Assignment of duties within an APS agency
An Agency Head determines the duties and the location at which those duties are to be performed by an APS employee within their agency, in accordance with section 25 of the Public Service Act 1999 (the PS Act). This power also allows an Agency Head to make changes to an employee’s duties and work location.
An Agency Head must assign a classification:
- to all APS employees within their agency as required by rule 6 of the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 (Classification Rules) and
- to each group of duties (generally referred to as a role or position) within their agency as required by rule 9 of the Classification Rules.
The duties should have a work value appropriate for the classification. The Australian Public Service (APS) Work Level Standards have been developed to provide a consistent platform for classifying jobs. Further information on work level standards is on the Classifications page.
Decisions to assign duties to an employee should take into account whether the employee has the work related qualities genuinely required to perform the duties. While the decision to assign duties to an employee is not a reviewable decision in accordance with the review of action provisions in the Public Service Regulations 2023 (the Regulations), the decision may be reviewable where an employee is assigned duties that they could not reasonably be expected to perform.
Agencies may have consultation obligations that should be observed when considering a change to an employee’s duties and/or work location. Consultation requirements may be set out in an agency’s employment instruments, policies and guidelines.
Move to a higher classification
Promotion in the APS is defined in section 6 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s 2022 (the Directions). A promotion is the ongoing assignment of duties at a higher classification to an ongoing APS employee. To assign an employee duties at a higher classification (the promotion), an Agency Head exercises section 25 of the PS Act.
Certain requirements must be met before an APS employee can be promoted. Further information on promotions in the APS is on the Promotions page.
Advancement through a broadband
Subrule 9(4) of the Classification Rules establishes that where a group of duties spans more than one classification, the Agency Head may allocate more than one classification level to the group of duties, creating a broadband.
Advancement to a higher classification within an established broadband is not a promotion as defined in section 6 of the Directions.
When assessing an employee for advancement through a broadband, an Agency Head should consider whether:
- the employee has the necessary skills and proficiencies to perform that work
- the employee's performance is at least satisfactory and
- there is sufficient work available at the higher classification level.
Further information on broadbanding is in the APS classification guide.
The Classification Rules, at Schedule 2, provide for training classifications. Where an APS employee engaged in a training classification satisfactorily finishes each training requirement, they must subsequently be allocated a corresponding operational classification in accordance with rule 11.
Agencies may consider the use of training classifications in conjunction with a broadband to facilitate advancement in a training program, subject to the agencies employment instruments and internal policy. For example, where an agency establishes a training program that advances the employee from a training classification to a higher operational classification than that mentioned in Schedule 2 of the Classification Rules, agencies may establish a broadband to facilitate the advancement.
Rule 11 does not preclude an ongoing APS employee engaged in a training classification from being assigned duties at an operational classification prior to the completion of the training program, where an Agency Head considers it appropriate to do so. For example, where the APS employee undertakes a merit-based selection exercise and is subsequently offered a role at a higher classification, they may be assigned duties at this classification in accordance with section 25 of the PS Act. While this is not a promotion as defined in section 6 of the Directions, Agency Heads must consider their obligation to uphold and promote the APS Values and APS Employment Principles. To ensure fair access to the system of review, agencies should consider first moving the trainee to the corresponding operational classification from Schedule 2 of the Classification Rules, then formally promoting them to a Schedule 1 classification.
Further information on promoting APS employees is on the Promotions page.
Temporary move to a higher classification
Section 25 of the PS Act allows an Agency Head to temporarily assign duties to an employee at a higher classification, commonly referred to as higher duties. Temporary assignment of duties at a higher classification is not a promotion and does not change the employee’s substantive classification.
Where an ongoing APS employee has temporarily transferred to another agency using section 26 of the PS Act, and is required to undertake higher duties, the Agency Head as the new employer assigns the higher duties to the employee using section 25 of the PS Act. Further information on movement between APS agencies is on the Movement Between APS Agencies page.
Providing employees an opportunity to be temporarily assigned duties at a higher classification can assist agencies in managing talent within their agency and across the APS. Further information is on the APS Talent Management page.
Move at the same classification level
An employee can be assigned to a different set of duties at their substantive classification on a temporary or ongoing basis, in accordance with section 25 of the PS Act. This may be employee initiated, or following an expression of interest or recruitment process.
Alternatively, an Agency Head may decide to assign an employee to a different set of duties to meet the operational needs of the agency. There is no requirement to advertise the vacancy or undertake a merit-based selection process in these circumstances.
Move to a lower classification level
A move to a lower classification level may be employee or employer initiated. The Agency Head assigns duties at the lower classification to the employee in accordance with section 25 of the PS Act.
Where an employee initiates a move to a lower classification, it may be temporary or ongoing. Where the reduction in classification is:
- on a temporary basis, the higher classification remains the employee’s substantive classification
- on an ongoing basis, the lower classification becomes the employee’s substantive classification. The employee will remain at the lower classification for the remainder of their engagement, unless the employee is subsequently promoted.
An employee can only be assigned duties at a lower classification without their agreement in the circumstances described in subsection 23(4) of the PS Act. An employee whose classification is involuntarily reduced will remain at the lower classification unless they are subsequently promoted.
The power to assign duties under section 25 of the PS Act includes the power to determine the location of duties to be performed. A move to another location can be employee initiated, alternatively an employee may be directed by their Agency Head to perform duties at another location.
Agencies may have consultation obligations that should be observed when considering a change to an employee’s work location. Consultation requirements may be set out in an agency’s employment instruments, policies and guidelines.
Review of decision to assign duties
Most assignment of duties decisions are non-reviewable. However subsection 37(2) of the Regulations provides limited circumstance to review an assignment of duties decisions. Further information on the Review of Actions scheme is on the Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner website.
HR practitioners seeking more information on assignment of duties within an APS agency can contact the Employment Policy team via firstname.lastname@example.org or call the advice line on (02) 6202 3857.