There is an agreed limit set by Government on the number of SES positions across the Australian Public Service (APS). Each agency is provided with an agreed SES cap and agencies need to manage their SES establishment within this limit. Each SES cap position is equivalent to one full time equivalent (FTE) position. An agency can use its discretion on how to best utilise its SES cap. For example, an SES cap position may be filled by two part-time SES employees with a combined FTE of one.
Agencies are encouraged to have a whole-of-portfolio management approach to the SES cap, such as sharing positions between portfolio agencies, where there is the capacity to do so.
Any changes to an agencies SES cap, including the movement of SES cap positions within a portfolio, requires approval of the Minister for the Public Service (the Minister).
The Minister is supported by the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission), which monitors the SES cap and evaluates agency requests for movement or increases to their agreed SES cap.
SES cap reporting
All agencies are required to report on their SES cap to the Commission on a quarterly basis via the SES cap database.
For reporting purposes, agencies must report the following:
- ongoing SES employees;
- non-ongoing SES employees, who are engaged for periods of three months or more;
- casual SES employees used for periods of 3 months or more continuously in one role;
- non-SES employees who have been temporarily assignment duties in an SES position, where the period of the temporary assignment is three months or more; and
- SES employees on secondment, where the salary for the secondee is being paid by the reporting agency.
For example, if an SES employee is on long-term leave and the role is being filled by an acting non-SES employee for a period of three months or more, the non-SES employee would be reported as filling the position and the SES employee on leave would be reported as inactive.
Non-ongoing or temporary assignment of duties that are extended to three months or more must be reported against an agency’s agreed SES cap. This includes arrangements that are separated by short breaks but the accumulative total is three months or more.
Request to increase the agreed SES cap
Agencies seeking an increase in their SES cap, or movement of an SES cap position, on a temporary or permanent basis, are to submit a request to the Commission for consideration by the APS Commissioner.
As a first step, agencies need to consult with the Commission prior to making a submission.
At a minimum, agencies will need to provide:
- a letter from the agency head addressed to the APS Commissioner;
- a thorough business case (the business case template is available from the Commission)
- supporting documents, which include role evaluations for the proposed role(s) and an organisation chart showing the proposed changes.
The Commission evaluates all agency requests for increases to the SES cap and then the APS Commissioner makes a recommendation to the Minister for consideration.
The Employment Policy team is available for early advice on submissions and will review draft submissions. Please contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 6202 3857.
Reductions to the agreed SES cap
An agency’s agreed SES cap may be reduced following a Machinery of Government (MoG) change or where an SES employee receives an incentive to retire under section 37 of the Public Service Act 1999 based on the role being excess to requirements.
At any time, an agency may evaluate its business needs and voluntarily reduce the agreed SES cap by any excess amount. This may be done by notifying the APS Commissioner in writing that the positions are no longer required, or requesting the movement of excess cap positions to another agency for the approval of the Minister.
For more information on the SES cap, please see the additional attachments on this page.