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Using conditions of engagement to mitigate risks

The Public Service Act 1999 (the Act) allows an agency head to engage ongoing or non-ongoing employees subject to conditions. Subsection 22(6) specifically mentions conditions relating to:

  • probation
  • citizenship
  • formal qualifications
  • security and character clearances
  • health clearances.

This list is not exhaustive. It is possible to impose conditions other than those mentioned.

Advise job seekers of all conditions to be imposed so that they can decide whether they are able to meet them and therefore whether to apply for the job. Conditions would normally be mentioned in the Public Service Gazette notification and any other advertising, as well as in supporting selection documents provided to applicants.

Successful applicants must be advised in writing of all conditions applying to their engagement before they are engaged, and that not meeting these conditions can provide a basis for termination of their employment. Conditions are usually set out in the letter of offer to the prospective employee.

Conditions of engagement apply only on engagement to the APS; they do not apply to existing APS employees moving within or between agencies. However, conditions that have not yet been fulfilled may continue to apply to the employee when they move—see Conditions of engagement for more information.

Agencies should ensure that, as far as practical, they are satisfied that a prospective employee meets, or is able to meet, all the relevant requirements before they are engaged.

1. Probation

Probation is an opportunity to assess a new recruit's behaviour and capacity to perform in the role for which they were recruited. It provides an opportunity for managers to reinforce the performance and behavioural expectations which have been communicated to employees when they were engaged. It also gives agencies an opportunity to assess how well employees are meeting those expectations and whether their employment should be confirmed.

The period of probation should be used to ensure that the employee is aware of, and able to comply with, agency expectations of performance and the APS Values and Code of Conduct.

See Probation for further information.

2. Citizenship

There is a general presumption in the Act that an APS employee will be an Australian citizen. However, agencies can engage a person who is not an Australian citizen if the agency head considers it appropriate.

It may be appropriate to engage a person who is not an Australian citizen on the condition that they apply for and obtain citizenship. An agency's policy may stipulate a maximum period within which citizenship is expected to be obtained.

People who are not Australian citizens will need to provide evidence of having a valid work visa for the duration of their employment.

Security clearances must be arranged in accordance with the Protective Security Policy Framework.

See Citizenship for more information

3. Formal qualifications

Any requirement that an employee possess a formal qualification should be dealt with before engagement. It's always a good idea to check that the candidate possesses the claimed qualification.

Agencies are required to comply with any Commonwealth and State licensing and registration laws that may be associated with a professional, technical or trade qualification. These licensing or professional bodies can be contacted to ascertain whether the person is still registered or licenced, has had complaints lodged about them in the past, or is under investigation.

See Conditions of engagement for further information.

4. Security clearance

A person may be required to hold a security clearance as a condition of their engagement in the APS. Where possible, it is preferable that a security clearance be completed before an offer of engagement is made. However, an agency head may decide to engage a person on the condition that they obtain the necessary clearance within a specified timeframe.

Ultimately, the agency head must be satisfied that the provisions relating to merit as described in the Act and subordinate legislation are met.

Requirements for particular levels of security clearance should be consistent with the protective security policy and practices outlined in the Protective Security Policy Framework

Failure to obtain, or maintain, the required level of security clearance can result in termination of employment.

See Conditions of engagement for further information.

5. Character clearance

An agency head has the discretion to require a character clearance as a condition of engagement.

Character clearances enable an agency to ensure that a prospective employee is a suitable person to be engaged as an APS employee, or for specific duties. Character clearances may be particularly appropriate for employees in situations where they will be responsible for the handling of public money, holding positions of trust, or with access to sensitive information.

Character clearances are agency-specific. They are not the same as security clearances. The results of character checks may however bring up issues relevant to security clearance. While a potential employee may meet the minimum requirements for an Australian Government security clearance, he or she may not meet the agency's character clearance requirements and vice-versa.

Failure to obtain a required character clearance may result in termination of employment.

See Conditions of engagement for further information.