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Working in the APS

A culture of integrity

Employees of the Australian Public Service (APS) occupy a position of trust. They are entrusted by the Government and the community to undertake important work on their behalf. With this trust comes a high level of responsibility, which should be matched by the highest standards of ethical behaviour from each APS employee.

Together the APS Values, the APS Employment Principles and the APS Code of Conduct set out the standard of behaviour expected of agency heads and APS employees. They provide the public with confidence in the way public servants behave, including in their exercise of authority when meeting government objectives.

The Australian Public Service Commission has created a guide called APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice. This guide is structured around the three professional relationships that are a central part of work in the public service: relationships with the Government and the Parliament; with the public; and with public service colleagues.

The guide also contains information about how to deal with ethical problems that commonly arise in particular circumstances. It does not have the answer to every ethical problem that an employee may be faced with at work. It does however provide principles which will point to an answer in many cases.

The Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act) requires APS employees and agency heads at all times to behave in a way that upholds the APS Values. Agency heads and Senior Executive Service employees must also promote the Values. All employees must inform themselves of their obligations under the PS Act.

Diversity in the workplace

The APS is working to make sure that that it is an inclusive place to work and properly reflects the diversity of the Australian community.

Indigenous Australians

The APS supports the employment of Indigenous Australians through its participation in the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy. The Strategy includes a target of three per cent Indigenous employment in the public sector by 2018.

People with disability

The APS supports the employment of people with disability through the As One: Making it Happen, APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19. The Strategy sets out actions aimed at attracting and retaining people with disability in the public service.

Gender equality

The APS is addressing gender imbalance through Balancing the future the Australian Public Service gender equiality strategy 2016-2019 (PDF File). The strategy sets out actions to address gender imbalance across the APS, to harness the best talent, change cultures, and challenge assumptions based on gender bias.

Being a manager in the APS

All actions in the APS are governed by the APS Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct, including those that relate to our workplace relationships and our role as managers.

In particular, all our workplace relationships need to be respectful and all our decisions in relation to people’s employment need to be fair and transparent.


APS managers have a responsibility to deal with their employees in accordance with the relevant legislation, agency policies and the powers that have been delegated to them.

Whenever making a decision or taking action in relation to an employee, a manager will need to consider

  • the APS Values and Employment Principles
  • the agency Enterprise Agreement
  • agency policies and procedures; and
  • whether they hold the appropriate power to take action.

Managers also have a responsibility to ensure that each employee performs at their best. Performance, including under-performance, needs to be managed in line with all of the factors listed above.

The role of the SES

Members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) have a role in the APS that goes beyond that of other leaders. Under the PS Act, the functions of the SES are to:

  • provide APS-wide strategic leadership of the highest quality that contributes to an effective and cohesive APS
  • provide professional/specialist expertise, policy advice, program or service delivery, and regulatory administration at a high level
  • promote cooperation within and between other agencies including to deliver outcomes across agency and portfolio boundaries
  • promote, by personal example and other appropriate means, the APS Values, the APS Employment Principles and compliance with the Code of Conduct.

The SES also has a role in supporting Secretaries as stewards of the broader APS. Stewardship looks to build for the future, continually developing the right capability so that the APS can always deliver the best outcomes for the Australian community.