbanding provides agencies with greater flexibility in adapting the classification structure to work requirements. It is used in the majority of agencies in a variety of arrangements. Providing policy guidance on the use and application of broadbanding would better support the strategic benefits from broadbanding and assist agencies in managing some of the disadvantages experienced with broadbanding.
- Maintaining training classifications in the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 is seen as worthwhile and demonstrates the continued APS commitment to training. Developing practical guidance in the use of training classifications will reinforce the associated benefits and flexibilities with using training classifications.
- The single classification spine should be retained. Adding additional specialist classifications is seen to have adverse impacts on workforce flexibility. The management of specialist occupations is better supported by existing tools, such as using local job titles and the APS Job Family model.
This review has critically examined APS classification arrangements and highlighted actions that can be taken to ensure they continue to meet the needs of APS agencies and the APS as a whole.